Bristol City 1 (Hartley 12 pen)
Reading 1 (Church 90)
Simon Church earned the Royals a well-deserved point at Ashton Gate this Saturday afternoon, as Brian McDermott saw his first game in charge produce a valiant display.
The Royals would have felt hard done by as they went in one goal down at the break, as referee Mr Haywood began a controversial display by awarding a soft penalty for Jay Tabb's nudge on Nicky Maynard.
Paul Hartley converted, though the visitors went on to dominate proceedings - eventually grabbing a draw thanks to a combination of two of McDermott's substitutes; Jimmy Kebe crossing for Church to flick home in stoppage time.
The Welsh international was sent off in the ensuing celebrations for a second yellow card, having picked up an earlier booking for remonstrating with the linesman over the award of the penalty, all while Church was still a substitute. But all of that wouldn't put a dampener on the Christmas spirit for more than 1,100 travelling fans - who went back down the M4 more than happy with a determined performance that could so easily have brought all three points.
Bristol City (4-4-2): Gerken, Orr, Fontaine, Carey (c), Nyatanga, Scuse, Sno (Elliott 62), McAllister, Hartley, Clarkson (Saborio 70), Maynard
Subs: Johnson, Williams, Edwards, Henderson, Haynes.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Tabb (Gunnarsson HT), Bertrand, Ingimarsson (c), Pearce; Cisse, Matejovsky, Sigurdsson (Kebe 65), McAnuff, Long (Church 73), Rasiak.
Subs: Hamer, Armstrong, Mills, Karacan
Yellow: Church (dissent 13), Bertrand (foul 75)
Red: Church (celebration 90, second yellow)
Ref: M Haywood
Att: 14,366 (1,195 away fans)
Brian McDermott made his impression felt straight away, making two changes to the Royals side that drew with Scunthorpe last time out.
Shane Long came back from a three game suspension to take his place up-front alongside Grzegorz Rasiak, whilst Ryan Bertrand returned to the fold after recovering from a bout of illness.
City fired the first warning shot just two minutes in as Cole Skuse's fizzing effort was smartly tipped over by Federici, whilst Jamie McAllister's free-kick was well held by the Aussie stopper nine minutes later.
The visitors were making plenty of headway early in the half, however it was the Robins who were handed the perfect opportunity to take the lead as Jay Tabb's minimal nudge on Nicky Maynard sent the City striker to the floor - leading referee Mr Haywood to award a highly dubious penalty.
Paul Hartley made no mistake, smashing home from 12 yards, and in the ensuing drama substitute Simon Church was booked for dissent from the touchline. Despite the setback McDermott's men didn't let their heads drop and Grzegorz Rasiak should have levelled proceedings after 22 minutes - latching onto Jobi McAnuff's slide rule pass before hitting his shot straight at City 'keeper Dean Gerken.
The in-form Maynard did threaten briefly as he lashed a long range drive just past Federici's post, though the pendulum swung back in favour of Reading seconds later as a magical pass by Matejovsky sent Gylfi Sigurdsson through on goal - who rounded the goalie only to see his clipped effort cleared off the line.
It was one-way traffic in the first period as a goalmouth scramble resulted in another opening for Gylfi - who was once again denied, this time by the hands of Gerken.
Alex Pearce almost had his second goal in three games as his shot on the turn was deflected wide shortly before the break, and a spirited Royals outfit would have felt rightly aggrieved to go in at half time a goal down.
Indeed they started the second half where they left off, again exhibiting some bright attacking play and coming close only a few seconds in when Rasiak headed wide from Sigurdsson's cross.
Another world class ball from Matejovsky unleashed Long into the heart of the Robins area, but after dribbling across goal the Irish international saw meek penalty claims waved away as he stumbled over Gerken and lost possession.
City captain Louis Carey fired just wide after 57 minutes as he found space on the right hand side of the box, though again it was the visitors who came close at the other end as Matejovsky's half volley deflected heavily off a Bristol boot before dropping just wide of the post.
Jobi McAnuff was being well marshalled by the Robins backline but still manage to drift in from the left hand side four minutes later, before seeing his dipping effort deflected wide by Shane Long.
Simon Church was introduced off the bench and poked wide from fellow replacement Jimmy Kebe's cross after 83 minutes, whilst a crashing long range drive from Bertrand was well tipped over by Gerken.
It appeared to be one of those days, but just as it seemed the Royals would be heading back down the M4 with nothing to show for a valiant display - Church popped up to grab a point with a dramatic equaliser.
Again it was Kebe who provided the assist, driving in a cross for the young striker to craftily flick home into the top left hand corner of the net. The celebrations were wild yet good natured as Church celebrated in-front of the vocal travelling support, but astonishingly the Welsh international was shown a second yellow card for his merriment and sent from the field after being on the pitch for less than 20 minutes.
The drama wasn't quite over as Alex Pearce required a great finger tip save from Federici to spare him an own goal, but that was to be the end of the action as the referee's final whistle confirmed a well deserved point for Brian McDermott's charges.