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Match Reports

Report | Barrow grabs last-gasp leveller!

An account from our 2-2 draw at Madejski Stadium

1 December 2018

Mo Barrow's 94th-minute equaliser earned Reading a share of the spoils at Madejski Stadium against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.

Marc McNulty's first competitive goal in a Reading shirt had the Royals leading at the break, but Benik Afobe and Tom Ince had oveturned the scoreline as the game approached the final stages.

But with a minute left of stoppage time, Barrow's well-taken finish ensured the Royals efforts would be rewarded with a share of the spoils.

Just hours after the Academy Honours Board was revealed at Madejski Stadium, teenage striker Danny Loader was handed a home debut in the Sky Bet Championship by being named in the starting XI, while Tom McIntyre’s inclusion on the bench was his first involvement in a game for the senior side.

Leandro Bacuna captained the side in the absence of the injured Liam Moore, while Sam Baldock, David Meyler and Mo Barrow all returned to the bench.

John Swift was first to register an effort as Bacuna’s corner was cleared into his path on the edge of the area, but it was sliced well over Jack Butland’s goal.

But then Stoke missed a gilt-edged chance to go ahead before the game had developed any rhythm – James McClean’s overhit cross was kept alive on the far side by Joe Allen, but former Royal Afobe headed inexplicably wide from in front of goal.

And when Afobe did hit the target, he found Anssi Jaakkola in fine shot-stopping form once again.  Cuco Martina, bombing on from right-back, picked out the striker in the six-yard box but the big Finn’s instincts were spot-on again.  Sam Clucas blazed over on the rebound.

The Potters were by no means having it all their own way.  Loader, finding space between the lines, linked up with Garath McCleary before laying into Swift’s path on the edge of the area.  The midfielder found a yard to shoot but bent his effort wide.

And then it was Loader's turn to go close as Bacuna's bisecting ball found the teenager in space... gliding into the area, he fired wide with his left foot.  The opener yet elusive.

McNulty, leading the line, was a willing runner and Swift flighted a beautifully-weighted ball over the top for the Scotsman to run on to.  A lovely first touch in the area, but a recovery tackle denied a shooting chance.

And the Potters had chances when McClean twice had efforts deflected beyond the far post from either side of Jaakkola's goal.

But the opener came before the break and the Royals were good value for the lead. 

It all began with a gutsy burst down the right flank by Rinomhota... raw pace took him past Dutch international Erik Pieters, and when his cross deflected up towards the back post, McNulty sprang highest in the crowd to power in a header.  1-0!

Half-time: Reading 1-0 Stoke City

But that lead was cancelled out within three minutes of the restart.  Clucas played a quick exchange with Ryan Woods on the left for Stoke before lifting a ball over the defensive line for Afobe to run onto.  With the goalkeeper exposed, the forward converted as he raced into the area with a low effort.

With the wind in their sails, Stoke pressed on to look for a goal to turn the game on its head.  Tom Ince, drifting in off the right, offloaded into the stride of full-back Pieters... a firecracker of a shot was pushed over by Jaakkola.

Then a flurry of chances for the visitors.  When McClean's cross was cut out by Swift, Allen raced onto the loose ball and side-footed just wide... and then a loose bit of play from the goal-kick meant Tyler Blackett had to recover quickly to deny Stoke striker Afobe a second goal.

Potters winger McClean was booked for his part in a fracas as tempers flared - every ball contested heartily and emotions occasionally bubbling up.

Barrow replaced Swift midway through the second period as the Royals aimed to wrestle back control and the winger nearly profited when Bacuna's effort ricocheted loose in the area - Jack Butland got to it just in time.

Then, for the first time in the game, Stoke went ahead with a goal by Ince that was simply unstoppable.  Afobe kept the ball alive on the byline and McClean cut back a cross which Ince caught with the sweetest of volleys... it caught the underside of the bar as it powered beyond Jaakkola's reach.

The Finn managed to keep Stoke's lead to a single goal when Afobe cut back from the channel to Allen, whose first-time strike was saved acrobatically.

Yakou Meite and Baldock, on as subs, tried to combine and a half-clearance fell for Barrow.  With the angle tight, he opted for power rather than placement but fizzed well wide of goal.

The same combo of Royals subs, but the same outcome soon after.  Meite controlled terrifically on his chest to control a direct ball forward but Baldock was just about edged out by Bruno Martins Indi inside the six-yard box.

With time running out defender Ilori could have drawn Reading level as he attacked McCleary's free-kick from deep and wide on the right, but could only divert his header over from inside a crowded area.

Then in the 90th minute, some bold work in midfield by Rinomhota saw him spin into space before delivering a delightful through-ball with the outside of his right boot... Meite was foiled by Butland, agonisingly.

Five minutes were added... and in the fourth, a composed forward move saw the ball worked to Barrow, who slammed in a side-footed effort to ensure the points would be shared!

Full-time: Reading 2-2 Stoke City

Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Gunter, Blackett, Ilori, Bacuna, Rinomhota, Swift (Barrow 65), McCleary, Loader (Baldock 71), McNulty (Meite 71).
Unused subs: Mannone, Meyler, Sims, McIntyre.
Goals: McNulty (42), Barrow (90+4).
Yellow: Bacuna.

Stoke City: Butland, Pieters (Edwards 66), Allen, Ince, Afobe, McClean (Fletcher 82), Martins Indi, Shawcross (c), Clucas (Williams 89), Martina, Woods.
Unused subs: Federici, Diouf, Berahino, Crouch.
Goals: Afobe (48), Ince (69).
Yellow: McClean.

Referee: Mr D Coote

Attendance: 14,414 (1,706 away)

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