REPORT: TOWN 2 READING 2
David Wagner's first taste of Emirates FA Cup action ended in a pulsating 2-2 stalemate with Reading in front of 9,236 at the John Smith's Stadium.
Ahead of kick-off, Joe Murphy came in for Jed Steer due to his ineligibility after his return on loan from Aston Villa, whereas Jason Davidson slotted in at left-back to replace Ben Chilwell, who returned to Leicester City earlier in the week.
Jamie Paterson played in a central midfield role alongside Jonathan Hogg due to a bout of illness for Emyr Huws, with a front four of Joe Lolley, Harry Bunn, Sean Scannell and Nahki Wells.
'The Yorkshire Club' started off on the front foot, with the energy and intent to attack that Town fans have become so used to seeing under Wagner.
Harry Bunn forced Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi into an early stop, this coming after Mark Hudson vitally intercepted a through ball bound for ex-Watford striker Matej Vydra.
Town's intent to play on the deck was evident in the early stages, as Bunn again pulled the strings by feeding through Nahki Wells - who was making his 200th appearance in England - but his cross evaded everyone in the box and rolled out for a dead ball.
The statement of urgency continued shortly after; neat exchanges between the front four resulted in Joe Lolley cracking a strike from the edge of the box, but once more Al-Habsi was equal to it.
The Berkshire side, now led by a returning Brian McDermott, found chances hard to come by in the first period; Hal Robson-Kanu hitting low at Joe Murphy the visitors’ only chance in the opening moments of the game.
Town continued to turn the screw but couldn't break the deadlock; Nahki Wells was next to bombard the Reading goal, but, after some slick passing on the edge of the box, the Bermudian's effort was well held down low by the busy Al-Habsi.
The match began to open up and it was the Royals who nearly had the opportunity to nudge ahead; Jason Davidson scurrying back to clear the danger from Vydra's set back, which, without the Australian's intervention, only needed a touch into an empty net.
This chance then sparked the Terriers into life once again; Joe Lolley nodded wide from Sean Scannell's centre, closely followed by a half chance for Wells who blasted over from an angle.
From here on in, tempers began to fray; firstly with Jason Davidson and American midfielder Danny Williams clashing just beyond half way. That was a sign of things to come in a game which ebbed and flowed for the majority, with both sides cautiously looking to get that elusive opener; albeit with Town having the majority of play throughout the first 45.
Town could've been a goal down if it wasn’t for substitute Kyle Dempsey's crucial block to halt Vydra's route to goal, but Town did have more chances themselves before the break; Jason Davidson couldn't beat the Reading shot stopper after the ball kindly fell to him in the penalty area and Nahki Wells could only manage a tame effort after Harry Bunn's surging run forward from the half way line.
It took 17 minutes of the second half for the HTAFC faithful to witness the first goal. Jason Davidson again came to the fore, assisting Jamie Paterson with a peach of a cross from his favoured left hand side. Paterson duly converted the cross, nodding coolly past the so-far resilient Al-Habsi to put Town in the driving seat.
Things were on the up for David Wagner's outfit, but all that positivity came to an abrupt halt within the space of 10 minutes.
Nahki Wells' strong penalty claim was waved away, also earning him a yellow card after was adjudged to have dived under the challenge of the on-rushing Reading goalkeeper after Lolley had played him in on goal.
Not only did the chance of doubling the lead slip away, it then slipped totally out Town's grasp. The home fans thought they should have had another free kick on the edge of the Reading box after a foul, but instead Reading broke down the Town right and Vydra's effort diverted off Mark Hudson and over Murphy to completely change the outlook of this intriguing Emirates FA Cup tie.
The Terriers didn't allow that to hinder their quest to advance to the next round; Nahki Wells had a header tipped over the bar, before the same player then blasted wide after good tenacious tackling from Joe Lolley.
However, Reading enjoyed their best 10 minutes of the game after their goal. Hal Robson-Kanu was the next to force an attempt on goal, coming after Vydra looked to have been bundled over in the box. The referee was having none of it, but this didn't deter the Berkshire side as Garath McCleary curled over a glorious chance shortly after.
The Royals persistence did eventually pay off as Robson-Kanu then put the Royals a goal to the good after an unselfish pull back from Lucas Piazon.
However, the game was to end level after Nahki Wells smashed home a penalty after Harry Bunn was brought down by Anton Ferdinand; ensuring a replay in Berkshire a week on Tuesday.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Joe Murphy; Jason Davidson (Ishmael Miller, 89), Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith (Kyle Dempsey, 27); Jamie Paterson, Jonathan Hogg; Joe Lolley, Harry Bunn, Sean Scannell (James Husband, 84); Nahki Wells
Lloyd Allinson, Martin Cranie, Duane Holmes, Philip Billing
Jonathan Hogg, Nahki Wells