On a freezing cold night at the Macron Stadium, Jamie Mackie's late strike saw the Royals earn a hard fought point which could be the confidence booster that the Royals need before their vital FA Cup Quarter Final clash against Bradford this Saturday.
Just over 200 Royals fans made the long trip up to Bolton and they would have been impressed with the first half, with opportunities being created mainly down the right hand side with Garath McCleary and the impressive Chris Gunter proving a constant threat when going forward. They did, however, seem to have a lack of shots with Jamie Mackie's tame effort being the only shot on target that we could register. There was a clear cut chance for Bolton in the first half that fell to former Reading man Adam Le Fondre who was denied a goal by a brilliant save from Adam Federici at point blank range mid-way through the first half.
I felt that the signs of the first half were encouraging with us creating chances but we did struggle to get that all-important goal at the end of each move. Boos rang out the stadium from the Wanderer's fans as they had been frustrated by a few decisions given by Mark Haywood during the first half. Bolton also had used all three of their substitutions during the first half with Zach Clough, David Wheater and Kevin McNaughton all picking up injuries that they couldn't shake off.
The second half was totally different to the first, with Bolton having a lot of the ball and always looking dangerous through wingers Saidy Janko and Liam Feeney who had the opportunity to counter with pace when either Gunter or Jordan Obita had pushed forward to support the attack.
Right on the hour mark Alex Pearce was beaten to the ball by Le Fondre and the former Reading man's persistence was rewarded as he pulled the ball directly back across the box to veteran Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen who had the simple job of hitting the target—which he obviously did with ease.
The last half an hour of the game was one of few chances with Pearce the only one with a real clear cut chance which he should have finished. Bolton failed to clear the corner and it dropped to Pearce who struggled to rearrange his footing and get a clean strike off and when he did it was cleared off the line.
Steve Clarke then made three changes with Simon Cox, Nick Blackman and Danny Williams all coming on—and it was Blackman and Cox who had a helping hand in Mackie's last-gasp equaliser. Blackman's pass found Cox who neatly flicked it on to Mackie, whose left footed strike found the bottom corner to send the travelling fans into wild celebrations.
On the balance of the whole game it was a deserved point and as Steve Clarke said in his post-match interview it is a vital goal. It will give the whole team confidence going into the Bradford game and even if we go behind, we have the belief to get back into the game and get more goals.
Reading struggled to get forward quickly when we had the ball because there wasn't a lot of movement at all in the final third of the pitch, with only Gunter making some worthwhile runs all the way from right back. So this problem will need to be addressed before the Bradford game.
When Gunter came back into the team I felt it was harsh on Stephen Kelly who had been performing very well under Clarke but Gunter has definitely improved his chances of keeping his starting spot in the team with two impressive performances in two games.
So it was a good point but the performance will need to be better against a Bradford side who are going to be up for it on Saturday but with over 4,000 fans making the long trip up north I can see the Royals grabbing a vital win.
Read my player ratings for the game here.