NEW-LOOK Reading FC were denied victory over relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers by former striker Adam Le Fondre.

The 31-year-old equalised with a trademark predatory goal on the stroke of half-time after Mo Barrow had given Royals a 32nd minute lead with his ninth of the season.

In truth, it was a result that neither side wanted in their bid to secure their Championship status.

But with all five teams below them losing tonight, it means both Reading and Bolton increased their lead over the relegation zone to five points.

Whether that is enough to keep Reading up remains to be seen.

Jaap Stam’s men have won just once in 15 matches and have only picked up three victories at Madejski Stadium this season.

Tonight was a massive chance for them to take a giant stride towards safety against a Bolton side with the worst away record in the division – but they fell short again.

There was no lack of effort from the home side and, although the attendance fell well below five figures again, the backing they received from the fans was one of the highlights of the night.

But they were missing a genuine threat up front and must quickly address that problem or they will continue to flirt with the drop.

Reading Chronicle:

Mo Barrow fires Reading in front againist Bolton.

Stam made a whopping six changes from the side that lost 3-1 at home to Sheffield United a week earlier including a debut for 17-year-old defender, Tom Holmes.

Anssi Jaakkola replaced Vito Mannone in goal, while George Evans, Dave Edwards, Sone Aluko and Barrow all returned.

In fact, the only players to keep their places were skipper Chris Gunter, Liam Moore, Pelle Clement, Chris Martin and Liam Kelly.

It was a seismic shift from Stam in a bid to revive his flagging side.

But to happen in such a massive game for the Royals was a bold move by the Dutchman.

Parkinson, though, went even further by making seven changes from the side beaten by Preston at the weekend.

Reading Chronicle:

Reading's on-loan striker Chris Martin lays the ball off.

Former Royals Andy Taylor and Le Fondre came in along with Will Buckley, Jon Flanagan, Karl Henry, Jan Kirchhoff and Reece Burke while David Wheater, Josh Vela, Antonee Robinson, Tyler Walker and Dorian Dervite were among those missing out.

There was plenty of energy from both sides early on, with Reading recovering from a Holmes mistake that ended with Le Fondre’s shot being blocked.

But Royals responded with Martin collecting Barrow’s lofted pass and lobbing Ben Alnwick only for the ball to land on the roof of the net.

They also won a free-kick just outside the box only for Aluko to smash it into row ‘z’ after Darren Pratley had sent Kelly flying.

Yet Stam’s men only stayed on level terms due to some poor finishing from Le Fondre.

The striker manufactured a clear strike at goal in the 26th minute which Jaakkola managed to tip over the bar.

Then a minute later Kelly gave the ball straight to the Bolton striker 30 yards out, but he went for power with only Jaakkola to beat and skied his shot into the stands.

Reading Chronicle:

Ex-Reading striker Adam Le Fondre, who equalised for Bolton, remonstrates with referee James Linington.

It was a massive let-off for Reading and a furious Moore was quick to make his feelings known.

It certainly brought Royals to their senses as they broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Players were bunched up near the touchline when Martin threaded a neat ball through to Barrow.

The Gambian’s pace took him clear of the last line of Bolton’s defence before he threaded the ball through Alnwick’s legs and into the far corner.

Sadly, Reading threw away their lead with half-time in sight.

It took an incredible block tackle from Edwards to deny Buckley from point-blank range in the 44th minute after Reading’s defence had fallen sleep.

But they failed to heed the warning and conceded a minute later after more woeful defending.

A cross from the left from Morais should have been cleared, but it bounced around the box and Le Fondre was quickest to react, stabbing past Jaakkola to draw the Trotters level.

The goal will have undoubtedly altered the mood in the Royals dressing room at half time.

Reading Chronicle:

Pelle Clement shields the ball.

But the home side were screaming for a penalty eight minutes after the restart when Alnwick clattered Barrow in the box, but referee James Linington did not want to know.

However, Bolton held firm and began to see more of the ball in dangerous positions, with Taylor firing wide in the 58th minute.

It became a struggle for the Royals who were forced to sit deeper and deeper, a sight that began to draw criticism from the stands.

And when they did win a corner in the 74th minute, it was played short to Barrow who side-footed wide from distance.

It was nervy stuff for the home side, though substitute John Swift did test Alnwick from the edge of the area in the 86th minute.

But a minute later Jaakkola was also called into action to save from Craig Noone.

Royals, though, looked like they would nick it at the death, but neither Barrow nor Jon Dadi Bodvarsson could get the connection they needed during a goalmouth scramble in front of the Bolton goal.

It was hardly vintage stuff from the Royals, but they did enough to keep the crowd on their side and they were clapped off at the final whistle.

And with the bottom five clubs – Hull, Barnsley, Birmingham, Burton and Sunderland – all losing tonight, it proved to be a point gained for Stam’s men, and also for Parkinson’s.

Reading face another crunch test at home this Saturday when they host Leeds United (3pm ko).

Reading Chronicle:

Bolton boss and former Reading skipper, Phil Parkinson.

Reading FC: Jaakkola, Gunter, Moore, Holmes, Evans, Edwards, Clement, Kelly, Aluko (Swift 77), Barrow, Martin (Bodvarsson 73). Subs not used: Mannone, Van den Berg, Ilori, Blackett, Smith. Booked: Barrow 33, Edwards 64, Evans 81.

Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Flanagan, Burke, Beevers, A.Taylor, Morais (Noone 67), Pratley, Kirchhoff (Karacan 70), Henry, Le Fondre, Buckley (Wilbraham 81). Subs not used: Dervite, Robinson, Howard, Clough. Booked: Buckley 57, Flanagan 90, Henry 90.

Referee: James Linington.

Attendance: 8,631 (Bolton 484).