Honours even after four goal thrillerThe Royals came from behind to earn a well-deserved point against high-flying Brighton this afternoon, courtesy of goals from John Swift and Paul McShane - the first two goals to be put past the Albion defence this season!
An entertaining affair began with two goals in eight minutes - Swift curling a free kick straight into the back of the Brighton net after two minutes, before an equaliser was scored from a corner at the other end that flew off Joey van den Berg and in.
Anthony Knockaert stroked Brighton into the lead in the first minute of the second half, but after Yann Kermorgant had been denied by a goalline clearance, a last ditch tackle from Liam Rosenior, the crossbar and a great David Stockdale save from an overhead, skipper Paul McShane levelled with a fine finish from McCleary's pull back.
Reading had a late penalty appeal dismissed before Van den Berg was shown a second yellow card in the dying stages for pulling back Tomer Hemed, but the Royals were well worthy of their point.
Manager Jaap Stam named an unchanged starting eleven for the third successive game, making just one change to his squad by replacing Deniss Rakels with Callum Harriott on the bench.
And the encounter got off to an explosive start, with the home side taking the lead within the opening two minutes. Roy Beerens won a free kick on the left side of the box and John Swift swung the ball into the box and past everyone to ripple the net for 1-0.
Six minutes later though, the Seagulls were level. A corner conceded on the left was delivered dangerously into the Royals’ box and the amongst a lot of pushing and shoving in the middle the ball flew off Joey van den Berg’s head and past a helpless Al Habsi.
The hosts nearly restored their advantage midway through a closely-contested opening half when Williams recycled the ball with a looped ball to the back post, Kermorgant waited for it to drop and then arrowed an effort on target, but Dunk’s right leg cleared the ball off the line to deny the Frenchman.
McCleary then pounced on a weak clearance from the back to set up Kermorgant for another chance. This time he dragged a right-footed effort just wide from the edge of the box.
Reading were creating chances and Evans thundered a right-footed drive just over from distance.
And with four minutes of the first period remaining, McCleary found Gunter scurrying in behind the Brighton defence down the right. He fizzed a lovely low cross into the middle where a Brighton man got to it just before Kermorgant could direct it goalwards.
And before the break could be signalled, another chance came the Royals’ way. McCleary scampered down the right flank and lofted a deep cross to Beerens on the far side of the box. Beerens struck a first time volley towards goal but it cannoned off a Brighton body to safety.
And with the last kick of the half, Kermorgant struck a volley of his own. A worked corner routine saw Swift spread the set piece out to the French frontman on the edge of the box, but his first time effort skidded wide of the left upright.
Half-time: Reading 1-1 Brighton
The second half began badly. Albion got in down the left and Sam Baldock pulled the ball back into open space. Anthony Knockaert ran onto it and picked his spot, firmly placing the ball past the outstretched leg of Ali Al Habsi in the Royals goal to make it 2-1.
Five minutes later, it so easily could have been 2-2. McCleary darted down the right and dinked a cross into the middle where Kermorgant rose above his man and powered a header against the crossbar.
Knockaert was causing problems thought and a timely Obita challenge prevented him from crossing into the danger area from the byline.
At the other end, Dunk handballed as Stam’s side pressed for a second goal of their own. But a set piece routine only ended with Swift’s right-footed strike being charged down by the Albion wall.
However, the hosts did have their equaliser before the hour. McCleary made good progress down the right and pulled the ball back for McShane who was 12 yards out. The skipper wrapped his right boot around the ball and arrowed it precisely past David Stockdale and into the bottom right corner to level.
Reading were in the ascendancy and Beerens’ fancy footwork teed up Swift who left it for Williams to shoot from the edge of the area. But it was charged down before Stockdale had to make a save.
Kermorgant came agonisingly close to scoring soon after. Swift sprayed it out to Beerens on the right and his cross was met by an audacious overhead kick from the striker, only for Stockdale to claw it off his line and keep the scores level.
Appeals for a penalty were dismissed after Gunter was felled down the right side of the box – referee Mike Jones deciding the foul was just outside the area and awarding a free kick.
Albion continued to threaten though and a wonderfully timed tackle from Van den Berg halted substitute Jamie Murphy in his tracks, before Oliver Norwood whipped a cross across the face of goal but behind for a goal kick.
As summer rain began to fall, Reading looked for a late winner but McCleary’s shot was blocked behind. Stam brought on Quinn and Mendes in hope we could unlock the defence once more.
But Al Habsi had to be alert to gather in a late Knockaert effort. And Brighton had a man's advantage for the final throes when Van den Berg was shown a second yellow card for pulling back Hemed in the last minute of the ninety.
Four minutes of injury time were added on and a late challenge from Kermorgant on Rosenior handed the visitors a last chance to swing the ball into the Royals box. But Reading defended it well and the final whistle sounded to hand Reading a well-deserved point against Chris Hughton's table toppers.
Full-time: Reading 2-2 Brighton
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, Obita, McShane (a), Van den Berg, Evans, Williams, Swift (Quinn 81), McCleary (Mendes 86), Beerens (Cooper 90), Kermorgant.
Unused subs: Jaakkola, Watson, Harriott, Meite.
Yellow: Van den Berg, Williams, Kermorgant
Red: Van den Berg
Goals: Swift (2), McShane (59)
Brighton: Stockdale, Rosenior, Bruno (c), Bong, Dunk, Kayal, Skalak (Murphy 76), Sidwell, Knockaert, Baldock (Norwood 68), Murray (Hemed 86).
Unused subs: Maenpaa, White, Ince, LuaLua.
Goals: Van den Berg (8 og), Knockaert (46)
Att: 16,781 (2,915 away)