On three occasions the Addicks have previously travelled to the Madjeski Stadium. On three occasions they have failed to win.
The first was also a first for Les Reed; his first game in charge of the Addicks. There have been few worse performances from a Charlton side. Newly promoted Reading mocked the visitors, playing them off the park and winning by two when they might well have won by more.
The second saw Phil Parkinson’s relegation fodder snatch a point late on, but it was largely meaningless in terms of the Addicks having any chance of avoiding relegation to League. The XI fielded worthy of their eventual fate.
The third came last season. Chris Powell’s relegation threatened side enjoyed a number of spells of dominance, but had the sort of luck a relegation threatened side so often has. None. A stonewall penalty appeal waved away, a late surge, which included an inspired Marvin Sordell having a goal disallowed, coming to nothing and Billy Sharp taking Reading’s only real clear opening.
But Charlton’s fourth visit to the Mad Stad is made under different circumstances. Where previously they have played in Berkshire as strugglers, they will do so on Saturday as a side with ambitions of a play-off place.
And like results there previously have pulled the Addicks further into the mire, securing their first win at the Madjeski, only their second away win of the season, would certainly strengthen play-off hopes in SE7.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-1 READING
Rarely are single goal victories routine, especially ones where the decisive goal doesn’t come until the 73rd minutes, but Reading always looked likely winners at The Valley.
Danny Williams’ emphatic strike gave the Royals all three points against a Charlton side seemingly lacking in the energy and effort required in a relegation battle.
Nigel Adkins may not have answered his critics, but two wins in three have taken some of the pressure off Reading’s boss.
Widely criticised as his side went seven games without win, including three defeats in which three goals were scored by the opposition, 3-0 victories over Blackpool and Rotherham have suggested Adkins might well be able to get the best out of his potential-packed side.
But concerns are still there. A 3-1 defeat to Blackburn occurred between the two victories, and home wins over two sides whose attentions are focused on staying up hardly suggest the Royals are on the verge of mounting a spirited crusade to the top of the division.
The argument that has occupied thoughts for much of this season has returned – are the Addicks hard to beat, or simply unable to win?
Whatever way you look at it, it’s fair to say that drawing regularly, more times than anyone else in the division (9), is hindering Charlton’s attempts to keep themselves in and around the play-off places. In fact, while the Addicks have only lost twice away from home, they’ve only won once.
But while several draws this season have either felt like a defeat or been picked up with a performance worthy of a defeat, Bob Peeters’ side have had positives to take from their previous two tied contests.
Superb fight was shown at Elland Road in midweek to come from a goal down on two occasions, while the second half performance against Sheffield Wednesday, supported by the performances of Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Igor Vetokele, was incredibly promising.
Now Charlton must find a way to turn fight and promise into three points.
Despite setting Saturday’s game as a target for his return, Reading will again be without injured skipper Jem Karacan.
The midfielder has returned to training, but remains a number of weeks away from pulling a blue and white hooped shirt for the first time in over a year.
But the Royals could welcome back another long term absentee, with Gareth McCleary training again following injury.
The Jamaican, who is yet to play a game this season after breaking a bone in his back during the final weeks of the previous campaign, won’t be rushed back, so a place on the bench is likely.
Adkins should also have Pavel Pogrebynak, who missed Tuesday’s win over Rotherham with a back complaint, and Anton Ferdinand, who was withdraw at half-time in midweek with a calf niggle, available.
Charlton will be without Rhoys Wiggins at the Madjeski after the Welshman fractured a bone in his foot in the midweek draw with Leeds.
The injury-prone full-back was just beginning to settle into his best form, but now faces a six week spell on the sidelines.
It provides an opportunity for Morgan Fox to prove his worth after struggling at Craven Cottage a fortnight ago, but Peeters might well opt to move Chris Solly, who returns having sat out the trip to Elland Road, to left back.
Peeters will also be able to call on Igor Vetokele from the start in Berkshire, with the Angolan now fully fit following two substitute appearances.
Elsewhere, there is a return to the Madjeski for Andre Bikey, who has cult hero status among the Reading supporters.
KEY BATTLE: READING’S RIGHT VS CHARLTON’S LEFT
Down Reading’s right, Chris Gunter and Jamie Mackie, scorer in midweek, offer a strong and pacey threat going forward.
Holding off such a threat will either be Fox, a young player for who the jury remains out, or a square peg in a round hole.
Having Jordan Cousins, especially if he plays as he did in the second half against Sheffield Wednesday, ahead of whoever occupies the left-back spot should provide adequate support.
But it remains fair to say Charlton’s weak spot, and therefore Reading’s biggest chance of exploiting a largely resilient side, is down the left.
Positive results in midweek, in addition to players returning to fitness, means both sides will go into this game with an element of confidence.
But Charlton’s often sluggish performances away from home means predicting victory is hard to do, while Reading’s recent home successes suggests they’ll be difficult to beat at the Madjeski Stadium.
This group of Addicks should offer a sterner test than those who have previously represented the Reds in Berkshire, but a share of the spoils remains the most likely outcome. Yep, I’m sitting on the fence, again.
Reading 1-1 Charlton Athletic