Not everything turned out as planned today, including discovering rather too late there were no trains from Blackheath to Charlton and England not getting the final try in the last seconds (just how my French partner Suzanne can take pleasure in the end-result, handing the title to their 'Irish friends' - a fallacy of history - only she and her conscience can answer). But in between there was a pretty decent second half served up at The Valley, after a rather mundane (and for me shortened) first period, during which we in particular looked as though the summer holidays were being planned.
Apparently Solly, having been named in the side (as captain), was injured during the pre-match preparations, so whatever the original intentions it turned out to be in front of Henderson Gomez and Fox plus Johnson and Diarra. The midfield four (Bulot, Buyens, Cousins and Berg Gudmundsson) contained no surprises, while up front Eagles was given a start inside along with Watt, with Vetokele not making the bench.
Apparently we were pretty good in the first 15 minutes, having at least one decent effort, but this time around I really can't say from first-hand experience. All I do know is that by the time I arrived Reading were getting more of a grip on the game and were to provide the few moments of interest in a decidedly unmemorable first-half. What became noticeable was their inability to take advantage of decent situations, with free-kicks overhit (one in particular on the edge of the box after Johnson had taken one for the team to stop a threatening attack) and final passes misplaced. We looked off the pace, with only cameo moments from Bulot and Gudmundsson and little if any service to the front two, who were regularly outmuscled by the Reading centre-backs. Buyens in particular (but not in isolation) appeared to be going through the motions.
I don't remember us having a shot in anger in the first half. Neither did Henderson make a save, but he did have to pick the ball out of the net. It wasn't a goal out of the blue, rather a finish out of keeping with what we had seen before. One of their guys seemed to get space between our lines and when the ball broke to him he finished in some style.
At the break you just felt that the extra impetus from attacking the Covered End in the second half had to make some difference - and after 10 minutes of the second we had already created more than I'd seen in the first 45 and were very unlucky to at least not be back on level terms. First good work down the left ended with a cross that eluded their defenders but came at an awkward height for Watt towards the far post and he ballooned it over when it really should have been on target. Then one from the right to the far post was nodded down for the incoming Buyens, whose low shot from around the penalty spot was blocked by a prostrate defender. Finally great work down the right and an excellent cross saw Eagles with a free header that he failed to keep below the bar.
It seemed as if a bit more tempo and application and Reading's back line looked far from secure. But we hadn't taken the chances and ended up getting level in rather strange circumstances. This time it was an innocuous ball in from the left which Watt and their defender contested, the end-result being the latter falling backwards and adjudged to have handled the ball. A penalty and a yellow card. A fellow Addick who had a clearer view suggested after the game that Watt might have given him a bit of a tug to unbalance him, but the ref's decision is final (and I've never questioned a spot kick for us). Buyens may have had a poor first half but he can take a penalty. This one was hit crisply into the roof of the net.
That gave us additional impetus and now Bulot and Gudmundsson were having more of an influence, Watt causing more problems, and perhaps most important Buyens and Cousins getting more of a grip on central midfield to provide the service. Luzon made a change, with Church coming on to replace Eagles, who had struggled to make a telling impact as a central forward, and our second wasn't long in coming after that. An exquisite pass inside their full back picked out Gomez on the overlap and he delivered into the box. Buyens again proved the man on the spot. I'm not sure if he placed it into the net or if it bounced in off his knee, but the outcome was the same.
Reading made changes but while looking capable had still to fashion a real chance in the second half and gave no great impression of being about to get back into the game. Instead another ball in landed to Church and while his shot was decent enough it was another last-ditch block by a defender, seemingly denying him a goal against his former club. No matter, with around 10 minutes left on the clock we had the moment of the afternoon. The ball was knocked forward to Watt on the right edge of the penalty area, with a defender in close attention. The defender must have realised that Watt was going to try to go past him towards the by-line but was just unable to stop him doing just that, with his strength taking him clear. He squared it and Church was on hand to put it in the net.
That seemed about it, just play out the game. But there was time for Watt to get involved in a little off-the-ball afters with a defender already on a yellow card. One more each and off went their guy. Cue sensible move by Luzon to withdraw Watt, to give LePoint another final cameo. Then just as we headed into five minutes of stoppage time Reading did get one back, with a ball to the near post not dealt with and their guy shooting low into the net. But a last-ditch free-kick was claimed by Henderson and there was to be no late squandering of a couple of points.
We deserved the win, by virtue of the fact that when we raised our game in the second half Reading weren't able to cope. We scored three in the second period and on good chances it could have been double that. Just remarkable what a contrast that was with the subdued display in the first. Was it something Luzon said at the break, or just a collective acceptance that the way we played before half-time was simply not good enough to win a game? Who knows.
Henderson - 7/10. Don't remember him having a real save to make apart from their goals, which he had no chance with. Made the necessary claims of high balls.
Gomez - 7/10. Decent game defensively, instrumental in our second goal. A real plus this season.
Fox - 7/10. Happily now seems to have put the problems of earlier in the season behind him, looked solid and dependable.
Johnson - 7/10. Nothing dramatic, just the necessary, including hauling down their guy when we were in trouble and taking the yellow card.
Diarra - 7/10. Looks quite capable at centre-back, good interceptions, obviously reads the game well.
Gudmundsson - 7/10. Not in the game much in the first half, but when we wrested control in the second was able to come much more into it to good effect.
Buyens - 7/10. I watched him in the first half and felt he was doing not nearly enough, far too casual. But he upped his game in the second and that made a big difference to the team, converted an excellent penalty, scored another and might have had a third, getting into the areas where Jackson often does.
Cousins - 7/10. He too came much more into the match after the break, got forward to good effect with decent runs that weren't always picked out.
Bulot - 7/10. No decisive contribution but as with Gudmundsson on the other flank a better second half.
Eagles - 6/10. He's been impressive since arriving but struggled a bit today, failed to put his header from a very good position on target.
Watt - 8/10. After a quiet first half he became a real pain for them in the second, involved in getting the penalty, their guy's second yellow, and that run for our third goal was the abiding memory of the game.
Subs - Church (7/10: delighted that he got the goal, the winner as it proved); LePoint (7/10: job for the final few minutes was to run around and help ease any pressure and he did that).