The Reds were held to a draw this afternoon by the high-flying Royals.
A goalless draw was the order of the day in freezing Berkshire, but you couldn’t fault the effort and endeavour of the Reds who probably edged the match, certainly in terms of chances.
Paul Heckingbottom made three changes to his starting XI with a return for Andy Yiadom at left back following his exploits for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations; Adam Hammill replaced Ryan Kent on the left wing and Ryan Williams came in for Adam Armstrong.
It was a somewhat nervy opening few minutes for both sides, the pitch wasn’t helping proceedings, it was very bare in patches and made retaining possession quite difficult at times.
The first real chance of the game came after eight minutes as Josh Scowen was chopped down 35 yards from goal. The resulting free-kick from Hammill was whipped towards the far post but evaded the on-rushing Marc Roberts and went behind for a goal kick.
Some hesitant defending at the back allowed Liam Kelly a shot at goal but he fired over when well placed. Soon after that, Angus MacDonald had to be brave when he slid in and blocked another attempt from Kelly just inside the Reds box.
There was a great move by Barnsley after 17 minutes when Marley Watkins played a great one-two with Scowen, pulled his cross to the penalty spot but the stretching Tom Bradshaw couldn’t quite get a clean touch to the ball.
10 minutes later and another flowing Reds move saw Matty James pick out the run of Watkins who sped towards goal, turned onto his left foot but saw his weak shot comfortably saved by the Reading ‘keeper.
Roberts flashed a header just wide of the far post following a Hammill corner and just a minute later Hammill played a lovely reverse ball that found Gethin Jones, he skipped past his opponent before firing a tame effort wide.
The towering figure of Yann Kermorgant went closest for the hosts but his header from a Garath McCleary cross was well held by Adam Davies in the Reds goal.
Just prior to half time and Bradshaw went close with a header. It was a fine cross by Hammill again down the left and Tom did well to get across his man but couldn’t get over the header as it glanced just over the Reading crossbar.
HALF TIME: Reading 0-0 Barnsley
The Royals made a change at the break, bringing on recent acquisition Lewis Grabban, he replaced Kelly.
Josh Scowen suffered a heavy challenge late in the first period and he soon limped off on 47 minutes to be replaced by George Moncur.
It was Moncur who dropped the ball into Bradshaw a minute later and the Welsh international’s vicious volley flew just inches over the Reading bar.
Down the other end and Kermorgant saw a half-volley saved brilliantly by Davies low to his right, it was a fine piece of goalkeeping yet again.
McCleary was next to try his luck, 25 yards from goal he whistled a powerful effort just wide of the Reds goal, as the hosts began to take control of the match.
Gethin Jones entered the referees notepad just after the hour mark as he pulled down the impressive Roy Beerens out wide.
The biggest chance of the game arrived on 64 minutes. A Ryan Williams cross from the right was headed down by Bradshaw into the path of Watkins and his swivel and shot looked destined for the bottom corner but it instead struck the foot of the post and flew out of the Reading box.
Williams was then replaced by Adam Armstrong with Watkins now moving out wide.
Chris Gunter was booked on 69 minutes as he chopped down Hammill.
A couple of minutes later and a fantastic surging run saw Yiadom get to the by-line inside the box but nobody gambled as he put the ball across the six yard box, allowing Liam Moore to stab behind for a corner.
On 75 minutes a flowing Reds move involving neat touches by Bradshaw and Armstrong saw Hammill in on goal on the angle, but his shot as he entered the box went clean over Al-Habsi’s crossbar.
The final 10 minutes was something of a backs-to-the-wall spell, with numerous Reading crosses getting hacked or headed away, with Roberts and MacDonald impressive at the back.
Hammill was replaced by Kent as we entered stoppage time, and in the first minute of it the best opportunity of the game for Reading came as Danny Williams’ effort from just inside the box looked destined for the top corner only to see Davies react brilliantly, tipping the ball over one-handed.
Armstrong was booked in the late stages for allegedly kicking the ball away but Heckingbottom’s men held on for a superb point and clean sheet against the promotion chasing Royals.
FULL TIME: Reading 0-0 Barnsley
Reds: Davies (GK); Jones, Roberts, MacDonald, Yiadom; Williams (Armstrong ’66), James, Scowen (Moncur ’47), Hammill (Kent ’90); Watkins, Bradshaw.
Unused subs: Townsend (GK), Evans, Elder, Hedges.
Attendance: 16,222 (744 Reds).