Royals outplay Rams in earning pointThe Royals remain unbeaten in 2016 after putting in a very impressive away display against second-placed Derby County at the iPro Stadium this evening, coming from behind to earn a point against Paul Clement's Rams.
The Rams broke the deadlock when Jason Shackell ghosted into the six yard box to steer home an inswinging Ince corner from close range, but Reading equalised with a well-placed header from Danny Williams after some lovely build-up play had led to Hal Robson-Kanu lofting a cross into the box from the byline.
Robson-Kanu was denied by the woodwork, while Lee Grant saved from Williams, McCleary and Cooper and Reading were the better side for long spells of the game, playing some very creative football in the final third without finding that winner.
Manager Brian McDermott made just one change from the side that earned an FA Cup replay against Huddersfield at the weekend, swapping Stephen Quinn for Lucas Piazon in his midfield. Ola John returned from injury to be named on the bench, while Oliver Norwood kept the captain's armband.
Reading began the game brightly, earning an early opportunity when Garath McCleary made progress down the right and crossed the ball back towards Vydra on the edge of the box. The Czech striker tried a spectacular hooked volley which sailed over the bar.
Derby had barely got the ball in Reading's half in the opening ten minutes, but a lofted cross from the left found Blackman in space at the far post and it needed a save by Al Habsi to make sure it hit the side netting.
A corner moments later provided the hosts with their opener though. An inswinging delivery wasn't cleared after a slip in the middle and Jason Shackell came in to scuff it home from close range, the ball bouncing high past Al Habsi to break the deadlock.
Norwood squandered a great chance to hit back - McCleary ran at Warnock and weaved inside and outside the left-back before cutting the ball back to the edge of the area where Norwood swept the ball high over the bar.
With 25 minutes on the clock, Johnny Russell's jinking run into the box ended with the ball being only half cleared as far as Chris Martin who hooked a high ball goalwards but over the bar from 8 yards out.
Nice work down the left from Taylor and then Robson-Kanu teed up Williams on the edge of the area soon after, but Lee Grant watched it bobble wide. Then, moments later, the Royals had an appeal for a penalty turned down when Shackell seemed to bring a breaking Vydra down inside the area - referee David Coote awarded a goal kick.
Reading continued to play some good stuff, Taylor crossing for Robson-Kanu who won his header in the middle but fouled his marker in the process according to the man in the middle. But Richard Keogh came close to a second as he directed a carbon copy corner wide of the left post.
With seven minutes of the half remaining, the Royals deservedly levelled. Breaking through Piazon initially, Vydra won the ball well on the left side of the box and when a pass was threaded through to Robson-Kanu inside the Rams box, his floated cross was headed past Grant by Williams from 10 yards out.
Williams forced Grant into a good save before the half could end; McCleary had led a breakaway down the right and although County had recovered in numbers, Williams still found a yard to pull the trigger from the edge of the box and Grant could only parry his powerful drive. The ball broke to a Derby man to the hosts' relief.
The Royals almost caught the Rams on the break again, Piazon and Vydra combining with the former only denied a route in on goal by a great sliding challenge from a Rams defender just outside the area.
Half-time: Derby 1 Reading 1
The second half began and within minutes the Rams passed up an opportunity to retake the lead. Martin beat Cooper in the air and Ince nicked the ball past the stooping head of a second Royals defender to get in behind, but trying to square the ball for Russell the pass was too heavy and the chance disappeared.
An Andrew Taylor corner, won brilliantly by the tenacious Robson-Kanu, wasn't cleanly cleared but the Rams defence did enough to set Russell away on a counter attack which Williams expertly cut short with some covering defending.
On the hour, Grant had to be alert to push a powerful McCleary drive around his post after the Royals had broken quickly through Piazon and Robson-Kanu. And Reading were the team pressing for a second, passing the ball quickly and precisely to almost thread the ball into Piazon after a prolonged spell of possession in the Rams' final third.
More slick build-up play got Robson-Kanu in behind the Rams' back line but his cut back couldn't re-find Vydra and Derby cleared the danger once more.
Blackman almost began and ended a counter attack of their own with 17 minutes of the match remaining, but Al Habsi did well at his near post to keep the former Royal striker's low drive out with relative ease.
Robson-Kanu won a free kick 22 yards out which Vydra stepped up to curl over the wall and dip just over the crossbar. Then Reading came even closer to a winner when Robson-Kanu drove low at goal from range and Grant pushed the ball against the base of his left post.
Cooper then won his header from the subsequent corner and after County clumsily cleared it out for another corner, again Cooper won his aerial battle and forced Grant into action again - tipping over his crossbar this time.
Reading broke at pace with five minutes remaining and a beautiful ball was looped into the path of Piazon by McCleary only for Christie to come across and clear. On the front foot, Reading won the ball back again and it broke to Williams bursting into the box before being brought down by Christie on the edge of the area. The wall did its job, repelling Piazon's effort with three minutes of the ninety remaining.
20 seconds of normal time were ticking down on the clock as Hendrick headed a corner well wide, but Reading looked the more likely to nick a winner, Robson-Kanu almost latching onto a clever flick from Vydra and then McCleary seeing an effort charged down on the edge of the box. But honours would end all even.
Full-time: Derby 1 Reading 1
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Warnock, Keogh, Shackell, Johnson (Hendrick 65), Butterfield, Blackman, Russell (Camara 76), Ince, Martin.
Subs: Mitchell, Baird, Shotton, Weimann, Bent.
Yellow: Martin, Hendrick, Ince, Christie.
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, Taylor, Ferdinand, Cooper, Norwood (c), Williams, Piazon, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Vydra.
Subs: Bond, Keown, Quinn, John, Hurtado, Cox, Sa.
Referee: Mr David Coote
Att: 28,175 (297 away)