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Match preview: Forest v Reading

How's the Yak getting on? Where are Nigel Adkins' copies of 'The Little Book Of Zen'? Will Simon Cox score against us? We spoke to Dan from The Tilehurst End ahead of Saturday's game...

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Nick Miller: So, after Nigel Adkins departed, what have you done with all those copies of 'The Little Book of Zen' that he presumably left lying around?

Dan from the Tilehurst End: We've built them into a back-up left-back, something that Nige wasn't really fond of during his time at the club... It's amazing how much better things seems since Nigel left, and that's speaking of someone who stuck by him to pretty much the bitter end.

Sometimes a partnership doesn't work but even his staunchest of supporters grew fed up of the cliches and relentless positivity you'd had to put up with week after ruddy week.

NM: Is it just that your manager is no longer Nice Man Nigel Adkins, or that Steve Clarke has made a significant difference?

Dan: Nigel was dealt a pretty rotten hand due to the ownership crisis at the club but by the end he had totally run out of ideas how to get the team working and his messages were just falling on deaf ears.

As a former defender, Steve Clarke has immediately come in and got us back to basics and the improvement has been steady but not spectacular. In truth Jose Mourinho would struggle to get a great deal more out of these players but Clarke has found a way to get just enough out of them to all but secure safety while providing us with a cup run that's captured the imagination.

NM: Looking at your squad, you seem to have plenty of 'on their day' players - like our old pal McCleary, Jordan Obita, Nick Blackman etc. Not ideal for a relegation scrap, I'd imagine.

Dan: No and on the website recently I've made the case that the squad has simply gone stale. The aforementioned ownership crisis has really limited our ability to rebuild a squad and more importantly, create competition for places. You can carry a few under-performing players but we've just had too many this season and that coupled with an injury crisis that robbed us of 12 senior players at one stage has created an atmosphere that feels like players are simply getting by rather than striving to succeed. 

The only comforting thing is that the underlying quality of those players has ensured we've grabbed enough points to stay pretty clear of the real relegation scrap. Take Jamie Mackie for example, he's had a quiet year but scored a winner at Ipswich and set up a winner for another Forest old boy in Simon Cox at Boro. He's only scored two and set up three all season but those contributions have directly led to six points. Better teams than ours have gone down but there's more than enough to keep us in the Championship.

NM: I always quite liked Mackie, in a 'budget Dirk Kuyt' sort of way, but I think I was the last Forest fan to hold that opinion. What happened to Aaron Kuhl, by the way? He looked great at our place, but that might be because the rest of your team was so terrible he just looked good by comparison.

Dan: God it wasn't hard to look good in that game... we were utterly awful although to your credit you were also in the middle of a hot streak I thought would surely lead you to promotion.... this is why I'm an awful gambler.

Kuhl is one of if not our brightest prospects but he's not quite there in terms of being ready for regular first team football in the Championship. His appearances this season were his first at senior level anywhere and really he needs a decent loan spell or two to iron out the little kinks in his game. He's not really featured since having a bit of a mare at Brentford in October but has helped the U21's get to another Cup Semi-Final and the club remain very, very high on him.

He's also been the victim of that injury list clearing up and when you're paying the likes of Danny Guthrie god knows what, you might as well have them on the bench.

The Kuyt comparison is one I like with Mackie! Think Reading fans all appreciate his hard work but like Kuyt there's just not enough end product. Think he'll be one you try to sell cheaply to us or has he got a sniff under Dougie?

NM: Not sure. On the one hand we're well-stocked out wide, with Chris Burke, Jamie Paterson, Michail Antonio, Stephen McLaughlin and a lad called Oliver Burke who's coming through and of whom big things are expected, but on the other we won't be spending much/any money in the summer, so Dougie might want all the help he can get. How's the Yak looked so far?

Dan: Well he put us through to an FA Cup Quarter-Final, so for that reason alone he'll have a place in Reading folklore and was worth the money. On the other hand he's contributed absolutely nothing in the three league games he's featured in, picking up 4/10 in each of them from three different player raters. It's clear there's something still there but that the rest of the team really does need to feed him because he's pretty incapable of feeding himself at the grand old age of...32...

In the end he was a low risk punt and given a general dearth of attacking options I can't blame Clarke for taking a gamble that there was something still in the tank even if it's looking like we won't get a great deal out of him.

NM: Let's have a prediction, then...

Dan: Ha... I'll preface this by saying that in our podcast prediction league I've got about 1/4 of the results right, and maybe two scorelines so my advice is to bet against whatever I say next. My head tells me it's a 1-1 draw but my heart hopes that we raise our game and pull off a 3-2 win out of nowhere.

NM: As I said in your preview, if we're not too knackered I reckon we'll sneak it. If not, a score draw.

The Tilehurst End is an excellent Reading site which you can read here. Follow them on Twitter here.