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16:59 19th February 2011

Report: Royals held by Hornets

Reading 1 (Hunt 49)
Watford 1 (Weimann 27)

Reading came from behind to earn a point at home to Watford this afternoon, thanks to Noel Hunt's 49th minute header.

Brian McDermott's side fell behind when Andreas Weimann latched onto Danny Graham's floated cross to slam the Hornets into the lead from eight yards out.

But Scott Loach couldn't deal with Brian Howard's corner early in the second period and Noel Hunt was there to head the dropping ball over the goalline from close range. The Irishman signed a new contract earlier in the week, and it was fitting he would celebrate his new deal with a goal.

And Reading pressed for a winner; McAnuff, Howard and Long all testing Loach in the Hornets goal, while debutant Alex McCarthy - who replaced Adam Federici for the final six minutes - had only a solitary strike to stop at the other end, doing so comfortably.

But, despite a good second half showing, the Royals were forced to settle for a point.

Reading (4-4-2): Federici (McCarthy 84), Griffin, Harte, Ingimarsson, Mills (c), Leigertwood, Howard (Robson-Kanu 82), McAnuff, Kebe, Hunt (Church 67), Long
Subs: Khizanishvili, Gunnarsson, Tabb, Antonio.

Watford (4-5-1): Loach, Hodson, Thompson, Taylor, Mariappa, Cowie, Eustace (c), McGinn (Drinkwater 55), Weimann (Sordell 53), Whichelow (Jenkins 67), Graham
Subs: Gilmartin, Bennett, Mingoia, Deeney.

Ref: P Walton
Attendance: 16,934 (1,579 away)

Starting XI team news
The Royals made two changes, bringing Noel Hunt and Mikele Leigertwood back into the side and reverting to a 4-4-2 formation - Brynjar Gunnarsson and Jay Tabb dropping to the bench. Mathieu Manset missed out with a calf injury, so Simon Church provided attacking back-up on the bench.

First half

The game began at a lively pace and both teams clearly desperate for the win. Reading came close with a corner that almost found Leigertwood at the far post, and then Long stooped to try to glance a header in at the near post following a good cross from Noel Hunt on the left.

Jobi McAnuff was a menace against his former side, cutting on from the left on a couple of early occasions - but Scott Loach wasn't called into action on either occasion; Shane Long dispossessed first and then McAnuff whipping a lovely half-volleyed effort inches wide of the bottom right corner.

But midway through the first half, Watford took the lead. A floated ball back into the box from Graham had Reading defenders scrambling to clear it. Leigertwood couldn't, Ingimarsson blocked the first shot with a brave dive, but the ball fell back to Andreas Weimann's feet and he ruthlessly hammered it home from six yards out.

Moments later it could have been 2-0. In a slick break away, Whichelow chipped a beautiful ball into the middle for Graham who powered a downward header at goal. But Federici made a wonderful save, diving low to his left to scoop it away.

And then Weimann could have doubled the Hornets' lead, cutting inside his man and scuffing a low drive straight at Federici who gathered at the second attempt. Malky Mackay's men were in the ascendency.

Mikele Leigertwood tried to wrestle back the balance of play and he almost did in stupendous style. He turned cleverly out of a tight situation and drove low at goal from 25 yards - Loach wa at full stretch to fingertip it around his left post though.

And that chance reignited Reading. Noel Hunt had a low shot charged down and Loach had to save smartly from Howard's arced effort from the edge of the area. Jobi McAnuff had the last effort on target which was also charged down. But the visitors took a goal's lead into the break.

Second half

The first chance of the second half fell Reading's way and to that man McAnuff. Long did brilliantly to win the ball on the byline and scurry into the box, before floating a ball into the middle. McAnuff stretched to get his head to it and placed a downward header on target, only for Loach to save well low to his left.

But the Royals were level soon after. Brian Howard's corner kick wasn't dealt with by Loach at his near post and the ball dropped for Noel Hunt to head home from inches out. The striker signed a new contract earlier in the week and had a goal to celebrate with.

The Royals had a narrow escape minutes after the restart, Ian Harte nodding a looping header that was sailing inside the right post off his goal line. But at the other end, the Irishman almost scored, getting no touch to McAnuff's low cross despite sticking a left leg at a tempting delivery.

The hosts pressed hard for a winner. Simon Church replaced Hunt up front and read a delightful Kebe run and cut back to perfection - only to see his first time right-footed effort take a deflection and sail just over the crossbar.

Debutant Alex McCarthy was handed the job of protecting the Royals goal for the final six minutes of the match - the young goalkeeper forced into action after Federici took a knock after Leigertwood caught him in making a crucial clearance.

Griffin bombed forward in the dying stages and chipped a lovely cross over Loach and towards the far post. But Hal Robson-Kanu couldn't make anything of it and, after four minutes of injury time had played out, Reading were forced to settle for a point.
    Data provided by Press Association