Reading 0-0 Newcastle: Championship leaders held at Madejski
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 07/03/17 11:42pm
Newcastle saw their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship cut to three points after they were held to a goalless draw at Reading on Tuesday.
Matt Ritchie hit the post in the first half as the Magpies created the more clear-cut chances.
But Reading had the better of the game after the break with Garath McCleary twice going close and then striking the bar deep into injury time.
Reading stay fifth in the Championship while Newcastle remain top, three points ahead of Brighton, who won 2-0 at Rotherham.
The draw completes a tricky run of fixtures for the Magpies, who had won at promotion rivals Brighton and Huddersfield before their trip to the Madejski.
They could have fallen behind inside the opening minute against play-off hopefuls Reading as Lewis Grabban headed wide from six yards out.
But after the hosts made a positive start, it was Newcastle who took control and started to create chances.
Yoan Gouffran saw a header saved before Jonjo Shelvey's volley was kept out by Ali Al-Habsi.
While Reading enjoyed most of the possession, they struggled to keep the visitors at bay as Gouffran again tested Al-Habsi.
Ritchie then saw a shot hit the post and roll along the goalline, with Paul McShane's last-ditch clearance preventing Gouffran from turning in the rebound.
But the Royals largely controlled the second half, with McCleary seeing a shot deflected wide shortly after half-time and Yann Kermorgant's close-range effort blocked from the subsequent corner.
Daryl Murphy saw a header saved by Al-Habsi after a rare Newcastle attack, before another deflected McCleary effort went just past the post.
And McCleary almost won the game with nearly the final kick as he collected Danny Williams' clever backheel, cut into the box and then struck the bar.
Reading boss Jaap Stam:
"We played very well in how we were patient on the ball. You know if you play a side like Newcastle, who were looking to play defensively and on the counter-attack, it's going to be hard to create chances. If you are not patient on the ball yourself, you lose that ball and basically you are open and they can hurt you.
"We got warned in the first half but we still did okay on the ball. Maybe certain choices we could have made better to make it more difficult for them. In the second half, we totally dominated the game. We kept control, kept our composure and let them run.
"We had a couple of chances where we could have scored but we didn't do that and that's why it's a draw. But I'm very happy with the performance of the team."
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez:
"It was a difficult game tonight. But we had enough chances to score and, although we have lost two points, maybe we can be happy with one point.
"It's important to be solid. The team is consistent and knows what to do. If we can carry on doing that, we can draw games but we will win a lot of them."