Reading battled to earn a hard-fought point against Aston Villa in their latest bid for survival in the Championship.
Former-Royal Tommy Elphick came closest to finding the back of the net for either side, when his looping first half-header struck the angle between post and bar for the visitors. Nelson Oliveira was a constant threat for Royals, but was unable to convert, despite a plethora of chances, including a strike from point-blank range which Lovre Kalinic palmed away. Matt Miazga put the rebound wide from point-blank range to ensure a goalless stalemate.
The result leaves Royals a point adrift of Rotherham and safety, but the performance and number of chances created by Jose Gomes’ men would have encouraged most of the Royals fans on a chilly January afternoon at the Madejski.
Tammy Abraham spun on the edge of the box early on for Villa, but his shot was palmed away by Emi Martinez, who was making his home debut for the Royals.
A shanked Callum Harriott clearance fell straight to Abraham in the Royals area, and the forward almost picked out Martinez demonstrated his shot-stopping credentials shortly after, diving low to his right to deny Anwar El Ghazi, who found space to fire a curling effort away from the on-loan Arsenal keeper. The rebound should have been converted into the game’s opening goal, but Abraham headed wide from the six-yard line.
A fluid counter-attacking move headed by John Swift and Lewis Baker nearly saw Royals move in front, with the cross from Tyler Blackett eventually going in high towards Nelson Oliveira, who did well to get a good contact on his strike, but could not prevent it from flying harmlessly over the bar.
Baker was provider again, picking out Oliveira on the volley, but the Portuguese forward couldn’t quite wrap his food around it, and again it fired off-target.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock, was when former Royal Tommy Elphick struck the angle between bar and post with a header before rolling out of play.
Royals fans were claiming a penalty five minutes from the break, when Ovie Ejaria’s good work down the left saw him drive into the box and attempt to pull the trigger. He looked to have been brought down by captain Alan Hutton, but referee Eltringham waved play on.
Reading continued to look dangerous in the final third, as Oliveira again took aim, forcing Kalinic into an acrobatic stop on his right.
Just on the stroke of half-time, Royals came inches away from claiming the game’s opening goal, as Oliveira won the ball in the air from a John Swift free-kick after Ejaria was scythed down, out wide on the left. The man on-loan from Norwich connected well with the cross but Kalinic reacted well to make the stop, and the rebound was stabbed narrowly wide by Miazga to leave the game goalless at the break.
Dean Smith’s words at half-time clearly had an effect on the Villa players, as they came flying out of the traps after the restart. Neil Taylor was the first to threaten, but dragged his attempt wide across goal after being played through from midfield.
El Ghazi was then booked for simulation in the Royals penalty area, in the latest penalty shout to be nullified by referee Eltringham. Conor Hourihane had a quiet game, and misfired free-kick from 20-yards into the Reading wall after a lengthy injury stoppage.
Martinez was alert to the situation again after a relatively quiet second period, when El Ghazi played in Abraham in the box, whose shot from close range stung the wrists of the Royals stopper before Blackett knodded clear the rebound to safety.
There were gasps around the Madejski when the fourth official announced eight minutes of injury time as the clock ticked past the 90-minute-mark, but they passed goalless.
The point keeps Reading 22nd in the table, but none of the other bottom six sides won leaving the Royals still just a point from safety.
READING: Martinez; Yiadom, Miazga, Moore (c), Blackett; Rinomhota, Swift; Harriott (Richards 67), Baker (Aluko 70), Ejaria; Oliveira (Meite 73).
Subs not used: Walker, Gunter, McCleary, Barrow.
Yellow cards: Swift (53), Oliveira (55), Yiadom (62)
ASTON VILLA: Kalinic; Hutton (c), Elphick, Mings, Taylor; Whelan (Carroll 74), Hourihane; Adomah (Kodjia 74), McGinn (Jedinak 89), El Ghazi; Abraham.
Subs not used: Steer, Hause, Elmohamady, Davis.
Yellow cards: El Ghazi (49), Whelan (49), Carroll (87), Hourihane (90+6)
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Attendance: 17,458 (inc. 2,135 away)