Reading were unable to take all three points against Doncaster after a goalless draw at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon. On a day when the Royals dominated Sean O`Driscoll`s well-organised Rovers, Neil Sullivan proved to be the difference between the sides as he produced glorious saves from Gylfi Sigurdsson, Darren O`Dea and Grzegorz Rasiak.
Reading may not have won at home for nine months, but do not be fooled: it took some world-class goalkeeping to extend Reading`s fruitless spell at the Madejski Stadium to twelve matches today. Were it not for the outstanding reflexes of Neil Sullivan, the Doncaster goalkeeper, the Royals would have comfortably registered the three points their performance deserved.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Darren O`Dea and Grzegorz Rasiak all found the former Scotland keeper in merciless form as chance after chance fell by.
Rasiak drew the best of the bunch as his left-hooted strike from the edge of the box looked destined for the bottom of the corner but the Scot`s outstretched palm diverted the ball around the post.
O`Dea, another home debutant, rose superbly to meet Brian Howard`s corner but yet again the Royals could not find a way past Sullivan.
The Royals may well have opened the scoring as early as 23 minutes when Sigurdsson`s ferocious half-volley forced a clean parry from the former Leeds keeper. It was debutant full-back Shaun Cummings that laid the foundations, however, advancing adventurously to create the space for Jimmy Kebe to deliver an excellent cross to the far post.
Indeed, it was an encouraging afternoon for players making their bow in a Reading shirt today. Following the puzzling decision to allow Liam Rosenior to go out on loan to Ipswich, 20-year-old right-back Cummings put in a performance that approached perfection while Brian Howard masterminded a performance behind Noel Hunt that rooted most of Reading`s attacking play. Rasiak, meanwhile, would have been an instant hero had his 59th-minute strike not been met by Sullivan`s instinctive vigilance.
Boos from the home crowd accompanied the final whistle, but there is nothing more than mere frustration behind them. And who can blame them, having not seen their side win since January 27th?
Predictably, Brendan Rodgers announced to the scattered members of the press that he was encouraged by his side`s performance: “I`m pleased with the clean sheet and there were moments where we were bright. Tactically it was a test for us, they changed to a diamond in the second half and gave us something else to think about. Tactically I`m pleased with the players, and spirit and togetherness in the group”.
Boos from the home accompanied the final whistle, but there is nothing more than mere frustration behind them. And who can blame them, having not seen their side win since January 27th? The Royals manger admitted that it was only yesterday that he became aware of the extent of Reading`s winless spell and the degree to which the supporters have been starved of a home victory.
“I wasn`t aware up until yesterday how long it`s been since we`ve won at home. I mentioned it to the players before the game. We wanted to do it for the supporters. We will get there.”
But it seems getting there will require some degree of patience. Royals supporters are a patient bunch, though, and, by managers` standards, Rodgers is as patient as they come. Who else would be satisfied with four goalless draws in six matches?
Adam Federici – 6
Shaun Cummings – 7
Got forward well
Alex Pearce – 8
Solid at the back
Darren O’Dea – 7
Ryan Bertrand – 6
Got forward well at times
Jem Karacan – 7
Full of energy in midfield
Brynjar Gunnarsson – 7
Linked defence and midfield but tired in the second half
Jimmy Kebe – 7
Gylfi Sigurdsson – 7
Excellent first half display but faded
Brian Howard – 7
Positive debut, always looking to go forward
Noel Hunt – 6
Put in a decent shift upfront
Grzegorz Rasiak (Karacan) – 7
Went close on home debut
Marek Matejovsky (Sigurdsson) – 6
Some nice touches but all in our own half
Replaced the tired Gunnarsson but didn’t get into the game