A SICKNESS bug has swept through the Nottingham Forest camp – just hours before Reading FC are due to visit the City Ground for a crucial six-pointer (7.45pm ko).

Sources in the east Midlands confirmed Forest trio Daryl Murphy, Apostolos Vellios and Michael Mancienne have been struck down with illness and could miss tonight’s Championship clash.

Republic of Ireland international striker Murphy came on in their 0-0 draw at Burton Albion on Saturday, but his condition is said to have since worsened.

The news is a major blow for Forest boss Aitor Karanka who is already without the services of Eric Lichaj, Joe Worrall and Ashkan Dejagah through injury and suspension, while Jack Hobbs and Chris Cohen are also rated doubtful.

Reading Chronicle:

Nottingham Forest are yet to win at home under Aitor Karanka. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/ PA Wire.

Royals, however, have received a massive boost ahead of the game with John Swift set to return from a five week lay-off.

The 22-year-old midfielder damaged a hamstring during a 0-0 draw at Hull City on January 13.

But it is not all good news for Jaap Stam’s Royals as skipper Paul McShane, new loan signing Tommy Elphick, Joseph Mendes, Jordan Obita, Callum Harriott and Stephen Quinn have all been ruled out.

Nevertheless, Reading should be the fresher team tonight after the squad spent last week in Spain on a warm-weather training camp.

Stam’s men were without a fixture last weekend due to Sheffield United’s FA Cup involvement, while fellow strugglers Forest could only labour to a 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Burton after Lichaj was sent off.

Royals and Forest go into the clash in woeful form, with both sides having won just one of their previous 11 league games to push them closer to relegation danger.

Reading Chronicle:

Midfield ace John Swift could return from injury.

Reading start the day in 18th place and four points above the drop zone.

Forest are one place higher with four more points having played one extra game.

But Stam’s men had the edge over Forest after winning the corresponding home fixture 3-1 in October thanks to a Swift brace and Sone Aluko strike.

Karanka is also yet to win a home game since becoming Forest manager on January 8.

And midfielder Dave Edwards is confident Royals will reap the rewards of last week’s Spanish trip over the last 15 weeks of the campaign.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to know what a week like this can do for a season,” said the 32-year-old Wales international. “Hopefully it’ll be a positive one and we can take it on to Nottingham Forest and then onwards to the rest of the season.

“We’ve been on a really dismal run since the start of December, and we need to put that right. If we can get a positive atmosphere like we’re doing this week, I really hope we can take that into the games.

Reading Chronicle:

Reading's Dave Edwards.

“The lads are in good spirits, and the main thing is that we’re getting good work done.”

He added: “A win can do all sorts for confidence. We’ve got so many good players here that I think once we get on a run, we’ll be hard to stop.

“It’s the first one which is the hardest to get, but we’ll be doing everything within our capabilities to do that.

“We’ve got to start scoring more goals – hopefully we can do that in the remainder of the season.”