READING FC gained a hard-fought point in a full-blooded stalemate with Aston Villa.

Royals played a full part in today’s lively draw but failed to find the all-important breakthrough.

However, a clean sheet and solid performance counts as another step in the right direction for boss Jose Gomes.

And on another day the result could have been different as Reading were denied an apparent clear-cut penalty when Alan Hutton pushed Ovie Ejaria over in the first half.

Villa, though, will point to a number of goalscoring chances they also created, with Emiliano Martinez making several top saves including an incredible stop to deny Tammy Abraham in the closing stages.

Gomes made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Bolton on Tuesday night.

Callum Harriott, Lewis Baker, Ovie Ejaria and Tyler Blackett all came into the starting line up, while Sone Aluko, Mo Barrow and Chris Gunter dropped to the bench.

There was no Leandro Bacuna following his £3m deadline-day move to Cardiff City and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was missing after the birth of his daughter yesterday.

Yakou Meite was also among the subs having looks as thought he would move on in the transfer window, while Emiliano Martinez and Matt Miazga made their home debuts, as did Nelson Oliveria after the on-loan Norwich striker passed a late fitness test.

There was a minute’s applause before kick off in memory of ex-Reading captain Johnny Walker and an air of expectation about this news-look Royals side.

It was not without foundation as Royals started brightly and knocked the ball around with confidence.

Harriot and Oliveira caused the Villa defence plenty of problems and a kinder bounce from a booming Martinez kick downfield to Baker almost led to a clear opening.

However, it was Villa who almost took the lead in the 12th minute when Martinez pushed away an Anwar El Ghazi curler straight to Tammy Abraham, but the striker could only head wide when under pressure from Liam Moore.

Royals, though, got away with a possible penalty shout when the ball appeared to brush Miazga’s hand in the box when under no pressure, but referee Geoff Eltrincham waved play on.

Royals looked a threat on the break, and they went close on two occasions midway through the first half.

John Swift found Harriot out wide and he fed Baker, who picked out Oliveria with a cross, only for the striker to hook his shot over the bar.

Then moments later Baker’s excellent delivery from the right forced Glenn Whelan into a desperate clearance on the edge of the Villa six-yard box with Royals bearing down.

But Villa’s luck was out again when they hit the woodwork in the 31st minute.

Martinez failed to collect a corner from the right and a glancing header from former Royal Tommy Alphick rattled against the crossbar, much to the keeper’s relief.

Reading Chronicle:

Emiliano Martinez pulled off some stunning saves againist Aston Villa.

Royals wasted a decent opportunity soon after when Baker sent a free-kick from just outside the area over the top before Ejaria’s shot from 12 yards was blocked from another dangerous Swift delivery.

Ejaria was in the thick of it again when his penalty claim was rejected four minutes before the break.

The on-loan Liverpool midfielder looked to have been pushed in the back by Hutton as he closed in on goal, but Eltrincham did not want to know.

Royals remained on top and Villa were indebted to a Lovre Kalinic’s superb one-handed save to keep out Oliveira’s 25-yard drive.

Then neither Oliveria nor Miazga could find a finishing touch to Swift’s wicked free-kick from deep left on the stroke of half time.

The game’s third penalty shout arrived four minutes into the second half when Ghazi went down in a challenge with Andy Rinomhota, only for Eltrincham to book the Villa midfielder for diving.

Yet the tables were turned soon after when Oliveria also picked up a yellow for simulation as he rose to meet a Swift cross.

Villa enjoyed a purple patch at that point, but Andy Yiadom came to Reading’s rescue with a goal-saving challenge on Abraham as the visitors’ striker was ready to pull the trigger.

Then Albert Adomah nodded over from a corner for Smith’s side.

But Reading were struggling to retain possession as they had earlier and looked vulnerable every time Villa attacked.

A flurry of substitutions gave Royals a breather, and Aluko dragged a shot well wide moment after coming on with 20 minutes left to go.

Yet they soon lost Oliveira to a nasty facial injury, with Meite coming on as his replacement.

Nevertheless, the hosts were let off the hook with eight minutes remaining when Martinez pulled off a stunning save to keep out Abraham’s header from close range.

A frenetic finish ensued including eight minutes of time added on, but neither side could find a breakthrough and had to settle for a point.

Royals remain in the relegation zone and one points from safety after relegation rivals Rotherham and Millwall also drew 0-0.

Reading travel to Sheffield Wednesday next Saturday (3pm).

Reading FC: Martinez, Yiadom, Miazga, Moore (c), Blackett, Baker (Aluko 70), Rinomhota, Ejaria, Swift, Harriott (Richards 67), Oliveira (Meite 73). Subs not used: Walker, Gunter, McCleary, Barrow. Booked: Swift 53, Oliveira 55, Yiadom 62.

Aston Villa: Kalinic, Taylor, Elphick, Hutton ©, Adomah (Kodjia 74), Mings, McGinn (Jedinak 89), Hourihane, Ghazi, Whelan (Carroll 74), Abraham. Subs: Steer, Davis, Elmohamady, Hause. Booked: Ghazi 49, Whelan 49, Carroll 87, Hourihane 90.

Referee: Geoff Altringham.

Attendance: 17,458 (Aston Villa 2,135).