“We did not look like a team at the bottom of the table, but the reality is about points. It’s about being affective and realistic, and we are not at this moment.”– Charlton Manager Jose Riga
“First half we were very good and played some fabulous football. The three goals were top drawer. We had a half hour spell where we were all over the place, quite frankly.”– Reading Manager Brian McDermott
Playing against a side who find themselves bottom of the Championship, it should have been fairly straightforward for a Reading side who are seemingly getting their season back on track. Reading’s away form was a concern prior to the game, with the Royals not winning a game away in the Championship since September but the 3000 away fans were optimistic of a positive result.
No one would have expected what was to come, however, with a stoppage time goal from substitute Deniss Rakels winning the game for Reading in a seven goal thriller. A hat-trick for Yaya Sanogo evened the score for the home side but it was not enough for Charlton to secure a much needed point.
Reading manager Brian McDermott put his faith in the side that beat Rotherham 1-0 in midweek, meaning that Yann Kermorgant was once again leading the line. The only change made to the team was the inclusion of Danny Williams on the bench following his return from injury.
As expected Reading made a positive start to the game, creating scoring opportunities from the off. With only three minutes on the clock, Stephen Quinn was the first to threaten the Charlton goal. After picking out Ola John in the box, the ball was fed back out to the Irish international before his powerful effort was tipped onto the bar by Stephen Henderson in the Charlton goal.
Reading were off to a quick start and only a minute later took the lead. Created by some stylish play on the left by John, the Reading midfielder was left to run at the Charlton defence before picking out Kermorgant at the far post with an inch-perfect cross. Making a return to the club that deemed that he was not good enough for the Championship, Kermorgant opened his Reading account by heading back across goal into the back of Henderson’s net.
While Reading were looking confident, it took only a matter of minutes before Sanogo scored his first of the day. John was robbed of the ball out wide by Marco Motta before he picked out Sanogo. The Charlton striker then went past Cooper too easily before stroking the ball into Ali Al-Habsi’s goal. With the score now even, Charlton were getting themselves back into the game and offensively were starting to look dangerous.
Kermorgant, despite not celebrating his goal, was enjoying playing against his former side. The striker nearly had his second with an audacious 40 yard strike but it was chalked off for handball in the build up. With missed opportunities falling to Sanogo, Gudmonsson and Makienok for Charlton, it was the ex-Charlton man who was to double his tally after the half hour mark. Following some nice play around the box by John and Hal Robson-Kanu, the Welsh international picked out Kermorgant in the box before curling the ball into the top corner.
Reading were not finished in the first half and just before the half-time whistle John was to add another to the ever increasing tally. This time Kermorgant was playmaker as his inch perfect through ball saw John one on one with the keeper. John then calmly slotted the ball past the keeper and gave Reading a 3-1 lead going into the break.
With the Royals 3-1 up and in what appeared a commanding position, it seemed as if the away side were going to simply see the game out in the second half. The team were already playing with five in midfield so controlling the game should have been relatively straightforward. Charlton were increasingly taking hold of the game, however, and were beginning to look threatening going forward.
Reading could have put the game beyond any doubt to begin the second half. John had the first effort from range but he was unlucky not to get his second when his shot rebounded off the bar. The better opportunity fell to Robson-Kanu, however, after some impressive wing play from John once again. Picking out the Welsh international in the centre of the box, Robson-Kanu could only volley the ball over the bar.
With the Royals failing to increase the goal margin, Charlton were to make a comeback. The first came only four minutes into the half when Sanogo found himself in too much space in the Reading box and headed the ball into Al-Habsi’s goal. You would not have thought that Reading had five in midfield as Charlton began playing the ball around with ease. Other than another Robson-Kanu effort from range, Charlton were looking the favourites to get the next goal.
McDermott seemed happy to see out the game, bringing in Williams for Oliver Norwood and Garath McCleary in for a highly impressive John. With the game approaching the final whistle, Reading were defensively getting worse and had to rely increasingly on Al-Habsi to keep them ahead. With just five minutes on the clock, it was Sanogo who was to pop up with his third and the equaliser.
Gudmundsson was initially allowed too much space on the edge of the box, with Stephen Quinn missing a tackle, and his powerful effort was parried away by Al-Habsi. It was Sanogo who reacted fastest to the rebound and he evened the score despite the Reading goalkeeper trying his best to keep the ball out once more.
With the scoreline surprisingly level at 3-3, McDermott finally made the decision to bring on Rakels in place of Quinn and to play two up front. Now chasing the win again, Reading were back on the front foot. In the 92nd minute, it was a Jordan Obita free kick that was to create the winning goal in dramatic style. Crossing in from the left, the ball went all the way through to Rakels at the far post who calmly tucked the ball home from close range. The celebrations were emphatic and, being in the centre of them myself, I can say that the atmosphere in the away end was brilliant. It was late, it was great and it was enough to earn Reading all three points.
While the celebrations after the late goal were great to see, it should not really have come to that. Reading were 3-1 up at half-time and set up in a way that should not have allowed a bottom placed team to pass the ball around like they did. In recent times in the Championship the Reading defence has been strong and offensively they have struggled. This time the comparisons to the Fulham away game earlier this season could clearly be made as Reading nearly let a lead slip.
This being said, the result will boost confidence- extending Reading’s winning run and pushing them back up the table. Kermorgant and Rakels both opening their Reading accounts is a major positive and will hopefully only be the beginning for the pair. One player who was particularly impressive was John, who had the beating of the Charlton defenders all game. The midfielder did, however, lose the ball in the build up to one of their goals so has something to work on.
It should also be noted that Al-Habsi is becoming an increasingly important member of the Reading squad. Having seemingly ironed out many of the creases that plagued his game earlier in his Reading career, the keeper made many important saves in the game and not for the first time in recent weeks.
Reading now have another struggling team coming up in the form of Fulham, but we can all remember what happened in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. This being said, Reading will now be full of confidence and hoping to make a late push up the table. If they can get another three points then, who knows, maybe some fans will dare to dream.