New manager, but same old depressing story for Charlton. The arrival of the mild and bespectacled Les Reed, an author of FA coaching manuals, in place of the deeply involved Iain Dowie did nothing to halt the slide, and this defeat, their ninth in 10 away Premiership games, was labelled "very disappointing" by Reed.
Reading's Steve Coppell, never one to go overboard, was of the opinion that his team "did everything better", and he was right. The Madejski faithful were hailing "Super Reading" at the end, and so they were, having been totally dominant. But, as Coppell was swift to warn, it will not always be this easy; they will not be offered all the space and time they want by bigger and better clubs than Charlton.
Reed, who admitted being unable to sleep after his appointment, called it "a difficult week" since he had not been able to call all his players together until Friday after midweek internationals.
"This match was a hurdle to get over," he said. "I hoped we would come away with something, but we haven't. Now I look forward to players coming back from injury and getting some hard, determined work done on the training ground.
"I was definitely not pleased with the the first-half performance, which was very disjointed. But I have learnt a lot about the players and their characters, because we have come through a week of adversity. I have told them they have to be committed, no excuses.
"There is a massive job to do to make the players believe we can get out of it. When you are struggling, doubts come in, and that's the way we played in the first half. But if I start to panic and get excited I can't expect the players to calm down."
Reading, climbing four places to eighth in the table, were in fine form, encouraged to play even more positively than usual by Charlton's timidity. Ibrahima Sonko and Steve Hunt, recipients of death threats over the injuries to Chelsea's goalkeepers in last month's game at the Madejski, responded in the best fashion, performing excellently. Darren Bent never escaped Sonko, while Hunt, swift and alert, caused Charlton endless problems from the start.
He began the move for the opening goal after 18 minutes, back-heeling for Nicky Shorey to cross at leisure. The measured ball, not challenged by Charlton, was put away by Seol Ki-Hyeon, who is not noted for his heading skills. It could have been four or five by the interval. Glen Little volleyed just past a post, Kevin Doyle overran an excellent opening and Hunt closed out the first 45 minutes by driving high over the bar, first with head and then with boot.
Reed's half-time words persuaded Charlton into more significant involvement but they still failed to impose any threat to Marcus Hahnemann's goal until the closing minutes, and by then this match was long decided.
Scott Carson plunged to his left one-handed to deny Little's brilliant volley with 20 minutes to go, but a couple of minutes later came Reading's clincher. Andy Reid, otherwise one of the few Charlton players to shine, lost possession near the edge of his own penalty box. Little squared a pass to Steven Sidwell, whose outrageous miskick lifted the ball over a defender and into the path of Doyle for a simple goal, his third in a week, to go with the one against Spurs last Sunday and San Marino (for Ireland) in midweek.
Charlton's efforts in the final moments exceeded anything that had gone before, with Little clearing Matt Holland's shot off the line and Hahnemann tipping over the substitute Darren Ambrose's volley from a tight angle.
Typically, Coppell does not share the frenzy accompanying two solid home wins in the space of a week and his club's position high in the table.
"This division is a massive, long test," Coppell warned. "Whenever you think you are all right is the moment you are in trouble, somebody is going to bite you in the arse next week. We have to prove ourselves, week in, week out."
For Reed, the concerns are more urgent. "The biggest thing is to get commitment from everybody," he said. Plus a win or two.Reuse content