An 80th minute equaliser from second half substitute Steve De Ridder earned Championship leaders Southampton a point against Reading at the Madejski Stadium. High flying Saints were behind when Mikele Leigertwood put the hosts in front after 71 minutes. They found themselves in more trouble five minutes later when the skipper Dean Hammond was sent off for a late challenge, resulting in a second yellow card.
On a brisk Saturday evening in Berkshire, the Royals started the game much stronger than the visiting side, dominating early possession and creating chances. Saints centre-back Jose Fonte was punished with a yellow card in the 12th minute for his deliberate handball 25 yards out, however Reading failed to capitalise on the chance. The Royals continued to press on, with strikers Simon Church and Adam Le Fondre troubling Jos Hooiveld and Jose Fonte in the Saints defensive third.
The pressure resulted in a series of corners for the home side, as their defenders advanced forward-looking to head the ball home. Despite good clearances by the Saints back line, ‘keeper Kelvin Davis was forced into action by Le Fondre making a good low save. Reading continued to press with Mikele Leigertwood this time the man to bring Davis into the game. Davis excellently tipped over the bar, as the former QPR man drove a powerful shot from 30 yards out.
Church and Le Fondre both tested Davis once more before the close of the half, but the Southampton stopper was equal to them.
The sides ended the first half level, despite Reading dominating the entirety of it.
Aaron Martin was bought on to replace Jose Fonte at the heart of Southampton’s defence, Reading remained unchanged for the start of the second half. It was Martin who produced Southampton’s best chance of the game on the 53rd minute, when he forced Royals ‘keeper Adam Federici into an excellent one-handed save.
The game remained extremely well poised and balanced as both teams searched for the points. Saints manager Nigel Adkins introduced Steve De Ridder in place of David Connolly in the 58th minute. The change looked to work instantly, as De Ridder was involved in build up play, which left Richard Chaplow in the clear. However, Chaplow hit his shot too close to Federici and the ball was cleared.
After an incisive breakaway, Southampton skipper Dean Hammond fouled on the edge of the area, giving Reading a free kick in a dangerous position and earning Hammond a yellow card. Jobi McAnuff was only denied by the post from the free kick, however Mikele Leigertwood was there to smash home the rebound giving Reading a deserved lead.
Less than five minutes after falling behind, Dean Hammond was sent off for a second bookable offence. With Saints down to ten men, the 4,200 away following looked to be leaving the Madejski with nothing.
They were proved wrong in the 80th minute, when Steve De Ridder picked up the ball from Guly Do Prado. De Ridder danced through the Reading defence and smashed the ball home off the bar from six yards out. Reading manager Brian McDermott made two substitutions to try to regain the lead. It wasn’t enough.
The game ended one a piece. Southampton remain three points clear at the top of the npower Championship. Reading remain 14th, 7 points clear of safety.