A frustrating afternoon at the Select Car Leasing Stadium saw Reading forced to settle for a point as Saturday's clash with Hull City ended 1-1. Tom Holmes maiden' strike gave Reading the lead before Malik Wilks hit back in the second half.

Here are The Reading Chronicle's four takeaways from a point that should have been three...

Holmes Gets His Goal

34 minutes into Saturday’s encounter, a tricky cross was delivered from Hull’s right side. Dangled dangerously along the six-yard box, the retreating Tom Holmes stuck out a leg - unfortunately making contact - and sending the ball careening towards his goal. It seemed certain to be the game’s opener, Hull taking the lead through a somewhat fortuitous own goal. Then out of nowhere, Luke Southwood’s giant hand clawed it out.

Ten minutes later the ball was in Hull’s net, this time Holmes completing the job with a quite stupendous bicycle kick. If the own goal would have been harsh on the defender, then the successful strike at the other end was exactly what he deserved. After breaking into the team last season, Holmes has developed into one of Reading’s most reliable defenders and his partnership with Scott Dann was crucial to Royals’ defensive backbone on Saturday. 

Reading Chronicle: Tom Holmes points to the badge after scoring his first Reading goal. Image by: JasonPIXTom Holmes points to the badge after scoring his first Reading goal. Image by: JasonPIX

A graduate of Reading’s esteemed academy, you could see exactly what the special moment meant to Holmes as he wheeled away in celebration of his first Royals goal - and what a goal it was.

The Life Of A Goalkeeper

Luke Southwood has been nothing short of a revelation this season. Beginning the campaign as deputy to Rafael Cabral, Southwood was thrust into action when the Brazilian suffered a broken hand. Now fully recovered, Cabral can’t get back into the Reading first team with Southwood firmly holding onto the number one job.

Reliable and often brilliant, Southwood started on Saturday just as he left off at Swansea, making a stunning reaction save to stop Holmes from putting the ball into his own net. A few drops from set-pieces were a slight concern but Southwood cleaned up his act and seemed headed for another assured performance as the second half began. Then out of nowhere a routine hit from Malik Wilks bounced off the keeper’s gloves and into the net.

It’s disappointing no doubt. It’s disappointing for Southwood, it’s disappointing for his entire team, and of course, it’s disappointing for the Reading support. But thus is the life of a goalkeeper. Forgotten until the bad moments strike, Southwood has earned his mistake. While everyone will be hoping - and expecting it to just be a one-off - Southwood has credit in the bank and his crucial role in this Reading side should not be questioned.

Fighting Till The End

We all know the boat metaphor by now. Used by Reading manager Velijko Paunovic as a means to spark team unity the story goes like this: there’s a boat in the middle of a lake. If each person in the boat rows towards a different destination, the boat will stay stranded in the middle of the lake. But if the group all rows towards the same place, together they can get there.

It worked against Swansea, as Reading twice fought back to win, and even brought out the boat celebration after Andy Carroll's goal to make it 1-1. Facing Hull a week later, Reading took the lead through Holmes and just when it seemed they might be marching up the table with back to back victories, the visitors equalised through Malik Wilks' speculative drive from distance.

Reading Chronicle: Andy Carroll unsuccessfully tries his luck. Image by: JasonPIXAndy Carroll unsuccessfully tries his luck. Image by: JasonPIX

But if the second half started poorly for Velijko Paunovic’s side, they improved greatly following Hull’s goal. Reading had nearly 64% possession and ten shots to Hull’s one in the final 35 minutes while also seeing two strong penalty appeals turned down. Ultimately they were unsuccessful in chasing three points but they also didn’t sit down and accept a draw - Reading were the only team going for three points as time dwindled. That, while scant consolation for not winning the match, is a genuine positive. On another day, almost any other day, Reading would have won this game. Of course, today, they didn't.

Campaign against Reading?

Paunovic certainly thinks so. Speaking after the 1-1 draw, the Reading manager didn’t hold back when discussing the referee’s performance.

Reading Chronicle: Paunovic vents his anger at referee Stephen Martin. Image by: JasonPIXPaunovic vents his anger at referee Stephen Martin. Image by: JasonPIX

“We don’t have VAR but the ref today did a very good job positioning himself. But I don’t understand. You know I don’t like to talk about officiating. But these kinds of decisions cost us the playoffs last year. And this year? Hopefully nothing. But today (it cost us) at least two points. That’s difficult to cope with. And it’s not the first time. Every team can probably look at their own season and say points were also taken here and there. 

“Today it’s just the culmination. Here at Reading, we feel that something is wrong with how we’re treated. And that’s difficult to live with. But we will focus, refocus on controllables, and hope that this is genuine. Although it has to be looked at because I believe everyone should be held accountable the same as we, especially the managers are. We will refocus on controllables and that is our life.”

Paunovic rightly feels aggrieved after his side were thrice denied a penalty, the third shout, in particular, seeming a stonewall infringement as the ball struck Di’Shon Bernard’s hand. A lot went into Reading’s fall from the playoff spots last season but the manager believes refereeing decisions cost them their spot just as it cost them two points today. Are Reading being disproportionality targeted by the officials? Perhaps - at least according to Paunovic.