Sloppy Forest slope towards their fate

Reading 1 - Nottingham Forest 0
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The Independent Online

The talk earlier in the week was about the claim that a Nottingham Forest player had bitten an opponent - but it was bite that they lacked against Reading as James Harper condemned Forest, in likelihood, to relegation after he rifled in a goal at the end of a sloppy and at times tempestuous match.

The talk earlier in the week was about the claim that a Nottingham Forest player had bitten an opponent - but it was bite that they lacked against Reading as James Harper condemned Forest, in likelihood, to relegation after he rifled in a goal at the end of a sloppy and at times tempestuous match.

Gary Megson had the weary appearance of a man under pressure as he questioned the judgement of the referee who effectively sealed his season. Following this defeat, which included a dismissal, the Forest manager suggested that Steve Tanner's red card for the visiting goalkeeper, Paul Gerrard, was incorrect.

"If the referee is right, good luck to him," said Megson. "But I do not know, without him seeing that again on a video screen, how he can say he has got it 100 per cent right. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but there you go. We did all right and kept our shape. Each game that goes by, our grip on the Championship becomes more tenuous."

Forest began with the defeatist air of a team resigned to relegation: their defenders immediately sat back, and a confident Reading side casually intercepted some inaccurate passing. Except for one or two brave forays, the visiting side had few ventures into Reading's half in the first 20 minutes.

Reading, though, always seemed on the verge of scoring. Paul Brooker first missed a cross from six yards out, followed by a header two minutes later and, shortly after, an angled shot which missed the bar by inches. It breathed life into the game as others contributed further goalmouth play.

Among them was the home favourite Nicky Shorey, whose versatility on the pitch made the gulf in class all too apparent. His pace and a neat combination with Nicky Forster led to a saved header from a corner on 30 minutes. The visitors' sense of urgency evidently grew, bolstered by their very vocal support, but it was not enough. What passes they managed to string together in the final third of the field were well blocked, except for one occasion when Dobie hit the side-netting.

The die was cast when Forest's keeper Gerrard was sent off after 72 minutes for accidentally handling the ball outside the area. After the resulting free-kick and much goalmouth juggling, Harper cannoned in from eight yards.

The depressing and disorganised spectacle of Forest's play summed up their season, which will surely end in more disappointment.

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