Five Things: Bolton v Reading

Chris Brunskill

Our sister SB Nation site, Bolton's Lion of Vienna Suite have long done this after games so I hope they won't mind us adopting the format ourselves. Here's five things to ponder after Reading's 1-1 draw up at the Reebok.

1. We're still a work in progress

Reading once again endured a frustrating first half and just like the Ipswich game, really struggled to bounce back following Bolton's opener. Whatever Adkins said at half time certainly seemed to work as we saw a completely different Reading in the second half, one that looked capable of beating any side in this division home or away.

Sadly you can't ignore the pains of the first half, nor the amateurish defending that led to Pratley's opener for Wanderers. Our centre backs have made only a handful of starts together and at 22 and 24, Sean Morrison and Alex Pearce will take time to really get into their stride as a partnership. Further than that, neither Alex McCarthy nor Chris Gunter were regulars throughout last year, and with Wayne Bridge a new signing, it will take time for the defence to truly gel as a unit.

2. Adkins isn't afraid to shuffle the pack

One of the biggest criticisms of the Coppell and McDermott eras was the fact that certain players seemed  'undroppable' in the eyes of the manager. On the basis of Adkins first six months, the same can't be said of the reign of Adkins who's already made some big big calls.

This year we've already seen £2m signing and Premier League regular Adrian Mariappa banished from the 18, while last year's top scorer Adam Le Fondre was benched for Nick Blackman despite helping the side beat Ipswich last week. Jobi McAnuff was dropped despite being the club captain, while last year's shining light Hal Robson-Kanu then found himself benched at Bolton.

If you add the fact that two of the club's top earners in Adam Federici and Pavel Pogrebnyak have been restricted to bench duty, it's clear that wages and reputation count for little in the eyes of the former Bangor manager.

While in the short term this may lead to a few bruised egos in the dressing room, you can only hope that it keeps the whole squad hungry and leads to a more stable dressing room in the long-term, with everybody feeling they'll have a part to play this season.

3. Why the hate for Nick Blackman?

While Blackman's performances since signing from Sheffield United were hardly amazing, I was surprised to see just how many people were slagging off the selection of the former Blackburn forward on Twitter before the game. Admittedly Twitter has never been the best place to gain measured reasoned opinions but I wondered just why Blackman seemed to be the focus of so much anger after he was named ahead of Adam Le Fondre to start on Saturday.

Blackman was given just three Premier League starts and considering he was thrown into a struggling side, two divisions higher and then asked to play in a non-favoured wide role half the time, should we have really expected miracles?

The forward scored 14 goals in 33 games for the Blades before leaving for the Madejski in January and those goals were generally scored when he was played up front. Saturday was a rare chance for the 23-year-old to occupy that spot for Reading and he delivered, converting a key penalty in some style to open his account for Nigel Adkins side.

While scoring a penalty doesn't mean he had an outstanding game, his level of play greatly improved after the goal and hopefully opening his account for the club will give the forward that bit more confidence going forward.

At 23 and embarking on his first full season at Championship level, it's far too early to make judgements on Blackman and here's hoping the fans can give him a proper chance to shine.

4. Drenthe is pure class

This point doesn't really need making but I'll do it anyway because once again Drenthe looked full of skill and invention and at times, too good for this league. Right now his fitness still isn't the best and his 'dive' on Saturday wasn't idea,l but a fit and interested Drenthe could send us to the title in the same way that Adel Taraabt brought glory to Neil Warnock's QPR side in 2011.

5. We're still missing a striker

As mentioned above, Nick Blackman put in a good shift on Saturday and is certainly a player that can kick on in the future but Saturday demonstrated the limitations with our group of forwards right now in that nobody really fits the mould of a lone striker in the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 that Adkins seems to favour.

Adam Le Fondre did a decent enough job at home against Ipswich while Blackman was OK at the Reebok but neither filled you with a great deal of confidence in the same way that a Shane Long, Scott Sinclair, Jason Roberts, Rickie Lambert has done for other promotion winning teams over the years.

Jason Roberts is still at least a month away from contention and Pavel Pogrebnyak's lack of action points to the fact that either the Russian wants to go or Reading don't see him as the ideal solution either. That leaves Le Fondre and Blackman to score the goals and right now neither looks like a man who'll end up with the golden boot come May.

Admittedly, final goal tallies aren't everything, after all our last promotion saw Le Fondre top our goalscoring charts despite being relegated to bench duty after Roberts arrived. Other teams such as West Brom in 2010 and Cardiff last season also both managed automatic promotion despite neither having a main striker reach double digits in goals.

If our core of attacking wingers can all chip in with 8+ goals then it's quite easy to see us gaining promotion but even so a Jason Roberts/Shane Long type striker could certainly push us over the top and turn us from a team well placed for automatic promotion to a team well placed to dominate this division.

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