Reading 1 (Ejaria 35) Charlton 1 (Ghandour 80).
Kevin Nolan peered through grainy conditions to report from the Majestic Select Car Leasing Stadium on Charlton's pre-season friendly against Championship opposition.
Emerging from self-isolation to sort out the organised chaos of Charlton's fourth pre-season engagement, Nigel Adkins was entitled to be satisfied with its conduct and outcome. His side showed impressive levels of fitness and an overall appetite for competition which brought them a thoroughly deserved draw with Championship hopefuls Reading. The result of this early summer outing isn't supposed to matter but you can tell that to the marines. It was of critical importance to Adkins's blend of veterans and still-wet-behind-the-ears youngsters, as evidenced by the delight which greeted Hady Ghandour's 80th minute equaliser.
It's safe to assume that deputy manager Johnnie Jackson was echoing his boss' pleasure when he provided the post-game summing-up. "I'm really pleased with the day," commented the bona fide Valley legend. "It was a good test of our defensive shape and at times they had lots of the ball and it was like a defensive assessment for us."
Jackson went on to salute the youthful exuberance which produced Ghandour's excellent goal and reminded us that certain key players like Ryan Inniss are being carefully monitored with the season opener at home to Sheffield Wednesday still a fortnight away. Adkins and Jackson certainly saw enough to encourage belief that season 2021-22 could well be a break-out campaign for the Addicks. A run at automatic promotion should be the least of this developing squad's ambitions.
There were far more pluses than minuses brought back from Berkshire, where Craig McGillivray allayed fears that the departure of Ben Amos justified concern. The 7th minute withdrawal of left back Ben Purrington was troubling but at least introduced fans to Jacob Roddy, who improved after a difficult start to play a key role in Ghandour's late leveller. Should Purrington be a long-term absentee, however, an experienced left back should be part of Adkins' shopping list. The opposite flank is solidly covered by old sweats Adam Matthews and Chris Gunter.
Inniss is nearly back, his half hour stint against Reading part of a managed re-entry. He will be partnered again by Akin Famewo, with promising Deji Elerewe supporting a redoubtable, physically imposing central defence. Proneness to injury may again be the unpleasant fly mucking up the ointment, which is where Jason Pearce's know-how should prove invaluable.
A physically streamlined Albie Morgan was the pick of Charlton's midfield at Reading. His reading of the game and ability to pick the right pass for each situation have always been unquestioned. He now seems ready to make the step up to chief playmaker, particularly in the absence of Alex Gilbey, whose improvement at the end of last season offered so much promise. In Diallang Jaiyesimi and teenage revelation Charles Clayden (think Alfie Doughty) the Addicks boast pace and guile out wide. Clayden's blistering burst and clever cutback to set up Ghandour's goal had both bosses positively purring their pleasure. Unknown quantities George Dobson and Roddy will take time to settle in, which makes the early return of Gilbey a matter of some urgency. New acquisition Sean Clare promises to be a fresher, younger version of Darren Pratley, with Ben Watson still around to lend an experienced hand and carry the can when things go wrong.
Charlton's attack will be led by Jayden Stockley, who missed this game through illness. His eight goals last season, the last of them a searing volley against Lincoln proving he could be a threat on the deck, were a reasonable return for a player who arrived only in January. Alongside him, the indefatigable Conor Washington's selfless workrate and eye for goal can be taken for granted. The departure of 60-minute man Chuks Aneke, meanwhile, leaves an undeniably charismatic opening, into which Josh Davison has an opportunity to step. Charlton's quartet of strikers is completed by the enigmatic Ronnie Schwartz, a marksman still to make his mark. The feeling is there's much more to come from Ronnie.
These conclusions were made on admittedly unreliable evidence. Some 15 minutes were spent supporting the wrong side before the murk cleared and order was restored. Then the coverage retreated to long range, despite which it was still obvious that McGillivray's save from Ejaria's point-blank header challenged belief before Ejaria's merciless riposte left him helpless. And was that good old Michael Morrison's through pass which Dejan Tetek crashed against a post? The second half was clearer, though a 2019 (?) Reading Charlton game briefly appeared on screen and Jonathan Leko (?) put us ahead. But Saturday's telecast pulled itself together and clearly showed Roddy playing Clayden clear down the left flank to supply a clever cutback which eluded Davison but was calmly passed home by Ghandour. Attaboy, Hady!
Charlton: McGillivray (Harness 78), Matthews (Gunter 59), Famewo (Pearce 62), Inniss (Elerewe 32), Purrington (Roddy 7),
Dobson (Vennings 78), Clare (Gomes 62), Morgan (Dempsey 78), Jaiyesimi (Clayden 65), Washington (Ghandour 78),
Davison (Powell 84).
Referee: Dermot Gallagher.