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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Big Match Preview - Nottingham Forest vs. Reading

Nottingham Forest vs. Reading
Saturday April 9, 15:00, City Ground

There's a critical game in the race for the Championship play offs this weekend as Reading make the trip to the East Midlands to face top six rivals Nottingham Forest.

It's a clash between two sides who, despite sharing a common goal, are in vastly contrasting runs of form as the season reaches its all important climax.

For Forest, now eight matches without a win after their 4-1 loss at Leeds last weekend, they have hit their poorest spell of the season at the worst moment.

Given they're managed by the wily Billy Davies - who has an enviable track record of getting teams into the play offs - their loss of form has been a surprise as they have slipped out of the top six.

However, the Scot will take great heart from his side's first half performance at Elland Road where they were comfortably the better team before a shocking refereeing decision arguably cost them the game.

He will also be encouraged by the fact that, although no longer unbeaten at home this term, Forest are still formidable opponents on their own turf and sure to provide difficulties for any visitors.

Just one defeat from 18 matches is an indication of their superiority at the City Ground, although they're without a win there since mid-February's success against fellow top six candidates Cardiff.

With striking talent of the likes of Lewis McGugan, Rob Earnshaw, Marcus Tudgay, and Radoslaw Mawjeski too, Davies will know he has a side who, while famed for their organisation, are packed with match winners.

Brian McDermott's Reading have hit form at just the right time of the season

While Forest come into the game off form however, their opponents from Berkshire have propelled themselves into the top six off a great unbeaten nine match unbeaten run.

Once again, they have used a run to the last eight of the FA Cup to help generate momentum in the league and have won their last five matches.

That's helped them hit a season high of 6th place with just seven games remaining, and they will hope to claim a place off spot in order to reclaim the top flight status they lost in 2009.

With only five losses on the road all term and 28 goals notched away from the Madejski Stadium, McDermott's men are one of the most dangerous opponents to host in the second tier.

Much of their recent good form has been aided the goalscoring exploits of Shane Long, with the Irishman finding some long-awaited consistency to accrue over 20 strikes to his name this term.

With the likes of Noel Hunt and set piece wizard Ian Harte in the Royals' ranks too, McDermott will be confident he has enough in his arsenal to extend their season in the end of season lottery.

The Championship is a notoriously tight division with sides very evenly matched. This game is one of sides in hugely contrasting form, but both teams are laced with great quality.

I'm going to go for Forest in this one though. They outplayed Leeds until the referee robbed them and, back on home soil looking to right the wrong of last week, I'll back them for all three points.

Nobes' Prediction: Nottingham Forest 2 Reading 1

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