Jeff Hendrick’s late volley secured a point for Readin, who came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Watford at the SCL Stadium.

Ismaila Sarr and Ryan Porteous scored either side of the break to put the visitors into a commanding lead, but Tom Ince and Hendrick netted in the final half hour to earn Paul Ince’s side a dramatic point in their fight for Championship survival.

With both sides in mixed form, Reading without a win in 2023, the players were understandably slightly off the boil early on. Full of niggly fouls and loose passes, neither sets of supporters were enamoured with the starts their teams made. Taking almost 20 minutes for the first sniff of a chance, Shane Long chased down a long ball from Junior Hoilett and managed to cut in before spreading the play into Tom Ince. With Andy Yiadom available on the overlap, Ince continued forward toward the goal and let off a side-footed strike, forcing Daniel Bachmann into a save low down to earn a corner. Causing problems from the set-play, the ball was recycled and Ince drilled a cross low across the goal, with Long inches from connecting and surely putting the hosts in the lead.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for the Royals in the first half, finding themselves behind 10 minutes later. A clever ball was dinked over the onrushing defence and the Hornets midfielder tucked the ball home from virtually on the goal line after a cross had found its way to the Senegal international Sarr. This came just moments before the pacy winger could have curled in a strike from the edge of the box, eventually securing his goal. For the final 15 minutes it was all Watford, with Slaven Bilic’s men dominating possession without testing Joe Lumley.

For supporters hoping to see a change in the break, they were in for a disappointing start as it took the visitors just three minutes to double their advantage. New signing Ryan Porteous thundered home a header from a corner to put the Hornets two goals to the good. However, for the remainder of the half the Reading fans would be looking mainly down at the goal in front of the Eamonn Dolan Stand, as Ince’s men looked to mount a comeback. Mamadou Loum and substitute Femi Azeez both had good efforts, forcing Bachmann into saves, but it was the referee who gave the Royals a chance to pull one back after Long was upended in the box. Ince stepped up and beat the Watford stopper to give the hosts hope.

Ismaila Sarr thought he had scored a third shortly after, but the flag cut any celebrations short. Controversy struck in the closing minutes as the Hornets, again, thought they had scored a third. Despite keeping his flag down, the linesman changed his mind after discussion with the referee and the goal was ruled out. That was all the extra oomph the Royals needed and seconds later Hendrick had volleyed the side level directly from a corner to send the SCL Stadium into raptures. Substitute Yakou Meite had a chance, which he blazed over the bar after good work from Azeez, but points were to be shared in the thriller.

Now facing a long trip to the North-East, the Royals face three matches in six days over the coming 10 days.