Dion Charles’s sixth goal of the season ultimately came in a losing cause as Wanderers paid the price for missed chances before succumbing to a painful late winner at Reading, writes Pete Oliver.
Charles made it six goals in as many games with an explosive finish mid-way through the first half to put the Whites in front.
That should have been the platform for a comprehensive victory for Ian Evatt’s men who made a succession of real goal-scoring opportunities either side of half-time in a performance that should not have seen them travelling home empty-handed.
But the lack of a killer instinct came back to hurt them as Reading were let off the hook and then struck twice in the final quarter of an hour to hand the Whites a first away loss of the season and ease some of the problems at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Wanderers went with the same starting line-up that had faced Derby in their last League One win before the international break, although injury kept Carlos Mendes Gomes, Paris Maghoma and Zac Ashworth out of the picture.
Reading had been dealt the blow of a further points’ deduction in the build-up but were seeking a third successive home league win to take them back out of the bottom four.
The home fans showed their frustration at the club’s off-the-field issues by bombarding the pitch with tennis balls in the 16th-minute to force a stoppage in play.
And Wanderers then added to the Royals’ problems immediately after the re-start when Charles fired them in front.
The Whites had just been starting to make their presence felt before the interruption and got their reward when Kyle Dempsey helped the ball forward for Charles to out-muscle defender Tyler Bindon and drill a superb finish beyond David Button and into the bottom corner.
Reading were rocked and the Whites quickly had a chance to make it 2-0 but from George Thomason’s pass, Victor Adeboyejo took one touch too many and his final effort was snuffed out.
Looking to make the most of that reprieve, the hosts continued to carry a threat on the break and after being booked for simulation in the penalty area, striker Dominic Bollard scuffed a chance at the far post.
Femi Azeez also thundered an effort against the crossbar but Wanderers should have doubled their lead by then as Adeboyejo saw another effort blocked by Button after the outstanding Thomason and Dempsey had again opened up the Reading defence.
It was wide open stuff and five minutes before the scheduled end of the first half the Whites almost struck again following an inventive set-play which ended with Josh Sheehan delivering a cross which Eoin Toal met with a close-range header blocked on the line by the busy Button.
Charles also had another chance in stoppage time after Adeboyejo had teed him up with Wanderers frustrated to lead by just one at the break.
They certainly didn’t settle for what they had, however, as Evatt’s men started the second half on the front foot with Charles again going close as he stretched to try and turn in an excellent Dempsey cross at the far post.
But while there was just one goal in it Reading were far from out of the contest and it took an excellent finger-tip save from Nathan Baxter to turn an effort from substitute Paul Mukairu over the top as the Royals sniffed a possible equaliser.
Wanderers needed to make sure and with just under 20 minutes to go they almost made things safe with another slick move which ended with Sheehan squaring the ball for the under-pressure Charles to steer the ball just the wrong side of the post.
When Charles was clipped outside the penalty area as he ran in on goal, it might have been Reading that were down to 10 men.
But nothing was given in Wanderers’ favour and the nagging feeling that the lack of a second goal would prove costly wouldn’t go away and sop it proved with 13 minutes to go Reading got themselves level when Savage lined up a shot and from almost 25 yards out arrowed the ball home off the inside of a post.
Suddenly Reading sensed they might get a winner as Azeez tested Baxter, who made another fine save, and with six minutes to go they did grab all three points.
Substitute Caylan Vickers turned in a cross at the near post and Wanderers’ frustration was compounded in stoppage time when Toal collected a second yellow card as the Whites finished an ultimately fruitless afternoon with 10 men.
Wanderers: Baxter; Jones, Almeida Santos, Toal; Thomason; Dacres-Cogley, Sheehan (Bodvarsson 89); Dempsey, Williams (Iredale 75); Charles (Nlundulu, 82), Adeboyejo (Jerome 75). Substitutes: Forrester, Morley, Hutchinson.
Booked: Almeida Santos, Toal, Williams, Thomason, Jerome
Sent off: Toal
Reading: Button; Yiadom, Bindon, Abbey, Mola (McIntyre, 73); Azeez, Hutchinson, Savage, Knibbs (Elliott 56); Ehibhatiomhan (Vickers 82), Ballard (Mukairu 56). Substitutes: Boyce-Clarke, Dean, Mbengue, Vickers.
Booked: Ballard, Yiadom, Savage.
Referee: Lee Swabey