READING produced another below par display as they laboured to a 1-1 draw with fellow relegation-threatened Bolton at the Mad Stad this evening.
A much-changed Reading side, which included goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola and teenage debutant Tom Holmes, struggled in the early stages with Trotters’ Adam Le Fondre missing a gilt-edged opportunity.
And the visitors were punished when Mo Barrow raced in from the left to give Reading the lead.
Back came Bolton with Will Buckley squandering a chance from six yards before Le Fondre did strike against his former club, bundling in an equaliser just before half-time.
Neither goalkeeper was severely threatened during a scrappy second half and both struggling sides had to settle for a point which leaves Reading with just one win in 15 league matches.
The big positive of the night was that results elsewhere went for Jaap Stam’s men, as they stay 18th but now five points clear of the relegation zone.
Stam rung the changes following last Tuesday night’s defeat to Sheffield United with no fewer than six alterations to the 11.
And they were eye-catching ones too with 17-year-old centre-back Holmes brought in for his debut while Anssi Jaakkola replaced Vito Mannone in goal for just his second Championship appearance.
The other changes saw George Evans, Sone Aluko, Dave Edwards and Barrow come back into the side with Leandro Bacuna and Omar Richards missing from the squad altogether and Pelle Clement starting at right-back.
And Holmes got off to a nervy start against former Royal Le Fondre with the striker exploiting the youngster’s lack of pace. But centre-back partner Liam Moore was on hand to produce a big block to keep the scores goalless.
Reading’s first chance arrived on 10 minutes when the lively Barrow clipped the ball over the defence for Chris Martin, but the striker’s attempted lob landed on the roof of the net.
Le Fondre was looking increasingly dangerous and saw a rising 25-yard drive parried over by Jaakkola before wasting a golden opportunity. The forward intercepted Liam Kelly’s woeful backpass, but ballooned his effort over the crossbar.
And against the run of play, it was the Royals who broke the deadlock.
Barrow received possession from Martin and drove in from the left before sliding the ball underneath goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from a tight angle. The winger was subsequently booked for his over-zealous celebrations with the fans.
Undeterred by the goal, Bolton regain the ascendancy and wasted another glorious chance when Will Buckley found himself free in the six yard box, but delayed his shot allowing Edwards to get back to clear.
But the Trotters did level before the break when more sloppy defending was punished with Filipe Morais’ cross bundled in from close range by Le Fondre.
Chances were proving hard to come by after the restart with Bolton looking the most likely scorers but the hosts dealt reasonably well with a number of balls into the box.
Andrew Taylor and Le Fondre both volleyed off target while Barrow cleared the crossbar at other end shortly after Stam had introduced Jon Dadi Bodvarsson for the final 15 minutes.
John Swift was also brought on for the closing stages and had a chance from the edge of the box, but he curled over the bar.
In truth, despite their endeavour neither side really looked like grabbing a winner until deep into stoppage time when Bodvarsson’s effort was hacked away from the six yard box.
Reading are back at the Mad Stad on Saturday, hosting Leeds United (3pm).
READING: Jaakkola; Clement, Holmes, Moore, Gunter (c); Evans; Aluko (Swift 77), Kelly, Edwards, Barrow; Martin (Bodvarsson 73).
Subs not used: Mannone, Ilori, Blackett, van den Berg, Smith.
Goal: Barrow (32)
Yellow cards: Barrow (33), Edwards (64), Evans (81)
BOLTON: Alnwick; Flanagan, Burke, Beevers, Taylor; Henry, Kirchhoff (Karacan 70); Morais (Noone 67), Pratley (c), Buckley (Wilbraham 81); Le Fondre.
Subs not used: Howard, Dervite, Robinson, Clough.
Goal: Le Fondre (45+1)
Yellow cards: Buckley (57), Flanagan (89)
Referee: James Linington
Attendance: 8,631 (inc. 484 away)