Reading stretched their unbeaten Sky Bet Championship run to four games with a 2-0 win over 10-man Nottingham Forest on the day that home fans were allowed back into the Madejski Stadium.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Reading went ahead after Forest midfielder Ryan Yates handled on the goal line and was sent off. Reading’s top scorer Lucas Joao slotted in the resultant penalty for his 14th goal of the season.
Centre-back Michael Morrison made it 2-0 with a header eight minutes after half-time as, despite Forest battling on gamely, Reading ultimately cruised to victory.
Reading had topped the table after an excellent start to the campaign but their form fell away across a run of four successive defeats.
They subsequently rediscovered their touch, a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek extending their undefeated sequence to three matches.
Forest had barely improved since Chris Hughton replaced Sabri Lamouchi as manager in October, producing only three victories in 11 matches.
They had not won in four games, failing to score in each of them, and drew 0-0 at home to Watford on Wednesday.
Two thousand home fans were allowed into the Madejski for the first time in nine months and were seated in the East Stand – opposite the players’ tunnel, dressing rooms and media zones.
The last action watched by supporters at the stadium – by a crowd of 15,129 – came in an FA Cup fifth-round tie on March 3, when Reading lost 2-1 to Sheffield United after extra time.
Reading began brightly, with Yakou Meite testing Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba with a swerving 20-yard drive.
Forest replied immediately, Lyle Taylor forcing a fine close-range stop out of home keeper Rafael from Anthony Knockaert’s deep free-kick.
An announcement over the public address system after 12 minutes warned the fans to maintain their social distancing – but they were out of their seats four minutes later when Reading took the lead.
Tom Holmes beat Samba to Michael Olise’s free-kick and, as the ball appeared to be dropping over the line, Yates clearly handled it.
Referee Gavin Ward brandished the red card to Yates and Joao stepped up to calmly guide home the spot-kick.
Forest defended valiantly for the rest of the half, with Meite, Holmes and Olise all wasting good chances for the hosts.
Samba saved well from Olise early in the second period but, in the 53rd minute, Reading doubled their advantage.
Olise swung over a corner from the left and Morrison rose alone to nod home his second goal of the campaign.
Forest did their best in difficult circumstances but rarely looked like ending their goal drought as Reading strolled to a comfortable three points.
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