Report: Reading 2-1 Bolton
Wanderers slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday afternoon despite a valiant performance against the Royals.
With the Whites denied three times inside the opening quarter of the first period by former Bolton keeper Ali Al Habsi, the home side struck against the run of play through Lucas Piazon who capitalised on a loose ball in the Whites’ defence just short of the half hour mark.
The Royals then doubled their advantage shortly after, Danny Williams the man this time firing into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the penalty box to ensure a comfortable lead at the break for Steve Clarke’s side.
Wanderers rallied inside the second period to pull themselves back into the game and were handed a lifeline with ten minutes to go as Liam Feeney thundered the ball home from the penalty spot to set up something of a grandstand finish.
The final stages of the clash saw Neil Lennon’s men throw everyone forward in a bid to snatch a point, but their efforts were ultimately in vain as the home side held out for the victory.
There was one chance for Wanderers from the side who started against Bristol City a fortnight ago, with Neil Danns replacing Stephen Dobbie who was missing throughout injury.
There were places on the bench meanwhile for Emile Heskey and Gary Madine with the latter having recovered from a knock sustained against the Robins two weeks ago.
The game began fairly evenly, with neither side able to make their mark inside the opening minutes of the clash although Nick Blackman did see a snap shot comfortably saved by Ben Amos.
Wanderers enjoyed the opening chance of the match however with seven minutes gone as, following a superb delivery by Jose Casado from a free-kick, Shola Ameobi saw his point blank range header palmed away by Ali Al Habsi with Danns unable to turn home the rebound.
The home side then proceeded to hit back though, although Bolton did come close once again through Mark Davies whose shot from a Liam Feeney through ball was blocked by Al Habsi and a Darren Pratley header.
The chances certainly bred confidence amongst the Bolton team, with Neil Lennon’s side looking menacing on the break.
Al Habsi was still thwarting the visitors however, determined to keep his former employers at bay.
Out of nowhere however, the home side found themselves in front arguably against the run of play as Lucas Piazon capitalised on a loose ball by Prince-Desire Gouano, with Amos’ attempted clearance bouncing off the Reading man and into the net with 16 minutes of the half remaining.
It was almost two just four minutes later as Oliver Norwood unleashed from the edge of the box, only to be denied by the palms of the Bolton keeper.
Buoyed by their opener, the Royals extended their lead with ten minutes of the half remaining as, following a counter attack, Danny Williams placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the box.
A cruel scoreline on Wanderers given their first half efforts, it was almost a third for the hosts through Piazon with five minutes of the first period left but he managed to put his header into the side netting.
As two minutes of additional time were indicated, Bolton tried to halve the deficit but David Wheater saw his header from a down-field free-kick fly harmlessly wide as the half time whistle was blown.
With no changes are the break, the game got back underway with Reading breaking forward although Wanderers stood firm against their pressure early on.
It was certainly a frustrating time for the Whites, with everything appearing to conspire against Wanderers as they bid to pull themselves back into the clash.
Bolton looked to have pulled themselves back into contention with the half ten minutes old after good work from Pratley with the captain’s cross finding Ameobi, only for the frontman’s header to cannon off the crossbar.
A chance which definitely helped the Whites find some form of momentum, they were unfortunately still struggling to make any real inroads into Reading territory.
With 25 minutes of the game remaining, Wanderers made a real statement of intent with the introduction of Madine and Max Clayton into the mix in place of Ameobi and Spearing.
Clayton almost made an immediate impact after teeing up Pratley in the area, only to see the skipper’s effort blocked.
With the game now inside its last quarter, Nick Blackman became the latest Reading player to be denied by Amos with the keeper tipping the striker’s effort over the crossbar with a goal seemingly imminent.
Heskey meanwhile became Bolton’s final throw of the dice with 14 minutes to go, the frontman replacing Davies in the Trotters’ line-up.
Wanderers were then handed a lifeline though with ten minutes left after Pratley was fouled in the area, with Feeney slotting the resulting spot-kick past Al Habsi to give the Whites hope of snatching a result.
Setting up something of a grandstand finish at the Madejski Stadium, Bolton rallied inside the closing stages to force an equaliser with Reading forced onto the backfoot as the visitors pressed.
Five minutes of additional time was indicated to the home crowd’s dismay, but it was exactly what Wanderers wanted to see as they threw men forward.
Try as they might however, the Whites couldn’t find a way through the Reading defence with the home side nervously holding out for all three points.