SEAN Morrison believes Reading FC’s gutsy display against Queens Park Rangers proves they are still strong promotion contenders.

Royals held Harry Redknapp’s big-spending Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

Garath McCleary put Reading in front with a long-range strike in the 62nd minute, but Rangers badboy Joey Barton levelled on 78 minutes when he fired a free-kick past Alex McCarthy.

It was a drastic improvement on the performance at Hillsborough a week earlier when Royals were trounced 5-2 by Sheffield Wednesday, who were bottom of the Championship at the time and the only team in all four divisions not to have won a game.

And Morrison feels the manner in which Royals bounced back in Saturday’s early kick off will stand them in good stead.

“It was important for the fans that we showed a response to Sheffield Wednesday,” declared Royals’ skipper.

“We knew we could put in a performance like we did against QPR, but to show the fans that Sheffield Wednesday was just a blip was really important.

“We watched the tape of the Sheffield Wednesday game and we didn’t play that badly. In fact, we played some of the best football we have all season but it was just one of those days and we reacted well to it.”

He added: “We played some really good stuff and we stopped QPR knocking the ball about. On average they make 500 passes per game but we stopped them playing and pressed the ball well.

“We passed it around well ourselves, got ourselves ahead when Garath McCleary scored a good goal.

“Unfortunately, we also gave a free-kick away on the edge of the box. Alex McCarthy made some fantastic saves during the game and kept us in it, but he couldn’t do anything about that one.

“It would have been nice to have taken all three points having been ahead in the game, but after what happened at Sheffield Wednesday it shows were are willing to fight, work hard and improve every week.

“We showed we are one of the best teams in the Championship with or without the ball.”

Royals did slip one place to sixth in the table after last weekend’s results and are now 10 points adrift of leaders Burnley going into the two-week international break.

Nigel Adkins’ men also face a tough run of games when they return with trips to Blackburn Rovers and then Nottingham Forest.

Morrison, who is in talks over a new contact, stated: “Defenders take pride in clean sheets and when you concede five goals it hurts.

“I did a radio interview after Sheffield Wednesday and you could tell how hurt I was. Losing like that is never nice but we responded well.

“We showed were are willing to fight, work hard and improve every week.

“We’ve got a big week of training ahead then a couple of days off then we build up to the Blackburn game when everyone comes back.”

++ ALEX PEARCE has been called into the Republic of Ireland squad - just days after being dropped by Reading FC for last Saturday's 1-1 draw with QPR.

The 24-year-old centre-back joins Royals team-mate Stephen Kelly in caretaker boss Noel King's 27-man squad.

Ireland are due to play friendlies against Kaspars Gorkss' Latvia at home this Friday night and Poland away on November 19.

Chris Baird (Northern Ireland) and Wales duo Chris Gunter and Hal Robson-Kanu are also on international duty ++