The Warmdown: Forest show resolve as Reading continue to falter
Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Nottingham Forest showed their mental fortitude as a side to bounce back from a lacklustre ending to the first half and blitz Reading after the break to keep their Championship play-off hopes alive.

The Royals would have had solid evidence to suggest the game should have been level at the halfway point, but Steve Cooper's side removed all doubt about who deserved the points by full-time.

Reading we there for the taking and will be fighting a losing battle in the relegation scrap if they continue to play as they did on Saturday, but Forest's team spirit and squad depth was on full show to breeze past their struggling opponents.

Forest showed their grit

The hosts made the perfect start to the game when Keinan Davis had both space and time to collect Djed Spence's quicks and low delivery from the right, turn and rifle in his third goal since January.

With only two wins in 17 games, Reading's confidence could have been on the floor. Instead, they fought their way back into the game, with Tom Ince showing some glimpses of play to make his dad watching on from the touchline proud.

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The 30-year-old displayed some brilliant skill to create a brilliant opportunity for Josh Laurent to head the ball in merely 10 yards from goal after skipper Michael Morrison had an even closer effort well-saved by Ethan Horvath.

It was a nervy ending to the half for Forest, and some teams may have continued to falter, but the Reds found another gear in the second and showed that they deserved to be in the play-off mix at this stage of the season.

Cooper has plenty of options

Even without their top scorer Lewis Grabban, the Tricky Trees had no issue finding the back of the net. Loanees Davis and Sam Surridge have interchanged the starting striker spot nicely in Grabban's absence and were both on the score sheet on Saturday.

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All three substitutes against Reading made meaningful contributions, with Xande Silva providing the perfectly weighted cross for Surridge to finish and Cafu slotting into the midfield and a first-half replacement for the injury-troubled Max Lowe.

To rely on their squad players to get them out of awkward situations will be an essential characteristic for Cooper's side as they enter crunch-time in the race for the play-offs with tougher tests on the horizon.

'Soft' Reading put up no fight

The Royals fell to their third-straight defeat under the stewardship of caretaker boss Paul Ince and showed exactly why they find themselves just four points above the drop zone.

Their manager did not mince his words when speaking about the performance after the game either, calling the second-half capitulation "embarrassing" after showing some resolve to keep themselves in the game after the early goal.

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"You can see we have a soft belly," said Ince. "They need to dig in, and they're not digging in. It was 4-0, and it could've been more.

"We're in a dogfight, and teams like Peterborough, Barnsley and Derby are scrapping. I've told them I'm not putting up with that. That second half was embarrassing.

"You've got to roll up your sleeves and fight, and not enough of them did that. It's a mentality thing, and it's hard to change players' mentality in such a short space of time.

"I'm embarrassed for the fans who came here, but they stuck with us. Our fans know the situation and the lads need their support."

With their next two games against teams in the top four places in the division, Reading will need to quickly figure out their issues to avoid further embarrassment and greater consequences beyond that.

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