Billy Sharp is better than Adam Le Fondre
On loan Southampton man Billy Sharp made his full debut for Reading and in the hour or so in which he was on the pitch showed just what the side's been lacking up front. Based on his showing against Charlton, Sharp is the player that Nigel Adkins has been trying to turn Adam Le Fondre into. He comes deeper to get the ball and is much more comfortable getting the ball into his feet. Added to which his all round game of closing down defenders also seemed to be a notch above. It remains to be seen whether this was a flash in the pan and as good as his goal was I doubt he's as clinical in front of goal as Alfie but it was a massive plus point that Sharp slotted so seamlessly into the side.
The defence still needs strengthening
Whilst Reading kept a clean sheet it was slightly terrifying to look at the back four and think they this is a side that wants to challenge for promotion. Yes there are absences at the back but only three players were missing (four if you include Chris Baird) and we were down to the bare bones; bare bones that includes the erratic Kaspers Gorkss, the rusty Shaun Cummings and the increasingly out his depth Stephen Kelly. The latter is a player that really worries me. Kelly should be a consistent, experienced player and some of his performances this year can perhaps be excused because he was playing out of position at left back. However, Cummings came in and showed that it really isn't as hard as Kelly made it look playing there and in his preferred position of right back he simply didn't convince, looking reluctant to go forward and panicky in defence. You could argue that a midfielder such as Danny Williams or Chris Baird offers a bit more cover but that only brings me on to the next point...
The midfield still needs strengthening
About an hour into the game Danny Williams was forced off with a calf strain and in his place came Hope Akpan. What then followed was the ball staying almost exclusively in the Reading half with only the odd counter attack across the halfway line. Much like with the defence, the midfield has its problems with injuries but also like the defence, it hasn't had that many, only Jem Karacan and Chris Baird are missing and the latter was effectively signed to cover the injury of the former. Williams put in an encouraging display but all the American's hard work was undone by a performance of staggering ineptitude from Hope Akpan. The centre of the pitch was effectively abandoned by Reading towards the end of the game and Charlton should have exploited it. Reading were heavily linked with a loan move for Graham Dorrans before the deadline and I would suggest signing a player to support Guthrie and Williams in January is a priority.
Royston's enjoyed his time off
Any Reading fans wondering why Royston Drenthe hasn't featured in a while must have had their answer when the players emerged for their pre-match warm up. Whilst I'm probably not in any position to criticise, the Dutch international looked sluggish and overweight. Perhaps you can't read too much into a warm up but he didn't look like a player chomping at the bit to get back in the side, instead he looked like a player who'd been chomping on anything edible within sight. The fact that a clearly not 100% fit Jobi McAnuff came into the starting XI and Nick Blackman was thrown on at the end of the game suggests that Drenthe will have some work to do to get back into the side.
Simon Church really must be rubbish
Jay Tabb, Michail Antonio, Simon Cox, Connor Wickham and Darius Henderson have all done it. Ex-players coming back to score against us is really quite straight forward (Jay Tabb for God's sake!) so as a striker Simon Church shouldn't have had too many problems adding to that list. It's not like he didn't have his chance either when his "world class movement" created a one on one with Alex McCarthy but he couldn't beat his old Academy team mate. He actually showed some good touches and first half I don't think he was offside once (!) but to not score against us as ex-player really is poor. I wonder if Ian Harte will be so generous on Saturday...