Football: Curbishley's feet on ground as Charlton fly high

Charlton 3 Reading 0
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The Independent Online

THE intriguing prospect of Premiership football at The Valley gained more credence yesterday, as Charlton kept up the pressure on Nottingham Forest and Sunderland with a comfortable win over lowly Reading, who crashed to their ninth successive away defeat.

Goals from Clive Mendonca, Paul Mortimer and Mark Bright encouraged talk of of automatic promotion, although Charlton manager Alan Curbishley admitted that his team cannot afford any slip-ups if they are to overhaul the top two.

"This result puts pressure on the teams above us," said Curbishley, "but to have any chance we have got to win our remaining four matches."

Such an outcome is by no means fanciful. This was Charlton's fifth win in a row - their best run for nearly seven years - increasing their points tally to a club record 78.

They opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Goalkeeper Sasa Ilic's huge kick reached the Reading penalty area, where Clive Mendonca showed neat control before slamming the ball home from six yards for his 22nd goal of the season.

It was a milestone for Mendonca, who became the first Charlton player since Mike Flanagan 21 years ago to score 2 League goals in a campaign.

Charlton continued to pressure and increased their lead four minutes later when Paul Mortimer fired home a great free-kick from the edge of the box after Mills had been tripped by Darren Caskey.

Although Reading were rarely in the picture, Jimmy Crawford forced a good save out of Ilic shortly before the break.

Their best effort came in the 52nd minute when Ilic was at full stretch to tip behind a well-struck Lambert free-kick.

Ilic was again in action three minutes later, keeping out a Crawford header.

Charlton were pinned back for a time but broke quickly, and Howie did well to deny both Shaun Newton and Steve Jones.

To their credit Reading kept on battling, but Robert Fleck missed two reasonable opportunities to score.

Substitute Mark Bright then compounded the Royals' misery in the 79th minute, heading home Newton's near post cross for his seventh goal of the season. It was Bright's 27th senior goal of a 17-year career.

Charlton Athletic: Ilic; Mills, Barnes, K Jones, Rufus, Youds, Newton, Kinsella (Brown, 8), S Jones (Bright, 74), Mendonca, Mortimer (Heaney, 74).

Reading: Howie; Bernal, Legg (Meaker, 13), Crawford, Parkinson, Gray, Fleck (Morley, 77), Caskey, McIntyre (Brayson, 45), O'Neill, Lambert.

Referee: M E Pierce (Portsmouth).