- Pogrebnyak returns and heads just over
- Federici saves close range Adomah header
- Feds makes late finger tip save onto woodwork
- Karacan makes comeback as substitute
The Royals battled out a goalless point at home to high-flying Middlesbrough this afternoon, as the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the return of long-term injury absentee Jem Karacan who played the final five minutes of a closely-fought encounter.
The hosts needed to rely on in-form goalkeeper Adam Federici who produced a stunning save to deny Albert Adomah's header and then push a Patrick Bamford piledriver onto his woodwork in the second half.
Steve Clarke's side struggled to create many clear cut opportunities against the meanest defence in the division and despite pressing for a winner, had to settle for a point which extends our unnbeaten run to four games in total.
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Obita, Pearce (c), Hector, Williams, Norwood (Guthrie 67) Mackie (Karacan 86), Robson-Kanu, Cox, Pogrebnyak (Blackman 57).
Substitutes: Andersen, Cooper, Kelly, Taylor.
Yellow: Norwood, Obita.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Kalas, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Reach (Kike 82), Adomah, Vossen (Tomlin 62), Bamford.
Substitutes: Mejias, Husband, Wildschut, Omeruo, Veljkovic.
Referee: Mr Charles Breakspear
Att: 17,131 (1,880 away)
Steve Clarke's men started on the front foot, with Jordan Obita supplying a couple of good early crosses from the left, then Simon Cox threading a ball into the path of Hal Robson-Kanu only for the latter to be flagged offside.
The first shot at goal came from the boot of Adam Reach though. Hector lost possession as he tried to bring down a ball over the top and Bamford teed up the midfielder who sliced wide of the near post and into the side netting.
With a quarter of an hour gone, Reach squandered a golden chance to take the lead. Bamford fed Adomah, whose low drive across the six yard box found Reach beating Gunter to it at the far post, but the Boro midfielder skied high and wide from five yards out.
Moments later, Adam Federici had to scoop a Bamford drive off his line as the uncleared corner fell to the feet of the Middlesbrough striker who rifled the ball through a crowd of bodies only to be denied by our in-form Aussie.
Reach's foul on Pogrebnyak saw the vanishing spray emerge at Madejski Stadium for the first time, but two Norwood free kick failed to trouble Dimitrios Konstantopoulos in the Middlesbrough goal, the Greek keeper sliding out at the feet of Mackie moments later as Cox almost passed his teammate in.
The visitors were looking the more dangerous though and when the Royals failed to clear their lines from a corner, Federici had to stop the ball on his line when Ayala stabbed it towards goal from close range.
A change of linesman interrupted the momentum of an admittedly scrappy first half and Norwood's name was put in the book as he broke up a break by fouling Bamford on the left wing. But the half-time whistle brought an end to a uneventful first 45 minutes.
In the opening stages of the second half, Obita delivered a tasty free kick from the left side which found the head of Pogrebnyak, but the big Russian could only direct a difficult chance over the bar.
Then, Cox chested the ball off to Robson-Kanu who burst through to collect a one-two inside the box, but Friend did enough to force the midfielder into a scuffed effort that was easy for Konstantopoulos to save.
A lovely ball from Mackie found the overlapping Gunter on the right just before the hour and the right-back won a corner. Hector got his head to the set piece but couldn't force a save from the Boro keeper, the ball skidding wide.
Nick Blackman came on for Pogrebnyak and then Norwood's inswinging free kick caused mild panic in the Middlesbrough area, Konstantopoulos bravely clinging on the ball as Pearce tried to stab it over the line.
Norwood's drive from 25 yards was easily held by the keeper, but Federici was forced to make a point blank range stop from Albert Adomah's header soon after, Grant Leadbitter's free kick won in the air by the winger only for Federici to parry on his line.
With little more than a quarter of an hour to play, Robson-Kanu forced Gibson into a clearance on the edge of his own six yard box, the Royals winger winning the ball on the left and crossing low into the area to force a corner.
A lovely move down the right almost opened up the visitors' defence when Gunter tried to cut the ball back to Mackie, only for the ball to be intercepted and put behind for a corner.
Then Adam Federici produced a fingertip save to push a stunning long range effort from Bamford against his stanchion, before scooping the ball off his line when a downward header from the resultant corner threatened to hand the away side a late lead.
Royals captain Jem Karacan was introduced for the final five minutes, returning from a 16-month injury absence to a roar from the home crowd and the old Jem got another cheer as he won a meaty tackle on on the left side of midfield.
But there was to be no way through either team's defence and the final whistle sounded with the points shared.