However, this wasn't a nuanced false-nine led hipster formation, it was a pragmatic home boss shutting up shop against a limp Royals outfit. A false back nine, if you will.
Boss Dougie Freedman wants to see #nffc build momentum following impressive win over Reading https://t.co/zsWXD42pJm pic.twitter.com/n9d8bPCdnw— Paul Taylor (@nottmtails) November 29, 2015
The Glasgow Guardiola (that definitely won't stick will it?) removed the attacking trio of Ryan Mendes, Chris O'Grady and Nelson Oliveira - bulking up his defensive shield with Michael Mancienne, Liam Trotter and Kelvin Wilson. The latter plugged a Jack Hobbs shaped gap in the back four after the Lincolnshire-born centre half received his marching orders but you saw what Dougie was up to. After countless games of performing well and missing out on the points, he wasn't about to throw any away when his side had finally found the net.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't exactly calm about all this during the game. It felt a dangerous game to play, ceding ground to a team that - inept as they looked yesterday - are mounting a play-off push. Still I, unlike Dougie, was wrapped up in the nerves and the emotion of a vital three points in the race to push clear of a relegation dogfight.
Freedman continues to do his own thing, unafraid of the consequences of it all going wrong and that, in a strange way, is admirable. When previous Forest bosses have feared the sack they have often made odd decisions or taken big gambles that have cost them their jobs. Hart, Megson, Kinnear and Pearce all allowed the pressure of the situation to lead them to big errors. Freedman remains level headed and reaped the rewards of not getting caught up in the moment yesterday.
Spot the difference: today's #NFFC programme cover design comes from the 1967-68 season. Available for £3. pic.twitter.com/tfIL40vCn1— Nottingham Forest FC (@Official_NFFC) November 28, 2015
He started the game with the nearest we'd played to a 442 for a while. But, before his haters claimed a moral victory, this was far from a standard 442. Osborn constantly came in from the left, Oliveira dropped deep and Vaughan and Lansbury continued to anchor the midfield. It was a line up that shows how flat formations and numbers are a folly really. Any manager that sets up a team 'by numbers' is probably doing it wrong.
Oliveira, as many of us have predicted, thrived in being able to get involved in the game a little deeper. He benefitted from O'Grady just as much as his strike partner relished having him to knock the ball too. It's perhaps an unlikely couple - one played with Ronaldo, one for Rochdale - but it was more than enough to get the better of Reading, a team we've now inexplicably put 10 goals past in our last 3 encounters. If we're being fair, you imagine they must've missed Stephen Quinn's midfield energy and Steve 'Mr Loyal Royal' Clarke's men are probably the sort of side that are difficult to stop when Sa, Vydra and Blackman all click.
O'Grady finally opened his account with 'the sort of goal you need' to break a drought, dribbling meekly over the line after an Al-Habsi fumble. He grew in confidence, completely bullied Chelsea loanee Michael Hector from start to finish and set up the third for his Portuguese partner. That goal was Nelson's second and showed new-found predatory instinct after a first goal that was fabulously curled in from outside the area.
Credit too should go to Ryan Mendes. The Cape Verde winger switched flanks for this game and, after struggling initially, came into his own to set up both first half goals from the right. He did still remind us of his inconsistency though with a bizarre miss just before Hobbs' red card, a 'head in hands' moment that thankfully didn't prove too costly. Like him or not - and many do find him frustrating - Mendes' pace and dribbling do cause defenders problems and adds a dimension to our attacking play that we'd lack without him.
Freedman will have been pleased by the cutting edge and second half solidity. You get the impression he won't always play this formation or line-up, but he found a combination that worked and won't be afraid to tweak it again for the visit of Fulham. With our injury list and embargo - and the nature of the Championship - we are in need of a pragmatic leader who can handle the task in hand. The 3-1 win over Reading was more evidence that, given our circumstances right now, Freedman is the right fit. He may not be the Messiah, but he's a very pragmatic boy.
You can watch all the goals from #NFFC's 3-1 over Reading on our YouTube channel now. https://t.co/rjZZvv5TNI pic.twitter.com/ftMbSKTA5N— Nottingham Forest FC (@Official_NFFC) November 29, 2015