George Jones reports from Madejski Stadium
Charlton suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat against Championship high-flyers Reading at Madejski Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After a defensively-resolute opening 70 minutes, the Addicks were reduced to 10 men when Patrick Bauer picked up his second yellow card for a foul Nick Blackman.
Blackman went on to head home the winner for the Royals five minutes later but, in a game in which the hosts had dominated possession for long spells, they had been mainly restricted to long-range efforts at goal by the plucky visitors.
Head Coach Guy Luzon made three changes to the side that started against Fulham last time out.
Comeback catalyst and club captain Johnnie Jackson came into the centre of midfield in place of El-Hadji Ba, while Franck Moussa and Zakarya Bergdich were also drafted into the eleven.
Reading forced the opening chance of the game on five minutes when an intelligent back-heel from Orlando Sa released Lucas Piazon. Having advanced into the box, he forced Nick Pope into a smart save down to his left from a narrow angle.
Moments later, Ola John found himself free on the right-hand side following some neat, one-touch play between Blackman and Aaron Tshibola. He could only fire off target, though.
Sa shot into the arms of Pope as the clock the quarter-hour mark and, at the other end, a dangerous cross from Bergdich was just too high for the head of Karlan Ahearne-Grant.
The contest then began to settle down, with both sides enjoying decent spells of possession in the middle third of the pitch without causing any problems.
Franck Moussa was proving an affective target man when the ball was lofted up towards him, while Jackson and and Jordan Cousins were providing a strong screen for their back four.
The Royals upped the tempo as the the opening period reached its latter stages and the dangerous Blackman saw a strike bravely blocked behind for a corner by the head of Jackson.
Home skipper Paul McShane threw himself at the resulting corner, crashing into Ahearne-Grant, but Charlton were able to clear the danger.
At the other end, a long spell of Charlton possession concluded with Gudmundsson testing the hands of Ali Al-Habsi with a low, curling strike, but the two teams headed in level.
Gudmundsson stepped in to prevent a McShane pass from reaching its destination three minutes after the break. He then found Moussa, who couldn’t escape the attention of Michael Hector with only the defender standing between him and the goal.
The Royals defender, at the other end, then saw a long-range effort deflected over the top of the bar, with Tshibola shooting off target from a similar distance moments afterwards.
Tshibola then halted an Addicks counter attack on the edge of his own box and burst forward. He supplied Sa with possession, who in turn found Piazon and the frontman teed up the initiator of the attack, Tshibola, to curl over.
Reading continued to probe and Alou Diarra got in an important block to divert Piazon’s net-bound strike just wide of the goal.
Bauer hooked over the bar from a corner in a decent opportunity for Charlton, but things soon turned sour for German.
Having been yellow carded for a foul on Blackman on the halfway line after 51 minutes, he tripped the Royals forward as he was about to encroach into the penalty area.
Referee Rob Lewis has no hesitation in producing a second yellow card, forcing Charlton to see out the remaining 20 minutes with just 10 men.
Piazon blazed the resulting free-kick into the stands and Charlton Head Coach instantly reacted by introducing El-Hadji Ba in place of skipper Johnnie Jackson, with Morgan Fox moving to centre back.
Danny Williams then miscued a strike at goal with what was his first touch of the ball, having been brought into the action by Reading boss Steve Clarke.
The home side broke the deadlock 15 minutes from time. Piazon crossed from the left and Blackman rose at the far post to nod into the corner of the net.
Williams shot low into the arms of Pope as the home side flooded forward again, trying to make the most of their numerical advantage, and goalscorer Blackman dragged a strike wide of goal soon afterwards.
A crucial, last-ditch tackle from Chris Solly prevented Sa from having a one-on-one chance at goal in stoppage time, which proved to be the clash’s final opportunity as Reading ran out winners.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Obita, McShane (c), Hector, Norwood, Tshibola (Williams 70), Piazon (Fernandez 87), Blackman, John (McCleary 70), Sa.
Subs(not used): Moore, Taylor, Cooper, Liburd.
Goals: Blackman 75
Charlton: Pope, Solly, Bauer, Diarra, Bergdich, Gudmundsson (Fox 62), Cousins, Jackson (Ba 70) (c), McAleny, Moussa (Watt 57), Ahearne-Grant.
Subs (not used): Henderson, Sarr, Holmes-Dennis, Ba, Kennedy.
Booked: Gudmundsson 10 (foul on Norwood), Bauer 51 (foul on Blackman), Bergdich 66 (time wasting)
Sent off: Bauer 70
Attendance: 17,614 (1,183 Charlton fans)
Referee: R Lewis