Nottingham Forest 0 Reading 0: Sharp vision of Moussi betrayed by lack of focus

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The Independent Online

Given that each side played in a different division last season, Forest's return to the Championship after three years in League One was a learning experience for both these teams, although Colin Calderwood, the home side's manager, was already aware of his biggest problem.

With three of his summer signings – Andrew Cole, Joe Garner and Paul Anderson – forced to watch the opening match from the sidelines because of injury, Calderwood admits that it would not need many additional casualties to leave him unable to field a team fit for purpose.

"I don't want to make excuses but, as things are, I have only 14 or 15 available who I'd say were ready to play at this level," he said. "We are trying to bring in a striker on loan to give us extra firepower."

Nathan Tyson, one of his promoted squad, is also unfit, which gave him little option but to deploy the diminutive Robert Earnshaw as his central striker. The 5ft 8in Welshman was as busy as you would expect from a player with 153 senior goals but against the physical power of Ibrahima Sonko and Ivar Ingimarsson he was in a spectacularly uneven contest.

And although Calderwood was reluctant to agree, having placed his faith in Chris Cohen and Arron Davies to supply Earnshaw from wide positions, it was hard not to conclude that his £2.65m recruit from Derby would have been more effective working in tandem with a bigger, stronger partner, rather than being obliged often to receive the ball with his back to goal.

Indeed, that might have been all the edge Forest needed to launch their campaign with a victory, even against opponents with two years' Premier League experience. Forest's passing was accurate, their movement intelligent, and in Guy Moussi, a deep-lying midfield fulcrum with stinging power in his left foot, they unveiled a genuine find. Tall and strong but with good feet and excellent vision, the 23-year-old, plucked from French Second Division side Angers, looks a bargain at £250,000.

Chances, however, were not plentiful. Reading, who lost a creative influence when Marek Matejovsky was carried off in the first half with fresh damage to an ankle he injured at the European Championship in June, might have won with a header from Kevin Doyle that the Forest goalkeeper Paul Smith somehow turned on to the bar. Then again, but for Sonko's intercepting header, Wes Morgan might have converted Julian Bennett's cross for Forest.

"Both teams were just trying to weigh up where they are at," said the Reading manager, Steve Coppell.

Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1): Smith; Chambers, Morgan, Wilson, Bennett; Moussi, Perch; Cohen, McGugan (Sinclair, 83), Davies (McCleary, 90); Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Breckin, Thornhill, Roberts (gk).

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Rosenior, Sonko, Ingimarsson, S Hunt; Kebe, Harper, Matejovsky (Cissé, 42), Convey; Lita, Doyle. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk) Long, Pearce, Kelly.

Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).

Booked: Nottingham Forest McGugan; Reading Kebe.

Man of the match: Moussi.

Attendance: 21,571.

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