The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By An­drew Steele-Davis

CARDIFF CITY boss Rus­sell Slade felt a draw was a fair re­sult as his side missed the chance to close the gap on the play-offs.

De­spite the Blue­birds be­ing on top and hit­ting the post early on, it was Read­ing who took the lead cour­tesy of a stun­ning ef­fort from Garath McCleary.

The match then switched the other way with the hosts dom­i­nat­ing only to be pegged back by Lex Im­mers’ fourth goal in eight games.

But City were un­able to go on and grab a win­ner and are now three points adrift of the fi­nal play-off spot, leav­ing Slade to rue a lack of con­sis­tency from his charges.

“We came here with a view that we wanted to win a foot­ball match and take all three points,” he said.

“I thought we started the game re­ally well and then, with­out be­ing able to put your fin­ger right on it, the last 20 min­utes they were the best side in the first pe­riod.

“They got the goal, so that might have a lit­tle some­thing to do with it, and I thought we gave pos­ses­sion away far too eas­ily, looked a lit­tle bit frag­ile at the back at times and they had one or two op­por­tu­ni­ties which we granted them.

“The se­cond pe­riod I thought we started to grab hold of the game a lit­tle bit and then it was just be­gin­ning to fiz­zle on the 60minute mark, so I made a dou­ble sub­sti­tu­tion and we got im­me­di­ate im­pact which is ob­vi­ously what you want when you make those subs.

“It got us level and we had a re­ally nice 10 min­utes where I thought we con­trolled pos­ses­sion bet­ter than what we had done and man­aged the game bet­ter than what we had done.

“I thought then we might take the game but the last 10 min­utes was very end-to-end.

“I thought in the end it was a fair re­sult.”

The Blue­birds started well and were un­lucky not to take the lead when Craig Noone’s div­ing header crashed back off the un­der­side of the cross­bar just past the 15-minute mark.

And that near miss proved costly with 36 min­utes played as, fresh af­ter re­plac­ing the in­jured Hal Rob­son-Kanu, McCleary pro­duced a mo­ment of magic that a scrappy en­counter so des­per­ately needed.

He con­trolled Yann Ker­mor­gant’s flicked header on his chest be­fore turn­ing his man and lash­ing home a su­perb vol­ley be­yond Cardiff stop­per Si­mon Moore.

The hosts went on to con­trol the re­main­der of the first half but were pegged back shortly af­ter the hour mark thanks to some bril­liant play by in­spired City sub­sti­tute Sammy Ameobi.

Hav­ing come on just three min­utes be­fore, he drove to­wards goal and planted a firm drive against the in­side of the post with Im­mers per­fectly placed to head home the re­bound from close-range for his fourth goal in eight games.

Read­ing had chances to snatch all three points in the clos­ing stages as Matej Vy­dra went close and Si­mon Cox fluffed his lines at the death, but man­ager Brian McDer­mott opted to vent his frus­tra­tion at an ap­par­ent hand­ball in the build-up to Cardiff’s equaliser.

“We just can’t be­lieve that the ref­eree has missed the hand­ball with the goal,” said the Roy­als chief.

“It is a nailed on hand­ball and you’ve got to see that – it is a big, big de­ci­sion in the game. If we get a penalty given against us the other night against Crys­tal Palace, then we prob­a­bly got three on Satur­day.

“I don’t want to bleet on about ref­er­ees but you’ve got to give us that one.

“We felt we should have won the game. The mar­gins are very, very small and you need the of­fi­cials to get the big de­ci­sions right.”

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