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Match Reports

📰 Baldock fires in merited leveller against Forest

Report from the City Gro

22 January 2020

Sam Baldock came off the bench to earn the Royals a point in our long-awaited rearranged game at Nottingham Forest.

In circumstances similar to our recent meeting with the Reds at Madejski Stadium, it was Forest who went ahead first at the City Ground as former Royal Lewis Grabban poked the hosts ahead late on.

But resilient Reading stuck to their mettle and rescued a point when Baldock’s control and finish earned the Royals a share of the spoils – a point being a well-merited reward for another strong showing under Mark Bowen's stewardship.

After the weekend’s fixture at Millwall, there were fresh legs amongst the Royals’ XI – George Pușcaș and Jordan Obita were each handed starts, as was Michael Olise for the first time in the Championship this season.

Baldock and Charlie Adam each took seats on the bench, as did the returning Lucas Boyé, while Yakou Méïté was absent due to a family bereavement.

Just 11 days after the sides met at Madejski Stadium, it was Forest who got the ball rolling on a mild evening at the City Ground. But it was Reading who threatened first, as a free-kick from deep by John Swift had to be desperately taken off the head of Michael Morrison on the far side.

And then Swift was afforded space to shoot himself; after some strong forward play by Pușcaș and link-up by left-sided duo Tyler Blackett and Obita, Pelé found his midfield teammate in space but the shot flew over.

The Royals were the side on the front-foot and quietened the home crowd; Olise’s dogged play turned over possession in the Forest half, and this time Swift was able to find the target; goalkeeper Brice Samba read the flight well.

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Olise was offering a positive input on the ball – his dissecting pass found Ejaria upfield, and then sprinted onto the return. He rounded one challenge with a shimmy but had his shot blocked; so close to a fabulous first goal as a pro.

It wasn’t until the 20th minute that Forest mounted their first meaningful attack, and Rafael had to be equal to it as Matty Cash fed Joe Lolley inside – a howitzer towards the near post needed palming behind for a corner.

That effort lifted the home crowd, and the Reds kept the pressure on. Soon they had a free-kick just outside the area, and a cross-shot from the free-kick by Lolley curled just past the far post.

Reading had had the better of the opening 20 minutes, but suddenly Forest were looking likelier. Pelé had his name taken as he pulled down Ben Watson; Lolley’s effort from the free-kick struck the wall and Tiago Silva’s follow-up – a dipping, rocketed half-volley – wasn’t far over.

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The momentum was swinging to and fro, even though the scoresheet remained blank. Ejaria’s strength and balance allowed him to ride a challenge and set Obita away on the left, who flashed an effort across goal and marginally wide of target.

The fourth official’s board went up to show an added minute – and a bizarre minute it was indeed. First, Lolley’s effort from a central area was sliced so wildly that it turned into a completed pass for Watson – and his attempt was equally awry as he swiped at thin air.

That allowed Reading to counter; Ejaria darted half the length of the pitch, and Obita eventually picked up from Swift – a low, swirling effort was kept at bay by Samba in a rather unorthodox manner. Goalless at the interval.

Half-time: Nottingham Forest 0-0 Reading

Both sides were unchanged after the interval - and less than two minutes after the restart, there was a worry as Cash arrived late into a challenge with Obita. Inexplicably the referee didn't even award a free-kick, but mercifully the Royals wide-man was okay to continue.

Much like the first half, the Royals began the second in good knick - using the ball intelligently and working the Forest defence.

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And a loose pass from a red shirt gifted Reading a great opportunity - deep in his own half, Olise spotted Obita pulling wide and raked a 50-yard pass into his path. Obita took it in his stride, but under pressure he could only find the gloves of Samba.

Then Olise had a chance of his own from a set-piece. It was Swift's driving run which drew a foul - and a yellow for Yuri Ribeiro - but a curling shot didn't have the dip to trouble the goalkeeper.

The home supporters were appealing for a penalty for a spot-kick midway through the second period, as Lewis Grabban flopped to the ground with former teammate Liam Moore in close proximity. No interest shown by the officiating team.

With the clock ticking into the final quarter of an hour, the game was becoming increasingly stretched as both sides targetted what could be a match-winning goal. Pușcaș was withdrawn in a straight swap for Baldock.

Once again Reading had been matching their automatic-chasing opponents every step of the way - so it felt like a real stomach-punch when it went in. Ribeiro's low cross was scuffed across goal by Sammy Ameobi - that turned into an inadvertant pass for Grabban who gladly turned in at the far post.

But that resolve that Reading have shown in recent months shone through again. Obita temporarily found himself on the right flank and drilled in a cross, which Baldock controlled at his midriff, spun towards the byline and smashed in through Samba. A desperate clearance wasn't in time to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Not a great deal of action at either end in the closing stages; both teams defending well and preventing their opponents from getting anything more.

For the Royals, the least that was deserved. The ovation from the travelling hordes a reflection of the effort and desire that was put in over 90 minutes against a promotion-chasing side.

Full-time: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Reading

Nottingham Forest: Samba, Ribeiro, Worrall, Grabban, Watson, Cash, Ameobi, Dawson (c), Sow (Carvalho 61), Lolley (Adomah 89), Silva.
Unused subs: Smith, Jenkinson, Semedo, Yates, Chema.
Goal: Grabban (80).
Yellow: Ribeiro.

Reading: Rafael, Gunter, Blackett, Moore (c), Morrison, Pelé, Swift, Ejaria, Obita, Olise (Loader 90), Pușcaș (Baldock 77).
Unused subs: Walker, Miazga, Rinomhota, Boyé, Adam.
Goal: Baldock (84).
Yellow: Pelé, Ejaria.

Attendance: 27,840 (808 away).

Referee: Mr D Webb


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