Match Report vs Charlton

6 December 1997 (League Division One)
READING 2 Charlton 0

Att: 8,000

Team: Hammond, Booty, Swales, Lambert (Lovell), McPherson, Primus, Parkinson, Hodges (Caskey), Asaba, Morley, Williams.
Sub (not used): Thorp.

Goal Scorers: Hodges, Morley(penalty).

Report from the Evening Post by Clive Baskerville

LEE HODGES was just nine minutes into his first start for two months when he scored the goal that set Reading on their way to a hard-earned three points against high-flying Charlton Athletic. The former Spurs and Barnet midfielder found the target with a well-struck left-foot drive from the edge of the box - just as he did at Portsmouth before suffering the knee injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks.

Hodges, 24, has shown a keen eye for the net since joining Royals in the summer for 100,000 and there was no doubting the value of his latest strike. He told me: "I got a great connection on the ball and the bottom corner was the only place the ball was going to go. Every goal I score is a delight for me, but that was was a bit special because of the period I had been out."

The win, only the second time Royals have won twice in a row in the Nationwide League, Division 1 this season, was sealed when Trevor Morley sidefooted in his 12th consecutive goal as a result of a penalty kick. And it helped push Reading up to 16th spot - their highest place this term. Reading still had to endure strong second-half pressure from Addicks, but the defence held firm with left-back Steve Swales particularly impressive, twice clearing off the line to deny Shaun Newton in the closing stages. Hodges, who had shaken off a knee injury to play, was brought back in after four games as substitute because Ray Houghton failed a fitness test on a calf strain. His inclusion gave manager Terry Bullivant the opportunity to bring Stuart Lovell into the squad for the first time this season after an operation to repair damaged knee ligaments in May.

The early stages proved vital with Royals winning the midfield battle and the right to play their football. After being hustled out of their stride by Ipswich in a 4-0 defeat in their last home game, Royals were in no mood for that to happen again as Charlton boss Alan Curbishley freely admitted. He said: "We were outfought and outbattled. That was the worse we've competed all season. We just didn't get going and never looked like we were going to score. But I'm taking nothing away from Reading, they set their stall out early on and deserved to win."

Charlton began brightly enough, with record-signing Clive Mendonca shooting just wide after Royals failed to clear a corner. But Reading took the lead with their first worthwhile attempt on goal. James Lambert's near-post corner was nodded on by Martin Williams and it fell perfectly to HODGES on the edge of the box, who thumped a volley through a ruck of players and into the bottom corner before Matt Holmes could get his block in. There were fears that Hodges might have to go off three minutes later when he went down clutching his troublesome right knee after colliding with John Robinson. But he was up again after treatment and managed to last the pace until being substituted late on.

Hodges said: "Perhaps getting getting a kick there did me good, because at least I know the knee can take it know." Williams was only a whisker away from adding a second goal on 16 minutes when he headed wide following a long free kick from Swales. Charlton responded with a low drive from Mendonca that Nicky Hammond did well to turn away for a corner while Richard Rufus headed against the top of the bar following a corner by Holmes. Robinson then pulled a shot just wide following a neat break from the left. Reading punished Charlton for their misses by scoring a second from the spot on 36 minutes - their third penalty in five league games. Morley and Carl Asaba combined up the middle and Asaba appeared to be teeing up a shot after outpacing Rufus. But the Charlton defender tripped him before Asaba could test keeper Mike Salmon. Referee Scott Mathieson immediately pointed to the spot and MORLEY made it five goals in eight games since his return from a knee injury, with a confident sidefoot into the net.

Williams, who had another lively game on the right, almost made it 3-0 four minutes later after Phil Parkin-son had played him in. But his well-struck right-foot volley from a slight angle was superbly saved by Salmon. Lambert also went close to netting just before the break when he pulled a left-foot shot wide after jinking into the area. Moments earlier, Robinson should have pulled one back, but sliced wide from in front of goal.

Charlton dominated the second half for long periods, creating a string of good chances, but lacked quality in front of goal. Royals seemed happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, and only occasionally threatened on the break. Nicky Hammond, who had another safe game in goal, denied Keith Jones's 25-yarder straight after the restart with a neat stop. Then Carl Leaburn headed a Holmes corner just wide. Phil Chapple and Holmes were also narrowly off target with good chances, before Linvoy Primus put Reading's best chance of the half inches over from Lambert's corner. Charlton made a triple substitution in an effort to change their luck, but the ball just wouldn't fall for them in front of goal. Bowen, Jones, Kinsella, Holmes, Chapple and Bradley Allen (twice), all went close before Newton was denied by Swales' last-ditch saves on the line. Booty, Swales and Lambert were booked for Reading, while Charlton's Robinson, Chapple and Rufus were also yellow-carded.

READING: Hammond, Booty, Swales, Lambert (Lovell 81 mins), McPherson, Primus, Parkinson, Hodges (Caskey 81 mins), Asaba, Morley, Williams. Sub (not used): Thorp.

CHARLTON: Salmon, Barness (Balm-er 68 mins), Bowen, K Jones, Rufus (Newton 68 mins), Chapple, Holmes, KInsella, Robinson, Mendonca, Lea-burn (Allen 68 mins).

Referee: Scott Mathieson (Stockport).

Attendance: 8,076.

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