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Tactics Review: Formation Switch Sees Reading Beat Wigan

Has Mark Bowen found a plan B?

Wigan Athletic v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Despite an extremely poor first 78 minutes of football from both sides, a 4 minute 54 second George Puscas hat-trick sealed a 3-1 victory for Reading at Wigan Athletic.

Reading lined up in a 3-5-2: Rafael; Yiadom, Miazga, Moore, Morrison, Richards; Pele, Rinomhota, McCleary; Puscas, Meite. With Wigan in a 4-4-2, Reading’s full-backs once again struggled, with Omar Richards having an especially poor game.

Wigan were able to play balls around the defence and deliver in crosses where Reading never quite looked comfortable. The Latics scored from a corner just before half-time with Joe Garner knocking in the rebound after Rafael had made a good save.

With Michael Morrison on a yellow card, Mark Bowen opted to sub him off with Lucas Joao replacing him, meaning that Reading switched to a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 with Joao playing behind Puscas, and Yakou Meite and Garath McCleary on the wings.

This switch to four at the back gave the full-backs more comfort in not needing to commit forwards, instead playing balls in around the defence for Meite, McCleary and Puscas to run on to. None of these attacks quite formed any reasonable chances and Puscas in particular was guilty of not being decisive enough to drive towards goal and get a shot off, opting instead to cut the ball back or run into trouble.

However this all changed when a ball from Andy Yiadom found Lucas Boye in the box. A fantastic touch allowed him to lob the ball over the onrushing defender before being clattered by Chey Dunkley. Puscas stepped up and dispatched the penalty, and 60 seconds later nutmegged a defender to put the Royals 2-1 up with a simply brilliant goal.

The man who looked like he was scared to shoot soon doubled his league goal tally for the season inside five minutes after McCleary dispossessed a Wigan defender and played it across goal for him to finish into the net and complete his hat-trick.

Bowen kept the faith with Puscas and it reaped rewards, with the fastest ever Championship hat-trick being scored by the Romanian.

Perhaps Bowen has found a Plan B for the 3-5-2, something Gomes struggled with, with Bowen’s tactical changes once again proving key in deciding the game.