Reading never fails to bewilder us. Despite a fairly promising first 45 minutes, we weren’t completely outplayed. While we didn’t dominate the first half, we also didn’t appear entirely outmatched. It’s the last half-hour that really tested our composure.
All it required was a touch of poise, a dash of skill, a smidgen of confidence, but this team seems to lack all these qualities at the moment. We had chances that could have changed the entire game, but much like last season, once we fall behind, it seems we’re destined to stay there, especially on the road. The mental hurdle becomes insurmountable.
In simple terms, Ruben Selles is sticking. to the 4-2-2-2 formation, and it’s becoming hard to see him deviating from it, despite the disappointments we regularly face away from home. To his credit, the system appeared to function reasonably well in the first half, even if it wasn’t particularly fluid. Perhaps it was Sam Smith’s return, or the extended break due to international matches, but we looked brighter. Michael Craig’s energetic performance also contributed positively.
We appeared compact and organized until Charlton Athletic scored in a way we’ve seen countless times before – the full-back beaten, a header into the net. In an instant, all our good work from the first half was undone. Soon, it was 2-0, and the game was effectively over. We, the manager, and Charlton all knew it. Our hopes and any semblance of composure evaporated completely.
It’s a shambles because this team lacks the experience and resilience to react differently. It’s heart-wrenching to witness. The underlying problems that lead to this state are clear, but it’s hard to see improvement until new ownership arrives to clear the dark clouds that hang over the club.
That said, while many blame Selles, he hasn’t shown he can find different on-field solutions. He sticks to the same system, hoping it will eventually work, despite no tangible benefits over the formations opponents use week after week.
Offensively, Harvey Knibbs and Femi Azeez’s positioning is a problem. They have energy, but especially Azeez lacks good decision-making. The entire front line needs to be smarter. There were instances where all four forwards were static, failing to exploit space, which could have benefited players like Nesta Guinness-Walker. Selles did alter the midfield, with Lewis Wing as the playmaker and Craig as the ball-winner, but Wing struggled when the players in front of him didn’t move intelligently.
There’s a glimmer of hope ahead. Many of our upcoming fixtures are at home in various competitions. We can only hope this will boost our confidence, improve our league standing, and translate into better performances on the road.
At this point, we need something, anything, to uplift us. Perhaps Smith’s return can spark the front line into better functionality. Maybe players like Ben Elliott or Caylan Vickers can make a difference. We need to enhance our goal-scoring opportunities.
And by the way, Nelson Abbey is quite a talent, isn’t he?