Newcastle and Reading shared the spoils with both sides picking up a valuable point after a well-fought contest that saw the visitors have the lion’s share of the chances, despite Reading notching up 70% possession.
Reading Starting X11
Al-Habsi; Gunter, Moore, McShane, Blackett; Van Den Berg, Kelly, Mutch; McCleary, Grabban, Kermorgant
Jaakkola, Evans, Swift, Obita, Popa, Williams, Beerens
Newcastle United Starting X11
Darlow; Gamez, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Colback, Gouffran; Perez, Murphy
Newcastle United Substitutes
Elliot, Diame, Anita, Hanley, Gayle, Atsu, Mbemba
Newcastle were firm favourites for this clash, being the side with the best away record in the division, but it was the home side who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening phase, with Bournemouth loanee Lewis Grabban heading wide of the target from 6 yards in the first minute, wasting the Royals’ best chance to go in front. The Magpies edged the better of the chances before the break, and Jonjo Shelvey and Yoan Gouffran both had shots saved by Ali Al-Habsi.
Former Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie was the next to test Al-Habsi, his shot from the edge of the box rebounding off the post, before Ritchie was again foiled by the Omani stopper on the brink of half time to keep the score level.
Reading continued to defend well after the restart and looked good money for a point, showing the defensive guile that has seen them scrape past Fulham, Wolves and Cardiff at home within the last 2 months.
Jaap Stam’s side started the second period the brighter of the two sides, and Yann Kermorgant came close with a well-hit volley, which was Reading’s only shot on target of the match.
Something Reading have lacked this season however i a prolific goalscorer, with no player in double figures for league goals at the 36 game point. If you look at the rest of the Play-Off contenders, Huddersfield have Nahki Wells, Leeds have Chris Wood, Wednesday have Jordan Rhodes and Fulham have Chris Martin. Reading lack a top class striker, and their reliance on veteran forward Yann Kermorgant is a worry.
On another day the Magpies would have made Stam’s side pay for their attacking profligacy, but it was instead Reading who came closest to notching a winner, with mercurial winger Garath McCleary firing against the crossbar in injury time.
Both sides ill be happy with a point after a scrappy but well-fought encounter that sees Newcastle stay 3 points clear of Brighton, who beat Rotherham 2-1, whilst meanwhile the Royals remain in 5th place with a 7 point cushion over 7th placed Fulham, who themselves snatched a late draw over Play-Off rivals Leeds.