Stevenage 0-0 Reading: Battling Boro dominate but can't find breakthrough
PUBLISHED: 16:59 06 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:20 06 January 2018
©TGS Photo tgsphoto.co.uk +44 1376 553468
Stevenage and Reading played out an entertaining 0-0 draw at the Lamex in the FA Cup third-round.
The home side had the better of the chances and put in a spirited display against a shaky Royals side but couldn’t find the goal needed to cause a cup upset against the Sky Bet Championship side.
Boro boss Darren Sarll made two changes from the side that beat Cheltenham Town 4-1 on New Years Day.
New signing Tom King replaced Joe Fryer in goal for his debut and 18-year-old Ben Wilmot took the place of Fraser Franks in the back four.
Jaap Stam made seven changes from the team that lost 2-0 to Birmingham City but named a strong Reading side with former Premier League players Modou Barrow, Paul McShane and Leandro Bacuna all in the starting XI.
Stevenage made a bright start as they carved out the games first chances inside 10 minutes.
Ben Kennedy was first to have a go, heading just over from a Joe Martin cross before the left-back delivered again for Danny Newton who nodded over the crossbar as Boro piled on the early pressure.
The visitors looked shaky as Stevenage harried and pressed at every opportunity, ramping up the atmosphere inside a packed Lamex Stadium.
Boro were also moving the ball well and Newton was just inches away from latching onto a through ball from Tom Pett that would surely have seen the home side take a deserved lead.
They came even closer when another Martin delivery caused problems, with Wilmot’s looping header forcing Anssl Jaakkola into an acrobatic save to tip the ball behind.
With half an hour on the clock Reading were yet to register a shot on goal as their aimless possession style and time wasting tactics frustrated the Royals fans who’d made the trip to Hertfordshire.
It appeared to be just a matter of time before the League Two side took the lead with Ben Kennedy next have ago as the 20-year-old saw his shot well blocked after a driving run down the left.
Reading came into the game in the closing stages of the first-half and nearly took the lead against the run of play but, Boro had debutant Tom King to thank as he clawed the ball away from Edwards goal bound header.
Barrow nearly slipped through Garath McCleary for an easy tap in before the Jamaican international fired over from range just moments later as the sides went into the interval level.
Stevenage came out for the second-half and looked to assert their dominance once again as Newton volleyed just wide from range.
The Royals were looking dangerous on the counter attack and would have opened the scoring through McCleary had it not been for a superb sliding tackle from Ronnie Henry.
Martin came close down the other end as his curling free kick was push away by visiting ‘keeper Jaakkola.
The Finland international was called into action again to save from another Martin set piece and to parry away Newton’s goal ward effort.
As the game wore on the chances for both teams became few and far between.
Reading substitute Yann Kermorgant flicked over the bar after a darting run to the near post and Newton again tested Jaakkola with a low drive at his near post.
Some brilliant last ditch defending from Bacuna to turn behind a dangerous Alex Samuel cross that Newton looked certain to tap in for the winner at the back post in injury time while hearts were in Stevenage mouths down the other end as a ball to Barrow looked certain to result in a goal but the former Swansea City striker couldn’t divert the ball into the net on the stretch.
The draw means a replay between the sides at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday, January 16.