Reading: McCarthy; Bridge, Pearce, Morrison, Gunter; Hector, Obita (Robson-Kanu), Williams (Leigertwood); McAnuff, McCleary (Drenthe), Pogrebnyak
If you play Reading bingo you should have at least got a line from today's action as forgive me if this doesn't sound familiar....
- Reading score from a set piece.
- A sloppy giveaway turns a Reading attack into an opposition goal.
- A midfielder picks up an injury.
- A referee has to apologise for making a horrendous decision.
- A central midfielder is ruled out of the next game.
- Substitutions baffle the fans.
- Reading fail to win a home game.
Coming into the game Nigel Adkins made four changes from the side well beaten at Bourenmouth, with Sean Morrison, Michael Hector, Danny Williams and Garath McCleary in for Kaspars Gorkss, Hal Robson-Kanu, Royston Drenthe and Adam Le Fondre, who all dropped down to the bench.
The return of Williams was perhaps the most crucial as he helped anchor a primarily three man midfield unit that also comprised of Jordan Obita and Hector, with McAnuff and McCleary wide in support of Pog as the lone striker.
The formation change seemed to be working it's magic as Reading looked hungry in the first five minutes, with a raiding run from McCleary creating half chances for Pogrebnyak and Gunter but that early brightness soon fizzled out as Leicester showed just why they're top of the league.
The Foxes thought they had the lead just a few minutes later when Jamie Vardy stabbed home from six yards, only to be ruled marginally offside by the assistant referee, a correct if not awkwardly close decision.
Reading haven't scored a goal from open play since the Blackpool game and their opener tonight again came from a set piece, as Jordan Obita's free kick wide on the right found Alex Pearce who produced a fantastic header to beat Kaspar Schmeichel from 10 yards out.
From there the home side began to take control once again and should have had a penalty when Dean Hammond used his hand to win an aerial challenge with Pogrebnyak, while Jobi McAnuff forced a fine point blank save out of Schmeichel from a good McCleary cutback.
Still, while Reading may struggle from losing positions, their visitors have the league's best record at taking points when going behind and they ruthlessly took advantage of a lapse in concentration from the Royals to make it 1-1 on 33 minutes. Jobi McAnuff's loose pass gave the ball away to allow Leicester to sweep down the field,. While Morrison did well to block a fierce shot, neither he nor McCarthy could do anything about the follow-up as Danny Drinkwater rifled the ball through a crowded box to beat the motionless Reading keeper.
Still, Reading should have gone in to half-time with the lead but McCleary couldn't beat Schmeichel when put through one-on-one as the Danish keeper pulled off another fine one-handed save, which somehow the referee didn't spot and gave a goalkick (only to apologise at the break...)
So into the second half and again Reading started well by hitting the post through the Pog but it was Leicester who grew into the game, forcing a fine save out of McCarthy and putting Reading's defence under some real pressure.
A tiring Williams was replaced by Mikele Leigertwood who made his first appearance at the Madejski Stadium in over a year while Jordan Obita was soon following him into the dugout in place of Hal Robson-Kanu.
Neither team could really carve out clear cut chances but Reading's hopes of winning the game faded in the final ten, first as Garath McCleary hobbled off for Royston Drenthe and then just before the end of the 90 minutes when Leigertwood picked up his second yellow card of the night, leaving the home side hanging on for a point that they deserved but you have to feel might not be good enough come the end of the season.
It was certainly a better performance than recent weeks but it's now seven games without a win at the Madejski Stadium and going on for three months since we scored a goal in fully open play.
A quick word on Leicester who showed why they're going up with some very slick passages of play but you could tell their hearts may not have been 100% in it and who can blame them.
Meanwhile we're back in the play-off places by a single goal but with trips to Wigan and Donny plus home games with Middlesbrough and Burnley, I'd say we're now the underdogs of the group and unless our injury problems magically clear up we could be all but out of the race by the time the Middlesbrough game finishes on Tuesday.
Still, it's all in our own hands and at least we've got some drama heading into these final key games. We might not make it but the performances from some of the younger players do give you hope for the future.
So it's on to the DW Stadium and just like our trip to the ground in 2005, you get the feeling we're going to need a result to make the play-offs. Here's hoping it doesn't turn out quite as badly as that day did!