Sheffield Wednesday 0 Reading 0: Steve Bruce’s home debut ends in stalemate

Steve Bruce's first home match in charge of Sheffield Wednesday ended in disappointment as the Owls were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatened Reading.

Saturday, 9th February 2019, 3:59 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th February 2019, 4:02 pm
Dom Howson's match report

Wednesday enjoyed the better of the first half but spurned a number of presentable opportunities to get their noses in front.

But the Royals, battling to retain their Championship status, improved as the match wore on and fully merited their point.

Despite recording their seventh clean sheet in the last 11 matches, the result has dealt a big blow to Wednesday's hopes of mounting a late play-off challenge.

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New boss Bruce was introduced to the crowd before kick-off. The four-time promotion received a big ovation as he waved to three sides of the ground.

His Wednesday team made a strong start, with George Boyd forcing Emi Martinez into a smart reflex save inside the opening two minutes.

The hosts pressed Reading high up the pitch and played at a high tempo in the early stages. Adam Reach, Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri all tried their luck from long range but former Owls loanee Martinez postioned himself well to keep them at bay.

Against the run of play, Reading almost broke the deadlock in the 14th minute. Liam Moore's volley from Sone Aluko's dangerous centre was acrobatically turned behind by Keiren Westwood.

Things then turned a little scrappy, with both sides guilty of giving the ball away cheaply.

Morgan Fox, given a new lease of life since the departure of Jos Luhukay, met Reach's corner with a bullet header but the full-back was unable to keep it down.

Although the Owls enjoyed the lionshare of possession, Reading occasionally looked dangerous on the counter attack. Lewis Baker's strike from outside the penalty area flew agonisingly off target following good work by Mo Barrow.

Reach was the big dangerman for Wednesday. He combined neatly with Barry Bannan, who was wearing the captain's armband in the absence of Tom Lees, only to see his cross desperately hacked away by John Swift.

Moments later, Fletcher raced on to Forestieri's exquisite through ball but Martinez was equal to his left foot drive.

Reach, utilised on the right flank, exchanged passes with Fletcher before dragging a shot off target as Wednesday continued to press hard for the opener.

There was big let-off for Bruce's men when Barrow raced on to a punt upfield and knocked the ball around Westwood but the Owls shot-stopper quickly atoned for his error, expertly spreading himself to block Barrow's asstempt.

It was Sam Hutchinson's turn on the stroke of half-time to be denied by Martinez after Forestieri brilliantly pulled the ball back to the defensive midfielder.

Reading, seeking their first victory on the road, wasted a glorious chance to take the lead in the 49th minute. Attacking midfielder Lewis Baker put Aluko in the clear but the forward dwelled on the ball, allowing Hector to nip in and make an outstanding sliding challenge. The loose ball dropped invitingly to Swift and he was denied a sight at goal by Hutchinson.

It was a sloppy start to the second half by Wednesday and Garath McCleary nearly caught them napping, drilling a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards.

Westwood underlined his shot-stopping prowess by tipping over Baker's deflected 25 yard drive as the Royals enjoyed their best spell of the contest.

Reading were on top and Baker, a lively figure in the advanced midfield role, scuffed a left foot volley wide when well-placed to add to their frustration.

After a laboured second half showing, it was no surprise Bruce opted to freshen up his attacking options. He took off Boyd in the 65th minute and gave a home debut to Newcastle United loanee Rolando Aarons.

Wide man Aarons almost made an instant impact. His direct run had Reading's defence back-pedalling but the Royals back four stood firm and cleared the ball to safety.

Wednesday came agonisingly close to grabbing a winner deep into added on time but Reach blazed over from inside the six-yard box after a terrific run and pull back near the byline by Liam Palmer.

Owls: Westwood; Palmer, Thorniley, Hector, Fox; Boyd (Aarons 65), Hutchinson, Bannan, Reach; Forestieri (Joao 75), Fletcher (Nuhiu 86). Substitutes: Dawson, Pelupessy, Iorfa, Lazaar.

Reading: Martinez; Yiadom, Moore, Miazga, Blackett; Baker (Harriott 72), Rinomhota; McCleary (Meite 60), Swift, Barrow; Aluko (Dadi Bodvarsson 79). Substitutes: Walker, McShane, Richards, Kelly.

Attendance: 23,412.

Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)