Iain Liddle reports from the Madejski Stadium
- Vetokele scores the winner as Charlton are victorious at the Madejski
- Defensive masterclass from Bob Peeters’ side leaves Reading frustrated
- Addicks move on to 27 points ahead of the November international break
Charlton beat Reading on their own patch for the first time since 1981 thanks to a display which typified the best bits of their season so far.
Defensively resolute throughout, they were also calm in possession of the ball and possessed a striker with a superbly-clinical nature.
The game’s only goal arrived in the first half when Igor Vetokele brilliantly directed a ball over Adam Federici, with Chris Solly’s in-swinging left-footed cross providing the assist.
However, they were also on peak form defensively with the back four proving an insurmountable object and everyone in front of them running themselves into the ground for the cause.
Much has been made of the fighting spirit in Charlton's camp in recent years and the overhaul of the playing squad in the summer has not dented that in the slightest.
Still led by their ever-reliable skipper Johnnie Jackson, the Addicks' work-rate was exemplary and there were moments of quality to match.
Charlton are now on 27 points in early November. The same points total it took them until mid-February to reach last term.
On that occasion the tally was brought up with a 1-0 win at home to Queens Park Rangers, one of the results of the campaign.
This victory at Reading by same scoreline felt every bit as satisfying.
There was plenty of team news for Charlton going into the game with five significant changes to the matchday squad.
Vetokele, Solly and Morgan Fox were all named in the Addicks’ starting line-up, replacing George Tucudean, Lawrie Wilson and the injured Rhoys Wiggins – who fractured a bone in his right foot in the 2-2 at Leeds United on Tuesday evening.
With Stephen Henderson in goal as normal, Wales U21 defender Fox slotted in at left-back alongside André Bikey-Amougou, Tal Ben Haim and Solly in the back four.
Captain Johnnie Jackson and Yoni Buyens occupied the two slots in central midfield, with Jordan Cousins and Johann Berg Gudmundsson providing width in attacking areas.
Meanwhile, the headline story was the return of leading scorer Vetokele – who came off the bench to equalise at home to Sheffield Wednesday a week earlier – starting up front alongside Callum Harriott.
Frederic Bulot and Joe Gomez also returned to the matchday squad following hamstring and foot injuries and were named on the bench.
For Reading, Alex Pearce made his 200th appearance for the Royals and starts in central defence.
Having scored three goals in each of their previous two homes games the Royals were quick out of the blocks and attacked in numbers early on.
Crystal Palace loanee Glenn Murray was the key outlet up front and the striker had the first meaningful chance of the game when he headed wide from 12 yards out.
The inclusion of Harriott as a central forward was a surprise from Peeters but he was a livewire up front and enthusiastically pressured Royals stopper Federici at every opportunity.
Reading were largely in control for the opening 20 minutes, however, with skipper Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita providing an effective dual threat down the left-hand side.
Torrential rain in Berkshire made for a skiddy playing surface and Gudmundsson skimmed a ball across the top of it in the 26th minute, for Charlton’s first effort on target, from 25 yards.
Federici was comfortably behind the effort, but the chance arose because of Gudmundsson drifting between defence and midfield to find possession – just as Simon Cox was doing so effectively at the other end.
The Icelander was involved in Charlton’s next effort on goal after 31 minutes when he exchanged passes with Vetokele before teeing up Harriott, whose side-footed effort was blocked en route to goal.
As the half went on there were more and more signs of encouragement for the visitors and the breakthrough came six minute from the break.
Solly, who had defended superbly for most of the half against Obita, got forward on the right and declined to chance to play in Gudmundsson before cutting inside and curling a cross into the area on his left foot.
It proved the right decision as his pinpoint delivery was met by Vetokele, who peeled off his marker and expertly looped a header over the outstretched palms of Federici and into the back of the net.
The clinical nature of the goal showed why the Angola international has quickly become Charlton’s key man and was the difference between the sides in the first period.
Reading quickly offered a reminder of their own threat before the break, however, with the impressive Murray inches away at the back post and Michael Hector heading wide from a corner after Henderson appeared to have been fouled.
Charlton continued their rope-a-dope tactics in the second half and allowed their hosts more of the possession before looking to spring on the counter-attack.
It nearly paid dividends five minutes after the restart when Harriott, showed superb footwork before Gudmundsson was just off with a through-ball which would have freed Vetokele to run in one-on-one.
The Addicks had to be at their best defensively and in Ben Haim and Bikey they boasted a pair of mountain-like centre-backs.
Pressure continued to build and an equaliser nearly arrived with the clever Oliver Norwood hit the post with a dipping effort from the edge of the penalty area.
London-born defender Hector also saw a shot blocked in the area as the visitors dug in and threw their bodies at everything which came their way.
Vetokele, on his first start after coming back from an Achilles problem, was given 64 minutes before being replaced by Arsenal loanee Francis Coquelin.
The change saw Charlton move to a 4-4-1-1 formation with Gudmundsson playing off Harriott with Jackson and Cousins on the wings.
It was designed to make Peeters’ side harder to break down and it was just as well because Reading were becoming more and more threatening as the second half continued.
It wasn’t until the final quarter of an hour that Henderson was truly tested, however, and he did brilliantly when called upon.
The tireless Jamie Mackie cut inside and unleashed a rocket of a shot when given a rare sight of goal, but the Irish stopper showed split-second reflexes to turn it over the bar in superb fashion.
For all Reading’s possession, and there was much of it, Charlton then created a chance which would have surely finished the contest.
Jackson chipped forward into the path of Gudmundsson and the Addicks found themselves outnumbering the home defence two on one.
The Iceland international could not have done any more as he suckered the sole defender into advancing towards him before flicking the ball into the path of substitute George Tucudean inside the penalty area.
Without time to take a touch, the Romanian swiped the ball goalwards but Federici was equal to it and nail-biting service resumed.
Reading boss Nigel Adkins sent on his attacking replacements one by one and the team huffed and puffed, but never overly troubled Henderson again from that point.
It was a masterclass in defending, but that does not tell the true story of the performance.
Charlton came to the Madejski Stadium with a gameplan and executed it to the letter.
Of course it helps when you have one of the division’ leading strikers at your disposal, but everyone in the red shirt gave their all and deserved to return to London with three points to show for their efforts.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Fox, Ben Haim Bikey; Gudmundsson (Bulot 88), Jackson, Buyens, Cousins; Harriott (Tucudean 81), Vetokele (Coquelin 64).
Subs (not used): Pope, Wilson, Gomez, Onyewu.
Goal: Vetokele 39.
Bookings: Gudmundsson 87 (foul on Hector) Jackson 90+3 (unsporting behaviour).
Reading: Federici; Kelly (Blackman , Gunter, Hector, Pearce; Mackie, Norwood, Williams, Obita; Cox (Robson-Kanu 77), Murray.
Subs (not used): Andersen, Cooper, Akpan, Taylor.
Booking: Cox 73 (foul on Bikey)
Referee: Mr Neil Swarbrick.
Attendance: 16,989 (including 1,449 from Charlton).