Brighton 1-1 Reading
Brighton 1 (Gunter og 17)
Reading 1 (Drenthe 62)
Reading were left with only a point to show from an entertaining encounter at the AmEx Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Royals fell behind in the first half after a miscommunication between Chris Gunter and Alex McCarthy saw the Welsh defender unfortunately head into his own net, but the game was turned on its head early in the second period as Brighton skipper Gordon Greer was sent off for a second bookable offence.
From that moment on Nigel Adkins' men dominated proceedings, creating numerous chances, and grabbed an equaliser as Royston Drenthe fired home his first from the club from just inside the area.
Alex McCarthy was forced to make a couple of smart saves to deny Albion counter attacks, but overall the dying stages were marked by Royals dominance - with home stopper Tomasz Kuszczak aptly named man of the match. He denied substitute Jobi McAnuff with an impressive stop as the winger went through one on one late on, leaving the away side to settle for a draw against one of their play-off rivals.
Brighton: Kuszczak, Saltor, Greer (C), Andrews, Ward, Forster-Caskey (March 84), Ulloa, Upson, Lopez (Dunk 51), Lingard (Buckley 60), Ince
Subs: Ankergren (GK), Dunk, Calderon, Obika, LukaLua, March, Buckley
Booked: Greer (foul 32), Andrews (time wasting 86) Saltor (foul 90)
Red Card: Greer (second bookable offence)
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Obita, Hector, Pearce, Akpan (Taylor 84), Guthrie (C), Blackman (McAnuff 75), Drenthe (McCleary 73), Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Subs: Federici, Kelly, Gorkss, Taylor, Tshibola, McAnuff, McCleary
Booked: Hector (foul 44), Robson-Kanu (handball 67), Obita (foul 76)
Referee: Frederick Graham
Attendance: 27,532 (1,051)
Nigel Adkins made four changes to his starting line up from the draw with Yeovil - with Danny Williams and Pavel Pogrebnyak unavailable due to injury. That, combined with the rigours of the international break - meant Michael Hector made his full Reading debut, with Danny Guthrie, Royston Drenthe and Nick Blackman also starting. Kaspars Gorkss and Garath McCleary dropped to the bench, whilst Jobi McAnuff returned from injury - also as a substitute.
Reading had the first action of the half, Drenthe weaving in from the left before firing across goal, where first Hal Robson-Kanu and then Adam Le Fondre couldn't quite convert.
But it was Brighton who took the lead - and in comical circumstances, all be it none that would have amused the Royals. A ball deep into the box dropped onto the head of Gunter, but after a miscommunication between the Royals full back and McCarthy, the Welsh defender nodded the ball agonisingly into his own net.
Briefly stunned, Reading did try to respond with 26 minutes on the clock as Obita cleverly beat his man on the left before rolling the ball to Akpan who fired over from the edge of the box.
There was plenty of possession for the visitors, but they were largely left frustrated by a resolute Seagulls backline - with Guthrie blasting over from distance with two minutes remaining in the half.
The second half started with Reading in determined attacking spirits, and it had an immediate effect. As Le Fondre tried to bound down the right he was clearly checked by Gordon Greer.
..the Seagulls captain had already been booked for a cynical foul on the Royals striker in the first period, and so referee Frederick Graham's decision to produce a second yellow saw him sent from the field.
Akpan's shot from the edge of the box was then well blocked, as a vociferous home crowd began to raise the atmosphere with their side down to ten men. Guthrie's clever cross from the left, sent into the box with his instep, was then nodded over the bar by Le Fondre. Still Nigel Adkins' side came forward, with Blackman the next to have a go, cutting in from the right before swerving an effort just off target.
It was coming...and the equaliser followed, from an enigmatic Dutchman. After more probing team play Drenthe received the ball on the right of the area, before slamming a shot past Tomasz Kuszczak's near post. Reading's number ten showed plenty of emotion as he celebrated with staff and teammates on the Royals bench, with the strike his first for the club.
Still the pressure came, with Blackman bounding in again from the right and falling to the floor into the box - only for Mr Graham to wave away strong appeals for a penalty.
Despite the occasional counter from the home side it was the visitors who continued making inroads, Blackman once more involved as he weaved inside the box before seeing Kuszczak gather his shot at the second attempt.
The Seagulls responded and had a golden chance as substitute Will Buckley found room in the box, only to drag his shot wide of the post.
It was absolutely breathless stuff at the AmEx, Drenthe was replaced by Garath McCleary and the Jamaican teed up Akpan in the box, who curled an effort inches wide.
A golden opportunity would also fall to another Reading replacement, Jobi McAnuff. The wideman took the place of Nick Blackman and with eleven minutes remaining was sent clean through on goal, only to be denied by former Manchester United stopper Kuszczak.
Seconds later a knockdown found Guthrie on the edge of the box, who fired a half volley inches off target, before McAnuff's shot was again stopped by Kuszczak - who was named as man of the match.
As six minutes of stoppage time were announced, the home side almost stole three points, with Buckley finding space on the right of the box before McCarthy palmed away his stinging drive.
The last action of the game was, aptly, an effort from the visitors - Obita this time trying one from 20 yards, but it flew past the post to deny the men from Berkshire a win.