Nottingham Forest are the only team that the Royals are yet to face in the Championship so far this campaign; Reading boss Mark Bowen expects to have to deal with different kinds of problems when they come to Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The Royals have executed their game-plans perfectly to accumulate 12 points from four fixtures over the festive period. And now, the chance to make it five straight league wins comes against an in-form Forest side which will offer another kind of challenge.
“Forest have been right up there, right from the start,” Bowen said.
“That proves to me that they’re a talented bunch. Looking at the videos of them, they’ve got a lot of ammunition that can hurt us.
“Looking at their performances away from home, they have the second lowest in terms of ball possession. Maybe that flags that they could come here a bit cagy, and looking to play a counter-attacking game against us.
“That adds another problem; in the last couple of games, especially against Fulham, we’ve played against teams that come at us and that has suited us. Different problems – we’ll work on them on the training ground and give ourselves the best chance to compete against us.
“So far this season, Forest have had a couple of spells where they’ve lost a couple of games, but they have always bounced back. And they’ve got the likes of Lewis Grabban, who the Reading fans will know and who knows this league as well; he’s a clever striker so we’ll need to really concentrate.
“All over the park, we need to make sure we get back to what we’ve been doing before this short break.”
The starting XI was practically unchanged over the four back-to-back wins; the manager acknowledged the importance of ringing the changes for the FA Cup game against Blackpool, and allowing that side to catch their breath.
“I must admit, coming off the back of the Fulham game where it had been the same team for four games, it was nice to draw a line under it and have a look at where we are,” he said.
“We’ve done very, very well – but we have to draw a line under that because we’ve done no more than give ourselves a chance of maybe being in the race for a play-off spot. It will be a race, between maybe as many as ten clubs. And you can fall flat on your face if you don’t do the right things in the next few games.
“It was a conscious decision from before the Fulham game, that if we got a result there, then those players needed a rest. Not just physically, but mentally as well. I was putting big demands on them during that period.
“So I gave those players some time off – and of the players who were left, some are experienced, and some are younger. And if you’re not careful, that group can end up thinking ‘it’s them and us’. Communication had to be right with that group of players – and they were really professional in approaching Blackpool.
“Now everyone is back in together this week, and we’re focused on Nottingham Forest first of all.”