Reading: Al Habsi; Gunter, Cooper, Ferdinand, Obita; Evans (John 65'), Norwood; Williams, Piazon (Kermorgant 45'), Robson-Kanu; Vydra
After Tuesday night's 5-2 FA Cup win against ten-man Huddersfield, Brian McDermott had a few decisions to make with regards to both impressive performances and new arrivals. Two changes to the starting line-up, as George Evans came straight in for his Reading debut in place of Garath McCleary (pushing Danny Williams out to the right wing), whilst Jordan Obita made a return at left-back. Yann Kermorgant started on the bench after his arrival from Bournemouth earlier this week, whilst the loan limits meant it was Alex Fernandez, who scored against the Terriers in midweek, was the man to miss out.
Any confidence Reading might have taken from that big victory on Tuesday was quickly wiped out as Wednesday started on the front foot. A free-kick out wide was played to the top of the box, where Barry Bannan had time to pick his spot; unfortunately for him, the post would deny him the opener. But it didn't take much longer for the Owls to get in front - Ross Wallace overlapped Jordan Obita and played a low cross in, which eventually found its way to Gary Hooper who smashed home from eight yards. Just like Bannan's effort a few minutes earlier, the Wednesday players had far too much time to get their efforts in on goal. The Royals were dozing, and for the seventh time in eight matches, they'd conceded the first goal of the match.
It could have been worse on the twenty minute mark when Hooper outmuscled Cooper and fired in a pot shot from long range which Ali Al Habsi had to be alert to; from the resulting corner, Vincent Sasso blazed over. But Reading soon had a golden chance to pull level. Glenn Loovens tried to control in his own box, but let the ball get away from him. Matej Vydra pounced in front of the centre-back, who slid in and took out the Czech, who didn't have the ball under control but would have got there had he not been felled. Up stepped Tuesday's hat-trick hero, made to wait by some lengthy distractionary tactics from Keiren Westwood... and perhaps they got to him, Vydra firing hard and true against Westwood's left post.
Wednesday settled in after their high pressure start and let the Royals come onto them, but the only chances came from long range, Evans, Norwood and Obita all firing over from distance. Fernando Forestieri was a constant danger on the break and he fired into the side netting when running at Cooper and Al Habsi on a quick counter. With Reading struggling to carve out good opportunities, and the Owls content to contain, it was clear something needed to change as the half-time whistle went.
For the third time in his nine matches in charge, McDermott made a half-time tactical switch, the ineffective Lucas Piazon being withdrawn for Kermorgant to make his debut in Berkshire. The Frenchman instantly showed some nice touches but failed to really impose himself as instead Wednesday went close again on a counter, Bannan wide on the half-volley. Then Forestieri fired in a shot from close range which Chris Gunter managed to block, the ball just about looping over for a corner.
McDermott introduced Ola John for Evans, which affected the game far more than anyone could have predicted. Hal Robson-Kanu went out to the right wing, John the left, and Williams back into his natural position in the middle of the park. The American looked far more at home after the switch, and the Welshman too was finding success - he delivered a peach of a cross which Vydra couldn't quite get enough on to trouble Westwood. But it was the aerial prowess of Cooper which pulled Reading level, meeting Oliver Norwood's corner with a towering header into the bottom corner.
Both sides then pushed for the winner, but it was the Royals who came closest - agonizingly so. Norwood again with the delivery from out wide, Kermorgant rising to meet the cross three yards out with the goal at his mercy... but somehow, head did not make connection with ball when all it needed was a touch to ripple the back of the net. The final chance of a match that like usual did not start well for Reading, but at least they've again showed resolve to come back and rescue a point. Second best for most of the match, but it could have been all three points come full time. The Royals can't afford many more missed opportunities if they still hope to make an unlikely charge towards the top.