sport

Adkins praises scorer Sharp

Reading manager Nigel Adkins is hoping that Billy Sharp can stay fit to spearhead the Berkshire club's promotion challenge over Christmas and into the new year.

Sharp scored the only goal of the game, on his first start for the club since joining on a three-month loan from Southampton, to secure a 1-0 win over Charlton on Tuesday night.

"It was a great goal from Billy," Adkins said. "He was injured with a groin problem when he first got here but he's worked very hard on the training ground.

"He's been on the bench a few times and although he has not played much football, he looked very lively. That's credit to him. Now we've just got to keep him playing football."

Reading stretched their unbeaten home record to nine matches and moved up to fourth place in the Sky Bet Championship, just seven off the leaders.

They have lost only twice in 14 matches, and Adkins added: "We started brightly but then had to show a lot of defensive resolve near the end.

"It takes different ways to win a game and, ultimately, we did have to grind it out a bit."

Charlton began brightly and should have been awarded a penalty early on. Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy dithered and team-mate Stephen Kelly appeared to clip the heels of Simon Church, the former Reading striker, as he ran through, but referee Darren Sheldrake waved away Church's protests.

Reading took advantage of their good fortune when going ahead in the 13th minute. Danny Williams won possession in midfield and released Sharp, who looked up, took aim and beat Ben Alnwick with a well-struck, low drive.

Although Reading controlled most of the first half, they almost paid for a lapse of concentration shortly before half-time. Church raced through alone, with the home defence nowhere, and had only McCarthy to beat, but he delayed his angled shot too long and the goalkeeper saved smartly at his near post.

Reading could have doubled their lead at the start of the second period when Garath McCleary struck the foot of an upright from 20 yards. However, Charlton gradually hauled themselves back into contention on the back of a triple substitution - Johnnie Jackson, Danny Green and Marvin Sordell - by manager Chris Powell.

However, their luck was out.

Sordell had a "goal" disallowed for offside while Rhoys Wiggins, Jackson and Cameron Stewart all wasted chances.

"We were well in it in the last half-hour," Powell said. "We had a real impetus about our play and I just don't know how we didn't take anything away from the game.

"We should definitely have had a penalty in the first half but these big decisions always seem to go against you when you're lower down the league.

"I felt we were a bit flat in the second half and I wanted to change the flow of the game. That's why I made the triple substitution. I think it worked and we can still take a lot out of the display. We just need to keep fighting."