Reading: McCarthy, Cummings, Gorkss, Pearce, Kelly; McAnuff, Guthrie, Williams (Akpan), McCleary (Blackman), Sharp (Robson-Kanu), Pogrebnyak
With Chris Gunter missing through suspension Nigel Adkins recalled Shaun Cummings to the starting lineup, with the Jamaican international lining up at left-back and Stephen Kelly switching to the right. Elsewhere, young winger Jordan Obita was rested in favour of club captain Jobi McAnuff, while Billy Sharp made his full debut starting alongside Pavel Pogrebnyak. Royston Drenthe was also back in the squad for the first time since early September.
As with most home games this season, Reading once again looked strong in the opening 15 minutes, threatening with a couple of headers from corners and generally having plenty of possession in and around the Charlton penalty area. That early dominance was soon rewarded, when Danny Williams excellently knicked the ball 30 yards out and played in Sharp, who fired low past the Addicks 'keeper Ben Alnwick to make it 1-0.
That was about as exciting as it got for the Royals in the first period, with Jobi McAnuff having the only other real chance, when he cut in from the left only to curl high and wide past the far post. Pogrebnyak also had half a shout for a penalty but it would have been a soft decision from referee Darren Sheldrake.
Charlton meanwhile demonstrated just why they were struggling in the lower half of the table as they wasted countless chances to get at the shaky looking Cummings down the right, while frequently gifting possession back to the Reading defence.
Former Royal Simon Church had the best of the chances for the visitors. First he burst into the box only to collide with Stephen Kelly, with no penalty given. Then he had Charlton's best chance of the night in first half injury time when he was sent through one-on-one, only to fire straight at the onrushing Alex McCarthy.
Into the second half and Reading started brightly, with McCleary hitting the post while I was still walking up the steps following a much needed half-time hot snack on a cold night at the Madejski. The home side continued to probe but things slowly fell apart, notably more so when Williams was taken off after feeling his calf on the hour mark. Nigel Adkins said in his post-match interview with the BBC that he hoped it was just cramp rather than anything more serious and for the sake of our promotion hopes, I hope that's the case because he was once again excellent and adds that energy we've been missing since he and Jem both got injured against Leeds in September.
Hope Akpan was his replacement while soon after Sharp was subbed for Hal Robson-Kanu but despite the changes, Reading were getting increasingly penned into their own half as Charlton boss Chris Powell soon made a triple sub of his own to try and force a result.
The final 25 minutes saw the Reading defence face a barrage of long balls, crosses and set pieces but credit to them because except for an offside goal from Marvin Sordell and a late clearance off the line from Akpan, they dealt with Charlton pretty well.
The disappointing aspect of the game was having to watch Reading defend so deeply against a team as weak as Charlton. With all due respect, Reading should have put this game to bed far quicker and there's little more frustrating sight than seeing your team forced into hopeless punts with a good 15 minutes left on the clock.
What summed this game up the best was that by the last minute, even the fourth official's board had given up the ghost and refused to work, as if to say 'sod this, I'm quitting early'. It was slightly strange/old school to not know exactly how much time was due to be added, not that many people would have been hoping for 1 extra minute yet alone 3 or 4.
Still, despite a lack of entertainment and action, this was a good three points and the fact that we actually closed out a game despite being under constant pressure is also a big positive considering the late leads we've thrown away this season. A second game in five days featuring several players recovering from injuries or new to the side was never likely to produce a fully fluid or dominant display so let's try and focus on the positives of the result rather than the negatives of the performance.
If you want a more detailed look at the players, you can check out my player ratings here.
The atmosphere in the ground was pretty flat, somewhat understandable given the conditions and 'entertainment' on offer but credit to the Charlton fans who were pretty vocal throughout the second half, even if it was mostly the one song repeated over and over again.
So we move on to the Bournemouth game at the weekend with two wins in two, two clean sheets in three and nine games unbeaten at home. Yes we still failed to get out of second gear but the injury list is slowly clearing, the defence is slowly improving and we're fourth in the league.