Reading 1 (Sharp 14)
The Royals scrapped their way to a low key but valuable 1-0 home win over Charlton Athletic this evening, courtesy of Billy Sharp's first goal in a Reading shirt.
Our no.14, making his first Royals start, broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, collecting a nice pass from Danny Williams, taking a touch and whipping a low right-footed drive past Ben Alnwick and inside the bottom left corner.
The home crowd expected their team to push on and press for another as they controlled the first half possession and looked capable of unlocking the Addicks defence again, but although Garath McCleary struck the woodwork in the opening minutes of the second half, the cushion of a second goal never came.
And as the second half wore on, Charlton threw the kitchen sink at the Royals defence, Alex McCarthy punching clear countless crosses having denied former Royal Simon Church in a one-on-one situation just before the interval.
Reading held firm though and picked up three more points at home, maintaining their unbeaten record at Madejski Stadium this season and moving up into fourth place in the table.
Royals: McCarthy; Kelly, Cummings, Pearce, Gorkss; Guthrie, Williams (Akpan 64), McCleary (Blackman 90), McAnuff (c); Sharp (Robson-Kanu 67), Pogrebnyak.
Subs not used: Federici, Obita, Drenthe, Le Fondre.
Yellow: Kelly, Gorkss.
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Wiggins, Dervite, Morrison (c), Stephens (Green 70), Cousins, Stewart, Evina (Jackson 70), Kermorgant, Church (Sordell 70).
Subs: Pope, Hughes, Wood, Pritchard.
Attendance: 18,149 (836 away)
The opening stages began evenly, Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss both heading just over from corners at one end, while Church clattered into Kelly just inside the Royals box at the other - but his penalty claims were swiftly dismissed.
But just before a quarter of an hour showed on the big screen, Reading took the lead. Williams surged forward and, having drawn two defenders in, slickly fed Billy Sharp to his right. With a bit of space in front of him, the full debutant unleashed a powerful low drive that nestled into the bottom left corner for 1-0.
It was almost two soon after. Pogrebnyak let rip with a speculative left-footed strike from 30 yards out, but it was too hot to handle for Alnwick who spilled it out to the penalty spot where Sharp toed it goalwards but into the grateful Alnwick's body.
And Alnwick had to be alert to prevent Pogrebnyak a goal when Stephen Kelly's looping header into the box was brought down by the Russian - the Charlton keeper coming off his line to push it against Pogrebnyak's body and behind for a goal kick.
Alex McCarthy had to intercept a tasty cross from the right looking for Kermorgant, but the hosts were passing the ball well and bossing the game in midfield.
Charlton almost stole an equaliser on the stroke of half-time though. Simon Church scampered onto a pass between the centre halves and into space. He scurried into the box and McCarthy came off his line to narrow the angle and save well with his legs, one Academy graduate denying another to preserve the home side's lead.
Only a minute into the second half and Reading came within inches of a second goal. Garath McCleary was allowed the time to line up a shot from just outside the area and he lashed it past Alnwick, against the left upright and wide.
Dale Stephens dragged a shot well wide at the other end, but Pogrebnyak cam closer seconds later when Sharp stood a cross up for him at the far post and his header was well blocked.
The half became scrappy and Reading lost their dominance a little, and with 20 minutes remaining and only a goal in it Chris Powell made a triple substitution, bringing on Marvin Sordell, Danny Green and Johnnie Jackson.
A Reading substitute forced Alnwick into a solid save soon after though, Hal Robson-Kanu rifling a left-footed effort into the Charlton stopper's body.
Sordell had the ball in the back of the net when he deflected a strike from distance past the wrongfooted McCarthy, but the offside flag was raised to the Royals' relief and the goal didn't stand.
But as the time ticked away, Charlton grew and grew in confidence, Reading soaking up the pressure that was building but repelling cross after cross, countless corners and, as the final few minutes began to show onn the big screen long throws that were hurled into the Royals box.
In injury time, McAnuff had a chance to seal it, the ball being worked out to the Royals' skipper on the left side of the box but his shot being dragged across the face of goal and wide.
And, despite an unconvincing second half display, the Royals held on for all three points courtesy of Sharp's first half winner.