Charlton 3 Reading 4
A pulsating encounter at the Valley that featured a debut hat-trick from Yaya Sanogo and a brace from Yann Kermorgant was decided by an injury-time winner from Deniss Rakels, leaving Charlton rock-bottom of the Championship with time running out.
Kermorgant, who ended a run of five games without a goal, spent three years with the Addicks, helping them to the League One title in 2012.
The Frenchman had slammed the Charlton owners before the game, saying they were “deluded” and had “wasted the club.”
Chants of “stand up if you want them out!” from what CEO Katrien Meire calls “the customers” made it clear that the Addicks faithful agreed.
Their hearts were in their mouths within minutes. Stephen Quinn’s rasping drive rattled the woodwork after a faint touch from stand-in skipper Stephen Henderson.
Moments, later, those hearts sank into stomachs. A cross from Ola John found Kermorgant in acres of space to head past Henderson. The ex-Addick refused to celebrate and received warm applause in response from his former fans.
So dire is Charlton’s form that a growing campaign against owner Roland Duchâtelet had yesterday called for a season-ticket boycott next year.
Empty red seats have been a familiar sight across the Valley in recent home fixtures as Charlton fans voted with their feet. But today, the club’s “Football For A Fiver” promotion convinced the home support to brave the cold and form the highest attendance in the league on the day.
A minute later, the fans’ ire turned to joy. The one-time Italy international Marco Motta picked out Yaya Sanogo, who turned his man inside out before striking home. Ali Al-Habsi’s tame touch only helped the ball behind.
Sanogo had never netted in English football before and had recently returned from a disastrous loan spell at Ajax and had never netted in English football. He had already exceeded the expectations of Charlton fans and had only just begun.
With the Arsenal loanee a handful on his first start for Charlton and El-Hadji Ba pulling the strings in midfield behind him, a rejuvenated attacking threat had optimism growing in the stands.
It was soon shattered, Kermorgant curling home a sweet effort into the top corner from inside the box.
The ease with which Charlton’s frailties were exposed was unsurprising. The club have kept one clean sheet in their last ten games and have the Championship’s leakiest defence.
Their defence was in disarray, the collective finger-pointing identifying every member of the backline as a culprit.
The fleet-footed Ola John was causing havoc on the left-wing. The Dutch winger added a third late in the first half. Threaded through by Kermorgant he calmly rolled the ball under the exposed Henderson.
Sanogo reduced the deficit early in the second half, his header inching over the goal line despite Al-Habsi’s efforts to claw it out.
As the clock ticked down, Sanogo stabbed home his hat-trick. The Frenchman was replaced with an injury minutes later having renewed the hopes of the long-suffering Charlton fans.
Moments later, they were crushed once more, as Rakels smashed home a stoppage time winner at the back post.
Seven points adrift of safety, the Addicks look like dead men walking.