The Reds suffered their first home league defeat of the season as two first half goals from Garath McCleary and John Swift sent The Royals home with all three points, despite Adam Armstrong scoring his second in three matches with a terrific volley late in the match.
The away side had to play the whole second half with 10 men, after goalscorer McCleary was shown a straight red for violent conduct on Conor Hourihane. Daniel Williams could have followed his colleague to the dressing room shortly after due to a stamp off the ball on Hourihane, but was only shown a yellow.
Despite constant pressure from the Reds and shots on goal, Ali Al-Habsi saved everything that came at him to ensure the away team took the points.
Following Tuesday night’s superb 4-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux, Paul Heckingbottom named an unchanged starting line-up.
The match begin in quick attacking fashion from both teams, as firstly Yann Kermorgant went close, being denied by Angus MacDonald who blocked his goal-bound effort inside the area. Quickly up the other end of the pitch, Ryan Kent teased his defender on the wing before cutting inside and unleashing a thunderous 25 yard strike which cannoned off the bar.
The first goal of the match then came within the first ten minutes. Following a Reds corner, the Royals broke quickly up the pitch. John Swift collected the ball in the area and went round Davies, being brought down, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.
Davies then saved the resulting penalty, diving low to his left, but McCleary who took the original strike fired home the rebound to put his side ahead.
The Reds looked to hit back quickly, roared on by the Oakwell crowd who responded to going behind by standing to their feet singing ‘Barnsley till I die.’ Firstly, Adam Hammill broke into the box and fired a low effort which Al-Habsi saved well and pushed away from goal. Just moments after, last season’s top goalscorer Sam Winnall headed over a free-kick from Hourihane.
Man of the Match Andy Yiadom then made two much needed clearances to stop Reading extending their lead further, but it was only temporary rest-bite. John Swift, who was brought down for the penalty, then doubled the lead with a superb 25 yard curling strike into the top corner.
Following Reading’s two goal advantage, the match then had further controversy. The scorer of the first goal, McCleary, was given his marching orders with a straight red card due to violent conduct following his decision to lash out on Conor Hourihane. There were no protests from his teammates who accepted the dismissal.
Just moments later, Danny Williams could have been sent off as well. Hourihane was again the man involved, as Williams stamped on his ankle off the ball. The referee blew his whistle for the incident and gave Williams a yellow card, this time.
Just before the break Al Habsi denied Josh Scowen’s effort, tipping it just wide of the target. The half-time whistle was blown shortly after and the Reds went in two goals behind.
Half Time: Barnsley 0-2 Reading
With no changes at the break, both teams emerged from the tunnel with different challenges facing them. The Reds were tasked with recovering from a two goal deficit, whereas The Royals set out solely to defend it.
It was the wingers who became key for Paul Heckingbottom’s side as the width was causing problems. More yellow cards came during a half that was to be dominated by the referee’s whistle. Firstly, Hammill was brought down on the wing and from the resulting free-kick, Kent looked to get in behind but was also brought down resulting in a yellow card for John Swift.
The chances were coming but the goals weren’t, as Josh Scowen and Sam Winnall both directed headers at goal but both narrowly missed the target. The Barnsley fans inside the ground continued to roar their team on, making all the atmosphere and ensuring their help from the stands was heard.
Another yellow card followed for a visiting player as Tyler Blackett was cautioned for time-wasting. Shortly after that, Hecky made the changes. On came mid-week goalscorers, Tom Bradshaw and Saidy Janko, replacing Winnall and Kent.
It was Armstrong however who had the next effort on goal. His thunderbolt from the edge of the box looked destined to hit the back of the net but Al Habsi again was standing firm, ensuring the scoreboard would stay as it were.
With ten minutes remaining, Al Habsi was beaten. A chipped ball over the top of the Reading defence was superbly cushioned back by Bradshaw with his head, and the on-rushing Armstrong struck a first time volley past the hapless Al Habsi to give the Reds fans hope of a memorable comeback.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining, Armstrong was again the danger-man. Cole Kpekawa, making his Oakwell debut, crossed into the box and found Armstrong but the on-loan Newcastle striker flicked his header inches wide of the upright.
Five minutes of stoppage time were then announced, but it wasn’t enough for the Reds to find an equaliser in a second half they had dominated. The Reading defence had stood firm and strong throughout not allowing any clear-cut chances on goal. There was to be one last moment of heroics from the away side’s ‘keeper though, as Bradshaw and Scowen combined for a late effort which he tipped wide again.
The full-time whistle was blown and a crowd of 12,675 applauded their team off the pitch and sang “we love you Barnsley, we do”, despite seeing the Reds lose their unbeaten home record.
Full Time: Barnsley 1-2 Reading
Attendance: 12,675 (418).