The starting line-up again had a couple of changes due to suspension, internationals, and other mysterious reasons. Bernal, probably due for a lengthy ban following two red cards this season, was out for his first suspension of the season. Meanwhile Hunter was off a bit injured at an international as was Bobby for Bulgaria. Amazingly Quinn dropped himself and placed Morley into the team. Sal Bibbo continued in goal and Holsgrove and Hopkins jumped into the centre of defence.
Reading got underway well with Booty quickly proving dangerous down the right hand side. After just 10 minutes we cut in well inside the area and was bought down. I didn't have a good view but I was pleasantly suprised when the ref pointed to the spot! Yes! Penalty and the dream start as Morley stepped up. He struck the ball with power, for a moment I thought it was going wide, but it slammed into the bottom of the left post and across the line. 1-0 to the R's!
Reading kept up the pressure in what I already thought was an improved performance. Wdowczyk tried a long shot bringing a save from the Stoke City keeper. Stoke replied quickly and made it look as though they'd actually come to add another win to their three game 100percent start to the season. They won a free kick just out from the middle which thankfully was driven well over the bar. Morley was involved yet again getting a great pass on the left wing before delivering a superb cross to Martie Williams free in the middle of the box. Williams had time and space and the whole goal to shoot at from just a few yards out. Surely 2-0 to Reading? Nope, the ball flew into orbit and harmlessly around the galaxy.
The game a remained a bit end to end with the ref determined to stop the flow - giving a number of dodgy decisions to break up play and generally annoy the entire crowd. First I thought he must be from Stoke, but then it went the other way as well when we won some dodgy decisions. And there was always that penalty after ten minutes. Hmmm. Not every offside was given but Stoke kept coming forward and Reading's best form of defense was the cunning offside trap - which worked almost every time.
Then after half an hour Stoke won a free kick just right of centre right on the edge of the box. The free kick was stunning - into the right of the net to make it 1-1. Couldn't fault anyone except maybe Sal who looked wrong placed but made an excellent attempt to reach it.
The rest of the first half belonged to Nogan's goal attempts. Gooding played a great ball through the middle to Nogan. Nogan beautifully stripped off his marker, stode through and drove his shot in - forcing a good save from the keeper. Ok, it was straight in the middle of the goal. But it was great to see us coming through the middle and going direct for goal with a powerful shot on target. Just when I was feeling happy about it up popped Nogan again and tried another one bringing another save. Stoke hit the bar, then Williams had a shot on target for us. Then a great move almost saw Morley put it away.
It was a great Reading move. Nogan in the middle played it to Booty on the right who played in the cross to Morley coming in from the left. Morley his it well but into the advancing keeper who made the save. So 1-1 at half time but Reading looking the better team.
Reading started the second half brightly with Bodin and Booty putting in some crosses but it was Stoke who seemed most likely to score to start with. City had a penalty turned down (it never was), then a Stoke cross from the right saw a shot hit the left post - then a scorching shot moments later just over the bar and into the away support.
Again Morley could have scored in the middle. Holsgrove played a great ball to Wdowcyzk legging it down the left. The cross was on the floor and passed the entire defence and Nogs and ran onto Morley. He seemed so suprised to actually get the round thing that he fluffed his shot.
Then Stoke made it 1-2 - the ball passing a wrong footed Bibbo in the Reading goal. The away support goes mental like they've just won the FA Cup or something.
Gilkes came on for Parkie and Archie replaced Nogs. Two fairly reasonable substitutions I thought. Gilkes introduction seemed to make an immediate difference and Reading seem dangerous and they controlled the last 15 minutes of the game. Where Gooding and Bodin had linked well before, Gilkes and Bodin linked superbly down the left. Reading kept pushing forward looking strong and the careful passing football - that bit more direct than against Wycombe - eventually paid off. The ball came from the left again - this time to Holsgrove advancing through the middle on the edge of the area. Holsgrove took it beautifully sending a scorching volley through a crowd of players and dipping it under the bar. YES! A superb chorus of 'You're not singing anymore' and it's 2-2. A perfect answer from Holsgrove who had been booed at the start of the game by the home crowd. Why? There's 11 of the opposition to have a go at - why have a go at our own players? Stupid. Personally I thought Holsgrove had a great game - it was excellent to see him bang in the equaliser.
Reading kept pushing for a winner but Stoke remained dangerous on the break so in the end a good point and an excellent afternoons entertainment. Shite ref mind you. Nogs is at last giving a hint at a return to form. He may not have scored but he was close. Booty and Bodin both had good games again and Gooding was his usual determined self. So an improved R's performance and a good sign for the rest of the season. Hey, remember Stoke are top!