An unbeaten February — five wins, one draw and 19 goals — sees Nottingham Forest reach 50 points, with an eye on the play-offs, after beating Reading 3-0. Adam Edwards offers a fan’s eye view from the Madejski Stadium…

I’ll be honest, I still hadn’t quite got over Stuart Pearce.

I, like everyone else, was desperate for it to work; desperate for my boyhood hero to finally lead us into the promised land of the Premier League.

Even in the short seven months he was manager he managed to give me two of my most memorable moments in 30 years as a Forest fan. THAT roar as he came out of the tunnel at the City Ground before the Blackpool game, and THAT celebration after THAT goal in injury time at Derby.

Emotions were raw, like they are when you come out of a long-term relationship. People tell you “don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea”. You nod, smile, but curse them under your breath.

The undue haste in which Pearce’s replacement was announced, hours after his departure, only made things worse. Like hearing about your ex moving in with someone else the day after dumping you.

That the club’s reason for appointing Freedman seemed to be mainly because “he was available” (McGovern’s words) did nothing to make it better. Nothing to do with his track record, ability to work under the transfer embargo, ambition, long term plans, etc. No, we got him because he was available.

Giving my loyalty to someone else after all that was difficult, and I fell a little bit out of love with Nottingham Forest that day.

But I’m beginning to come to terms with it. I’m beginning to move on, to realise that all those people who said it was for the best were, in all probability, right.

This was the first game I have witnessed in the Freedman era. Being a long-distance fan with Reading only a 20-minute drive from my front door, rather than the usual seven-hour round-trip to the City Ground, I decided it was time to see how the Reds had progressed. Were our recent wins just an example of the usual new manager ‘bounce’ or are we the real deal?

Understandably perhaps, given our exertions against Bournemouth on Wednesday night, the usually consistent manager chose to freshen things up bringing in Fryatt, Mancienne and Pato in place for Blackstock, Gardner and Burke.

Reading are a team that seem to epitomise the Championship. On their day, a match for anyone. On another day, very average. Recent results include away wins at Derby, Ipswich and Wolves, but also defeats against Wigan, Huddersfield and Leeds.

Their team also included some ghosts of Forests past – Chalobah, Cox, Gunter and McCleary, surely at least one of whom was bound to score against his old club, as ex-players always seem to against Forest.

With a very winnable cup quarter-final only a week away for Reading, their players would be fighting for their places.

Enough there then to realise this would be a stern test.

And in the first-half it looked like Forest may be feeling the effects of that midweek scrap. Reading poured forward and as the half wore on the Reds retreated, Fryatt becoming an increasingly isolated figure up front.

McCleary terrorised Fox and the Royals laid siege to the Forest goal. Cox (who managed to stay onside for a whole 45 minutes!) wasted a glorious chance blazing over from 12 yards out, while Lascelles cleared off the line from McCleary.

But despite banging hard on the door Reading never forced their way in. Somehow Forest managed make it into the break at nil-nil.

Time then to regroup and for the new manager to earn his money. Changes were needed and Paterson paid the price of an ineffective display and made way for Burke.

At times last season Paterson was unplayable (remember him destroying West Ham?), but this season he is just making himself unpickable. His decline has been alarming and even a change of manager has made no difference. You can’t help thinking that maybe sending him out on loan to build up some confidence rather than Oliver Burke might have been a better option.

The change had an almost instant impact and the Reds looked a different team after the break, pressing forward down the wings, retaining possession and dominating midfield.

Enter Super Benny Osborn with a sublime left-foot 30-yarder that Adam Federici in the Reading goal could only watch and admire like the rest of us as it curled into his top corner. Stunning.

This kid really is the real deal, arguably the most exciting prospect to come through our youth system since Paul Hart fostered such talents as Jenas, Dawson and Reid.

However, let Paterson’s travails be a lesson. One season does not a career make. We can only hope he continues to work hard and progress. If he does, we could have a genuine star on our hands.

The goal was a hammer blow for Reading’s fragile confidence and, like the Forest of a few weeks ago were prone to do, they collapsed, seemingly accepting they were heading for defeat. Fryatt cut into the box and fired home to make it two effectively ending the game as a contest, while substitute Gary Gardner ensured Osborn would have some competition for Sky Sports goal of the day prize with a long-range thunderbolt that clattered in off the underside of the bar.

So where does this leave us?

Well, Freedman – like Pearce at the start of the season – is definitely getting the best out of the talented squad at his disposal. Simplicity and consistency seem to be the hallmarks of his reign so far, and it is working. Even without the talismanic Assombalonga, Forest are free-scoring and much improved at the back. Freedman is currently making management seem very easy.

Understandably some amongst us are daring to dream of a late play-off run. However, I’d counsel caution. While five wins in six is a great run, nine points is still a substantial gap and our remaining 12 fixtures will see us play many of the league’s top teams.

For now I’m happy to take things a game at a time and enjoy the sunshine, moonlight, good times and Dougie.

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