Nottingham Forest 3-2 Reading: Britt Assombalonga brace earns Forest win
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 22/04/17 8:23pm
Reading's fightback fell short as a Britt Assombalonga double earned Nottingham Forest a 3-2 win at the City Ground.
But Jaap Stam's promotion contenders almost staged a dramatic recovery as goals in the 58th and 74th minutes from Yann Kermorgant gave the visitors hope.
But struggling Forest held on to lift themselves three points clear of third-from-bottom Blackburn in the battle to beat the drop.
Mustapha Carayol tormented Reading during an opening 15 minutes that Forest dominated.
The winger had two shots saved by Ali Al Habsi, and also carved out a superb opening from which Ben Brereton should have scored.
Reading could not handle the winger's pace and, when he picked out Brereton at the far post, the Forest man had the goal at his mercy but could not get a clean connection on his header.
Brereton had two more chances, firing one straight at the goalkeeper and the other over the bar. But the goal finally came when Brereton won possession before sliding a perfect pass through to the feet of Assombalonga as he powered into the box.
With Al-Habsi rushing off his line, the striker prodded a calm finish beyond his reach and into the bottom corner to give Forest a 31st-minute lead.
Reading responded by producing their first effort on goal in the 35th minute, a powerful strike from Lewis Grabban that Jordan Smith saved.
Forest thought they had a second when Ben Osborn beat Al Habsi in a race to Danny Fox's pass, but Daniel Williams made a vital challenge.
But Forest had to wait barely a minute into the second half before they did score again, though, with Osborn's quick feet giving him the room to cross to the near post where Assombalonga headed his second.
Reading made a double change, bringing on George Evans and Roy Beerens, but it was Forest who scored again. A quick throw from Fox found Carayol in the box and he dodged two defenders before firing a powerful low shot beyond Al Habsi.
The Royals added to the drama when they pulled one back in the 58th minute when Jordan Obita crossed from the right to pick out Kermorgant, who headed home off the underside of the bar.
Carayol had another effort cleared off the line and Joe Worrall saw a shot deflected wide for Forest before Reading pulled another goal back.
Beerens' cross was not properly cleared, the ball falling to Kermorgant who calmly volleyed home. The momentum was with Reading now and John Swift came close to an equaliser with a low shot that flashed wide.
Gunter appealed in vain for a penalty when Dani Pinillos had made a firm but fair challenge and Forest held on for a crucial win.
Notts Forest manager Mark Warburton
"We just told them what we had to do. Our desire to remain a Championship club had to be greater than their desire to win promotion.
"It was as simple as that. Every one-v-one, every challenge, try to win it. Have quality in your passing, look to penetrate - there is no lack of desire in that dressing room but we have let ourselves down as a group at times.
"Against Derby, Preston and Huddersfield, we have shown some really good quality but not always got the right results. In Cardiff we deserved to get points out of the game and we did not. That is the nature of football. But today we deserved our victory - and we got it.
"I thought we deserved the three points today, because we had the quality, the desire and the intensity. The only negative was that we were not further ahead at half-time."
Reading manager Jaap Stam
"We have it in our own hands still. It is still down to us.
"But it will be a difficult game against Wigan, because they need a result as well. It is not going to be easy, they are not going to hand it to us. We need to have the courage to do what we do.
"Forest are a good team, they have good players and they are fighting for their lives. But we need to be better than this. We knew the opposition we would face, because we had spoken about it prior to kick-off. We knew we would need to start brightly. If you do not do that, you can make it easy for the opposition.