Reading were left frustrated by a resolute Sheffield Wednesday as the hosts produced a disciplined performance to earn a point.
If you were asked to describe a Tony Pulis side you would probably use terms such as ‘tough to break down’, ‘disciplined’ and perhaps shot-shy.
Such descriptions were particularly apt when assessing ten-man Sheffield Wednesday’s dogged display against an attackingly-fluent Reading.
Going into the game the Owls languished in the relegation zone, having earned just three wins so far this term, whilst their Berkshire opponents sat at the other end of the table in sixth.
However, as the two sides trudged out at a cold Hillsborough, both would have been eyeing three points to improve on their respective positions.
The visitors’ dominated proceedings in the opening ten minutes, with former Wednesday man Lucas Joao going close early on with a caressed effort across the face of goal.
However, Pulis’ side grew into the game with Kadeem Harris looking lively down the right-hand side, whilst Adam Reach was tenacious in his closing down of the Reading game.
This tenacity soon became a feature of the hosts’ play and the midfield’s harassing forced the Royals into mistakes.
Alfa Semedo fell victim to this pressing as he was robbed of the ball just inside the Wednesday half before Harris set Reach on his way down the left-hand side.
The winger then played a sumptuous ball into the box where an unmarked Calum Paterson stole in to nod home only his second goal of the season and give the hosts the lead.
It was certainly a goal that neither Liam Moore nor Josh Laurent will want to see again as their lax marking allowed Paterson to run in unchallenged and head home.
Wednesday were now well on top and Paterson was unlucky not to add a second when he flicked Harris’ excellent cross from the right wide of the post.
Reading, nonetheless, remained a threat going forward with Michael Olise’s free-kick rattling the post and the combination of Ovie Ejaria and Omar Richards causing the Owls all sorts of problems down the left-flank.
On the half-hour mark, Wednesday’s task of keeping out the Royals got a whole lot more difficult when the nineteen-year-old Liam Shaw was sent off after a heavy challenge on Omar Richards.
It was arguably a harsh sending off given Shaw did ultimately win the ball but his left foot was too high for referee Oliver Langford’s liking as he went in to make the challenge and he promptly received his marching orders.
The game turned on this decision as the hosts had to tactically readjust to compensate for the loss of Shaw who had been excellent and from then on in, the hosts were forced to sit back and defend.
Thereafter, Reading bombarded the Wednesday goal with Olise and Joao going close before an Adam Reach goal-line clearance prevented Richards from grabbing an equaliser.
Pulis’ side were sitting deeper and deeper as they endeavoured to stop the tricky trio of Ejaria, Olise and Richards.
Eventually, Richards’ pace got the better of Harris, who brought the left-back down clumsily on the left-edge of the box.
The twenty-two-year-old then got back to his feet to swing in an inviting free-kick which was headed in at the back post by who else but Lucas Joao.
The Portuguese striker evaded the clutches of Paterson before nodding in his thirteenth goal of the season.
Wednesday were now clinging on for dear life and were completely unable to escape from their own half but the visitors were somehow unable to find a goal before half-time.
The half-time whistle was met with a palpable relief from the hosts, who had weathered a real storm in the final fifteen minutes of the half but Veljko Paunovic’ side would have known they should really have been ahead.
At the interval, Pulis made a triple change which saw Dominic Iorfa replace Barry Bannan as the Owls’ boss switched to a back-five, with Iorfa sitting between Böner and Lees.
The opening exchanges of the second-half played out much as expected with Wednesday sitting deep, spoiling the Royals’ fun in attack.
Michael Olise continued to be a threat and the hosts were relieved to see his rasping drive go just over the crossbar, mid-way through the second half.
Richards and Ejaria continued to look dangerous down the left, however, and the former had a strong penalty shout dismissed after Odubajo looked to have brought him down in the box.
He then played a defence-splitting pass through to Joao who fluffed his lines, allowing Joe Wildsmith to collect.
Pulis’ side were camped in their own half for much of the second period as Reading continued to relentlessly flood forward but the visitors failed to make their pressure pay.
Chances for Joao, substitute Sone Aluko and Ejaria came and went as the visitors failed to find that extra bit of quality in the final third.
As the contest entered its final throes, Paunovic’ side were twice left feeling aggrieved by the referee’s dismissal of two strong penalty claims.
The first appeal came with just two minutes of normal time remaining when it appeared Josh Laurent’s shot had hit the arm of Adam Reach before the winger cleared his lines.
Then in stoppage time, Laurent looked to have been hauled down by Elias Kachunga but Oliver Langford pointed for a free-kick the other way to the utter disbelief of those in red.
The Owls had truly been given a let-off as both could have easily been given, with even Pulis admitting that he ‘thought the referee was going to give two penalties’.
The final whistle mercifully came for Wednesday but it seemed that the visitors could have played for another ninety minutes and still not have found the net.
Pulis will greet this result with a tinge of satisfaction as his players carried out his second-half game plan to perfection in typical Pulis-side disciplined fashion.
Meanwhile, Paunovic and his players will feel as though they should have taken all three points after a multitude of chances and a handful of legitimate penalty claims.
It was a fascinating encounter which saw Reading move up to fourth, whilst Wednesday remain second from bottom.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Palmer (Odubajo 45’), Lees, Böner, Van Aken (Pelupessy 45’), Harris (Kachunga 90+1), Luongo, Shaw, Banna (Iorfa 45’), Reach, Paterson
Unused subs: Dawson, Dele-Bashiru, Penney, Brown, Rhodes
Reading: Rafael, Holmes (Esteves 70’), Morrison, Moore, Richards, Rinomhota (Aluko 70’), Laurent, Semedo, Olise (Baldock 75’), Ejaria, Lucas Joao
Unused subs: Walker, Gibson, McIntyre, Watson, Tetek, Watson, Onen
Referee: Oliver Langford
Sheffield Wednesday: Luongo, Paterson
Sheffield Wednesday: Shaw (30’)
Scorers: Sheffield Wednesday: Calum Paterson (12’)
Reading: Lucas Joao (44’)
HT Score: 1-1
FT Score: 1-1
Man of the Match: Omar Richards (Reading)