In Nottingham Forest’s 2-0 win over promotion-chasing Huddersfield, their front three combined superbly.
The skill of Zach Clough, the pace of Ben Brereton and the work rate of Jamie Ward, all adding fine technique to their respective qualities, caused problems. They had 17 shots, seven of which on target and 76% from inside the 18-yard-box (WhoScored) in a performance that left neutrals wondering why that team was battling relegation.
The next two games provided the answer. They lost 1-0 to both Blackburn and Cardiff, mustering just four shots on target, 44% of their efforts coming inside the box. The East Midlanders average 1.09 points per game against the Championship’s top eight, but 0.9 against the bottom eight.
They struggle to handle the more physical outfits due to a lack of midfield muscle, but have the natural ability to compete with the more technical sides. Reading fall into the latter category.
The Royals are in good form with five wins in their last six matches. Jaap Stam picked an unsurprisingly attacking side for last week’s 2-1 win against Rotherham, but still needed Lewis Grabban to change the game from the bench.
He was the key creator in a more cautious system at Aston Villa the week before. There, Stam favoured a 3-5-2 with a disciplined midfield, Grabban and two-goal man Joseph Mendes successfully leading attacks in relative solitude.
Should the Dutch head coach favour a more expansive system this weekend, Forest will take note that teams have benefited in the past. Norwich did not require waltzed through their midfield to put seven goals past Ali Al-Habsi, arguably the Player of the Season. Preston simply showed greater desire in their 3-0 victory at Deepdale while Brighton cut through Reading with ease.
The Berkshire outfit are prone to a wobble on the road, where they have taken five fewer points than Forest have at home. Despite the 18-place gap, there is hope for the Tricky Trees.
The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-2