Royals can't make pressure payFor the third time within the space of six days, Reading were forced to settle for a point from a game in which they arguably deserved all three, drawing 0-0 with MK Dons at Madejski Stadium this afternoon despite bossing the game from the first to the last whistle.
Former Royal Simon Church hit the post for the visitors, but Reading were otherwise in complete control and were only denied their first league win of the season by an inspired display from Dons keeper David Martin.
Steve Clarke made just one change to the starting eleven which earned a point at Hillsborough in midweek, re-introducing Jordan Obita for Andrew Taylor at left-back. New loan signing Alex Fernandez was named on the bench.
And it was Obita who created the first good chance of the game, receiving the ball from Stephen Quinn on the left flank and whipping a good cross into the middle where Hal Robson-Kanu rose highest but couldn't direct his glancing header on target.
More joy came with a sweeping ball out to the left which was controlled by Sa. He scurried infield and picked out a low cross into the feet of HRK, but the forward's shot on goal was blocked before David Martin could be troubled.
Rob Hall flashed well wide at the other end, but Norwood won the ball no the edge of his own area and released Sa with a superb quick ball forward. Sa burst into the box with a couple of touches but looking to turn back inside onto his right boot to shoot he was dispossessed before he could pull the trigger.
Reading were creating the better chances and Williams fed Robson-Kanu on the right who curled a deep cross to Sa. He controlled it brilliantly and turned well but an MK Dons boot prevented the Portuguese striker from getting a clean shot in on goal, eight yards out, and it dribbled wide.
Again Reading cut through the Dons back line, this time Gunter passing inside to Williams in space who opted to cross instead of shoot, allowing the visitors to hack it clear. Then minutes later, Sa struck an effort on the turn which deflected off what looked like a Dons arm into the path of HRK six yards out. Martin somehow saved his snapshot from point blank range to concede a corner, when it seemed the Royals were destined to take the lead.
Williams the broke from inside his own half and, despite being surrounded by six yellow shirts he found the space to shoot, dragging just wide of the near post. Sa had the ball in the back of the net after half an hour, heading home Gunter's inswinging cross, but the offside flag was raised to deny the striker his first goal in a Reading shirt.
Still the Royals hadn't made the breakthrough they deserved and Sa teed up Quinn on the left side of the box for the midfielder to shoot just over the crossbar.
Before the break, Karl Robinson's men almost took an undeserved lead through a familiar face - Church pouncing on a loose ball inside the Royals box but dragging his left-footed swipe against the base of the right post to the Royals' relief.
Norwood took aim from 25 yards and forced Martin into a very sharp save before both teams could enjoy a breather in scorching hot conditions.
Half-time: Reading 0 MK Dons 0
The home side started the second half in the ascendancy again, Sa almost finding Williams inside the area at the end of a mazy run, then McShane nearly getting his head to a Quinn corner. And Gunter cut in from the right to test Martin's handling with a left-footed drive on the stretch.
Aaron Tshibola tested the keeper with a low drive after Quinn had found him with a good low cut back from the left. And Reading continued to press and impress, Sa heading over Gunter's cross on the hour.
Martin did very well to cleanly gather a powerful drive from Williams that was heading for the top right corner soon after. Then, a superb exchange of passes drew an even better save from the Dons keeper, Norwood getting the ball back from Williams and arcing a shot towards the bottom right corner only for a sprawling Martin to push the ball around his post.
McShane came close with a far post header that sailed inches over, but time was running out for the dominant Royals - Simon Cox and Nick Blackman were introduced to try to find a breakthrough.
Cox's deflected shot earned the home side a corner with ten minutes remaining, but the Dons' defence held firm - Martin leaping to his left to palm Blackman's well-hit strike wide.
Ferdinand glanced wide with five minutes left and a debut for Alex Fernandez came moments later, the Espanyol midfielder Steve Clarke's final throw of the dice. Goalless it would end though after three minutes of additional time.
Full-time: Reading 0 MK Dons 0
Reading: Bond, Gunter, Obita, McShane (c), Ferdinand, Norwood, Tshibola (Cox 69), Williams, Quinn (Fernandez 85), Robson-Kanu (Blackman 69), Sa.
Unused subs: Al-Habsi, Taylor, Hector, Stacey.
MK Dons: Martin, Spence, Lewington (c), Kay, McFadzean, Potter, Carruthers (Powell 60), Poyet, Hall (Baker 73), Bowditch, Church (Gallagher 67).
Unused subs: Hodson, Upson, Cropper, Murphy.
Yellow: Poyet, McFadzean, Baker.
Attendance: 16,547 (1,332 away)
Referee: David Coote