“It was always going to be one of those days, but we never really looked like conceding at any stage.”- Reading Manager Steve Clarke
“We made it difficult for Reading to play against us, it was a tough game for both sides and a fair fight and, as I say, the sending off changed things and gave them the boost they needed to take the three points.”- Charlton Manager Guy Luzon
Prior to the International break Reading were in great form having defeated Middlesbrough and Burnley in the Championship. Many may have feared the break would stunt the momentum created by the Royals but their 1-0 victory against Charlton at the Madejski proved otherwise. For long periods of the game it appeared as if the home side would be unable to break through a resolute Charlton defence, but it was Nick Blackman who once again popped up with the goal to give Reading all three points.
In terms of the Reading starting line-up, Steve Clarke opted to give Ola John his first league start of the season and youngster Rowan Liburd was called up to the bench following a run of impressive performances for the U-21s. Reading were the better team from the beginning to the end of the game and the scoreline somewhat flatters the away side. Charlton set themselves up for a draw from the beginning and were happy to sit deep and compact throughout.
The first chance for the home side fell to Lucas Piazon who, after a nice flick on from Orlando Sa, forced Charlton keeper Nick Pope into an early save. For large periods of the game, however, Reading were forced to have efforts from deep which subsequently ended up flying over the bar- Ola John and Oliver Norwood had the pick of the bunch in the first half. To give them some credit, Charlton were defending well in the opening forty-five minutes and made life difficult for the Royals.
The second half continued in a similar vein, this time with Michael Hector and Nick Blackman threatening the Charlton goal from range. Chances kept coming for the home side, this time with Piazon having his shot deflected wide. Reading had a total of twenty-three shots throughout the game and subsequently will have been frustrated to have not found the net earlier on in the game.
The breakthrough, however, was to initially come about due to a sloppy piece of play from the Charlton defence. A counter-attack saw Blackman closing in on the Charlton box, before he was brought down by Patrick Bauer. Having already been on a yellow card, the referee had little choice but to send him off.
Clarke’s introduction of Danny Williams and Garath McCleary into the game definitely made an immediate impact and it began to look inevitable that Reading would find the goal they were looking for. It was in the 76th minute, that Reading finally made the breakthrough. Piazon, who moved out to the left wing following the introduction of Williams, was found out wide by Jordan Obita. His pinpoint cross then found Blackman in the centre of the box and his header back across goal found the back of the Charlton net. It was the least the home side deserved and it was a goal that took Blackman to ten for the season.
From then until the end of the game, it became embarrassingly easy for Reading to play out the game until the final whistle. Despite losing, Charlton still sat back and let the home side play the ball around at will from side to side. It was by no means the most exciting thing to watch for the crowd, but Reading simply saw the game out while giving Charlton no chance of getting hold of the ball let alone scoring a goal. The two shots that Charlton were able to get throughout the game were somewhat kind as they did little to threaten all afternoon.
Reading knew the afternoon would be difficult, with many expecting Charlton to sit deep, and last season these kinds of games were the ones that the Royals would dominate and then lose. Being able to push through and find the winning goal shows how far both the team, and Blackman specifically, have come over the last few months.
Once again it was an impressive team performance with Reading players performing well all over the pitch. Despite being threatened on very few occasions, Ali Al-Habsi will have taken many positives in the Reading goal after his second clean sheet on the bounce and the defence as a whole continues to look resolute, especially with the ever calm presence of Paul McShane.
If anyone had a comparatively poor game, it would probably be Piazon. The Chelsea loanee struggled to hold onto the ball on many occasions and his shots rarely threatened the goal. Aaron Tshibola was another that occasionally got forced off the ball but he will always fight back straight away- something that Piazon does not always do. This being said, his play for the Reading goal demonstrated exactly what he is capable of and you could see how happy he was that the move came off.
While the game will not be remembered for long in terms of the football, the minute’s applause for Matthew Pike in the fourteenth minute made the game special. The moment demonstrated the power of social media as fans around the stadium rose in support of the youngster who sadly passed away following his fight against leukaemia.
Saturday’s victory saw Reading move to second in the table and only four points away from league leaders Brighton. The Royals will be expecting another tough game on Tuesday evening when they take on a Rotherham side who find themselves in the relegation places. Blackman is finding himself increasingly man marked, with three players marking him at times against Charlton, but will be hoping to continue finding the net. Considering their recent performances, however, Reading will be confident of getting another positive result and extending their winning run.