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Charlton Athletic 0-1 Reading

A win is a win, right? Winning ugly is the sign of a good team.

There are ugly wins, and then this. Reading's last shot came in the 28th minute. In fact, it was six minutes earlier that we actually had one on target. We saw this against Huddersfield too. In the second half, Reading went from the 58th minute to the last kick of the match without a shot and almost an hour without a shot on target. Against Brentford - one shot on target in 90 minutes. Against Stoke, Reading failed to work the keeper after the 27th minute. 

While we managed to hold on against Charlton, we failed to against The Potters, and The Bees put us to the sword. Better teams will not be phased about being allowed the ball, and it's clearly unsustainable to have four shots in a match and expect to win. It's been worse since the restart, but there were signs beforehand. And that's not to say I don't appreciate a solid defence - I would say we deserved counter-attacking wins at Preston and Fulham,, but in both those matches we had better attacking output with even less possession.


And since that December win streak, we've only beaten a sinking Sheffield Wednesday (12th at the time), Barnsley (23rd), Birmingham (15th), Luton (24th), and Charlton (20th). In the same time, we've failed to beat Hull (then 14th, but clearly falling), Wigan (22nd), Stoke (17th), and Huddersfield (20th). The only top half teams we've beaten under Bowen are Preston twice, Fulham, and that Wednesday side on the very edge of the top half, who hadn't won in five going into the game. I think there are reasons to worry, even given his clearly outstanding record.

People are treating a win at a 20th placed Charlton like it's some kind of achievement. It shouldn't be.

The thing I can't fathom is why Reading didn't attempt to keep hold of the ball more after the 30th minute. In the first half, we looked comfortable in possession even if we didn't look dangerous. Apart from two passes in the 70th minute, we had no passes in our defensive third between the 56th and 93rd minute. Every time we looked to launch the ball long, but too often it failed - in the same period we had 66 passes targeting the other two-thirds of the pitch (still incredibly low for almost 40 minutes of play). In the second half Reading's pass success was under 50%. That is absolutely insane. That's a team that started the half with Swift and Olise in midfield.

Is this how people felt watching Jaap Stam, just completely alienated?

The other part is the constant rotation of players within the system. Three different players played as our holding midfielder. There were four central midfielders - and Rino moved from CM to the holding role and back again. I haven't even touched on playing three LBs. Or playing twenty minutes with seven defenders, three of them played out of position because they 'react quicker'. 

And it's also key to point out that it's difficult to argue that Reading deserved their victory. There will be people claiming that sometimes you need the luck to go your way, but not against 20th placed Charlton. Not even if they're scrapping for their lives. I'd rather keep my luck for a match that mattered. The Addicks had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, and - in my opinion - a perfectly good penalty turned down. Not including the mass of chances they squandered, which shouldn't be used as an example of how well Reading's system worked.

Pelé not alert to danger from behind, ends up being hounded toward Charlton RB before being tackled.

To be fair, there were a few players that had poor matches too. Pelé, for all of BBCRB's commendations, wasn't great again. His passing was wayward, he was poor in possession, and it wasn't overly surprising to see him taken off at halftime, even without an injury. That said Rinomhota, who filled the position for the next half hour, panicked on a few occasions and hooked the ball clear to nobody, allowing pressure back onto us rather than trying to get the ball down and play his way out.

Rino needs a touch more composure to find Swift in space, or even bring it down himself. Instead heads upfield and Charlton recover possession.

Obita offered nothing. When we managed to win free kicks on the edge of the box he wasted them. It's time to call Obita's Reading career if we're not going to use him at left-back. Not only has he lost a yard of pace, and not tricky enough to play as a winger, he also doesn't suit being the wide man in our system. We look a worse team with him on the pitch, and that's not coincidental (of players with over 1,000 minutes, he has the worst GD per 90).

Meite further up pitch, tries to cut inside, but Charlton defender reads danger. To be fair, Osho should probably be overlapping high instead of Blackett, but that adds to numbers in the box if a cross comes in. But honestly, who is Meite going to cross to? The plan is for Meite to be the target man.

I struggle to understand Meite's role in the second half. Pick it up deep and attempt to dribble, despite being one of the poorest on the ball in the team. He did manage to win a couple of free kicks, but they seemed more due to Charlton aggression (and poor refereeing) and I'm not sure he was the main factor. Either way he balanaced it out by losing the ball more than any other Reading player. If Bowen was intent on keeping him on, why not play him in a two with Baldock? Or at least keep the ball for a couple of phases and allow him to get up the pitch, and give the little man a chance of actually influencing the game. (I'm not going to go into how stupid I find the Puscas/Baldock sub, I've done it so many times, but what does Baldock give you when the team is playing in a low block and hoofing it clear?).

So finally we come to the good bits. Rinomhota, as always, excels in falling over. Job done.

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