Charlton 0 Reading 0
Charlton picked up another point in their battle for Barclays Premiership survival following a goalless draw against Reading at The Valley – but will know it should have been more.
After hitting the crossbar early on through defender Talal El Karkouri, the Addicks, much-improved under new boss Alan Pardew, struggled to create many further clear-cut chances.
However, given the amount of possession they had, this was perhaps an opportunity lost for the south-east London side to put daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
With fellow strugglers Sheffield United still to come to The Valley later this month, destiny would appear in their own hands – but much hard work remains ahead for Pardew’s battling troops over the next five games.
Following a rousing pre-match performance from a Freddie Mercury impersonator, Charlton ran out with The Valley already rocking.
The home fans did their best to stoke up the atmosphere, but it was Reading - themselves already secured of top-flight football next season – who started brightly.
However, the Addicks slowly took control of midfield and came within inches of taking the lead in the fifth minute.
A free-kick from the right touchline was sent over by Darren Ambrose and centre-half El Karkouri crashed a free header against the underside of the crossbar from six yards.
Reading regrouped following that let-off and again looked dangerous going forwards.
However, Charlton pair Alexandre Song, on loan from Arsenal, and Zheng Zhi were breaking play up well in the centre.
On 15 minutes there was a brief flare-up after the young Cameroon midfielder hacked out at Steve Sidwell. He was cautioned by referee Graham Poll when calm had been swiftly restored.
Charlton broke quickly after defending the resulting free-kick and Darren Bent skipped clear down the right, but his low centre into the area was gathered by Marcus Hahnemann.
Song and Luke Young combined to send the England defender into the penalty area but his 18-yard shot lacked real venom.
Reading midfielder Seol Ki-Hyeon then walked his way through midfield and into the Charlton area, before his low shot was well saved by Scott Carson.
Addicks defender Hermann Hreidarsson had injured himself in trying to make a tackle on the edge of the box, and had to be replaced on 24 minutes by Ben Thatcher.
Reading enjoyed a good spell as the half-hour mark approached.
The hosts were forced to make another change when forward Marcus Bent pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem, and Matt Holland went on as Zheng was pushed up field.
The change in personnel did not seem to affect Charlton too much as the home side slowly started to build pressure of their own.
Jerome Thomas skipped away down the left and felt he had a shout for a penalty when going down following a tussle with Ulises de la Cruz. Referee Poll, though, was unimpressed.
At the other end, just to be safe, Carson touched over Sidwell’s looping header from a corner.
In stoppage time, Thomas almost picked out Bent with a through ball, which just had too much pace on it into the area.
Reading made a bright start to the second half.
On 50 minutes, El Karkouri bundled over Leroy Lita some 22 yards out, just right of centre.
Andre Bikey hit the resulting free-kick well enough, but it spun up off the defensive wall.
There was then a good chance for Charlton.
Zheng took the ball down the left flank, and charged across the area, where possession broke for Bent.
The England striker hit a 15-yard effort first time, and the ball flashed just wide of the far post.
China international Zheng soon forced a low save from the Reading keeper as Charlton pressed.
The visitors, however, refused to lie down.
With the match still finely balanced heading into the last 30 minutes, you could begin to sense the tension growing inside The Valley.
Sidwell flashed a low shot just wide of Carson’s left-hand post following good work by Stephen Hunt on the edge of the area.
Suddenly, the Charlton faithful found their voice – and the team responded.
Zheng burst into the left side of the area, but Hahnemann was out quickly to smother the danger at his near post.
El Karkouri headed clear from under his own crossbar following a goalmouth scramble – before Thomas dashed clear down the other end to cause panic in the Reading box.
With 10 minutes left, there was a renewed sense of urgency about Charlton, however too often the front men looked isolated – summing up much of the night.
Hunt could have snatched victory for Reading late on, but his diving header went across goal and wide.
In stoppage time, Zheng’s looping header fell kindly for Hahnemann.