Though it may feel like a lifetime ago already, it has been just five long days since Reading’s historical FA Cup Quarter-Final victory at the Madejski. With news about seat allocations and ticket updates being released, Reading fans will be more than excited about their trip to Wembley in April. Prior to that, however, the Royals must focus once again on building a run in the Championship with the aim of mathematical safety. With four weeks to go until the Semi-Final against Arsenal, Reading have five league matches to play before they can focus on Wembley. Following their outstanding team performance against Bradford last time out, the Royals will be hoping to pick up some more points before facing their toughest test this season.
“Hopefully now the team has turned the corner, they realise what they have to do to get results and we can continue that on Saturday at Charlton which is a difficult game.”- Reading Manager Steve Clarke
This Saturday, Reading face 11th placed Charlton at The Valley. Last time out, the Addicks beat the Royals at the Madejski 1-0, courtesy of an Igor Vetokele goal. Charlton may be seven places ahead of Reading, but there is only a seven point difference between the sides. With things looking tight in the middle of the table, it is all to play for coming into the last leg of the season. Recent Charlton form has been positive, with six victories in their last eight games under new manager Guy Luzon. Most of those victories have been against lower league teams, with the exceptions being their home victories against Brentford back in February and Nottingham Forest earlier this month. In their last match against Championship strugglers Blackpool, Charlton were able to cruise to victory winning 3-0 away from home. Specifically at home, the Addicks have won three of their last five games, scoring eleven goals in the process.
Recent Reading form has not been so promising, with four victories from the last ten Championship games. Their most recent game was away to league-leaders Watford, who dominated the game to beat the Royals 4-1. With Clarke fielding a much changed lineup prior to the FA Cup Quarter-Final, this result did not come as much of a surprise. In the past five Championship away matches, Reading have won two, drawn one and lost two. Having beaten teams such as Ipswich and Wolves away from home most recently, Reading will be hoping to beat an opponent of a similar ilk this time around as well. Fans will be hoping that the players will still have their scoring boots on from Monday evening, as Reading have only managed to score five goals in their last five away games. Against opposition who have scored more than double that in their last five games at home, they will surely be tested at the Valley. You have to go back as far as 2008 to find the last time Charlton were able to beat Reading in the league at home, however, so the Royals will be optimistic.
In terms of the lineup, Steve Clarke has a pretty much fully fit squad to choose from with the exception of Anton Ferdinand. Nathaniel Chalobah took a knock in Monday’s FA Cup match and was seen leaving in a protective boot, so he will be assessed going into the game. In comparison, Charlton will have captain Johnnie Jackson, Rhoys Wiggins and Franck Moussa all sidelined. In their last victory against Blackpool, manager Guy Luzon also chose to rest Tal Ben-Haim and top goalscorer Vetokele who will probably be returned to the starting lineup. With the likes of Andre Bikey and Simon Church in the side, who scored last time out, there will be some familiar faces out to beat their old club.
With the FA Cup firmly on the minds of Reading fans, it is time now to build up a good run over the next five league games. If Reading can start by picking up three points against Charlton, and results down the bottom go their way, then they can almost be clear of the drop zone.