Derby defender Curtis Davies has scored four goals this season
Curtis Davies’ 91st-minute equaliser saw Derby County fight back from two goals down with five minutes left to earn a point at fellow relegation strugglers Reading.
A wonder strike from Junior Hoilett had given Reading the lead, before the Canadian doubled the Royals’ advantage early in the second half.
But Derby heaped on the pressure during the final half-hour and substitute Colin Kazim-Richards pulled one back late on to set up a nervous finale.
In the first minute of stoppage time, centre-half Davies then headed home to level the scores and extend the unbeaten run of the bottom-of-the-table Rams to four matches.
The draw moves them on to 11 points, 11 behind Reading who are just above the relegation places in 21st.
Up-for-sale Derby came into the match on a run of form that belied their position at the bottom of the table, having won their last three matches through December.
Looking to pull off what would be one of the most spectacular relegation survivals after a 21-point deduction, they had to do without manager Wayne Rooney on the touchline at the SCL Stadium. Rooney tested negative for Covid-19 but didn’t make the journey south as a precaution after coming down with cold-like symptoms.
Reading, meanwhile, had seen all three of their matches over the festive period called off because of Covid-19 cases and hadn’t played since 11 December.
The home side made the better start and Andy Carroll had a golden chance to put them ahead after 17 minutes. John Swift – back in the squad after a hamstring injury – sent in a perfectly weighted cross which Carroll headed towards the inside post, but Derby keeper Ryan Allsopp dived low to palm it away.
Teenager Luke Plange’s strike was the Rams’ only shot on target – forcing Luke Southwood into a save – in an opening 45 minutes lacking many clear-cut chances before Hoilett spectacularly broke the deadlock.
Southwood launched the ball downfield towards target man Carroll, who nodded it on to Hoilett. The winger’s right-footed strike flew straight past Allsopp into the top-right corner.
Hoilett was making his first start for the Royals since he scored in the win over Cardiff on 2 October, having been out with a hamstring injury. He made it 2-0 not long after the restart, striking the ball between the legs of Derby keeper Allsopp from a free-kick.
Kamil Jozwiak found the net for the visitors a few minutes later but was flagged offside as Derby began dominating possession and building pressure in and around the Reading box. Yet they were still missing that clinical final touch.
Super substitute Kazim-Richards had come off the bench to score in Derby’s past two games, and after being brought on in the second half he did the same again to pull one back. As a corner was whipped in, Southwood jumped but missed the ball and Kazim-Richards was there to nudge it in behind him.
Then, in the 91st minute, Davies jumped highest to meet a cross from Nathan Byrne and power a header past Southwood to secure Derby what could prove a precious point.
Reading manager Veljko Paunovic told BBC Radio Berkshire:
“It’s certainly a disappointing way to finish the game. Given all the circumstances, we had a fantastic 60 minutes, maybe not our best football, but we executed our game-plan perfectly.
“The drop in the last 30 minutes is due to a lot of players being away for a long time and that affected our fitness levels. But until we conceded a goal, I don’t think we had too many problems.
“But as soon as it happened, it looked like it took it out of us and we couldn’t recover even though we still had the lead. We have to understand that if we do concede, it’s not the end of the world, we still have a lead to preserve and still can win games.
“We have to reignite the enthusiasm and no matter how difficult the season might be from this moment on with the circumstances, we have to do better.”
Derby County assistant manager Liam Rosenior told BBC Radio Derby:
“I think that sums up the spirit, character and determination of the group. I felt like we dominated the game with our possession and the way that we wanted to play from start to finish.
“No matter how many times they get knocked down, or decisions go against them, they keep believing and what we’re delighted is we didn’t just end up lumping the ball up the pitch.
“You’ve got a group of players there that are fighting for this football club and I couldn’t be prouder and the same goes for Wayne.”
- 48AshcroftSubstituted forAraruna Hoffmannat 45′minutes
- 28LaurentBooked at 45mins
- 7HalilovicSubstituted forAzeezat 65′minutes
- 10SwiftSubstituted forCamaraat 89′minutes
- 20Araruna Hoffmann
- 33Cabral Barbosa
- 2ByrneBooked at 90mins
- 33DaviesBooked at 82mins
- 3ForsythSubstituted forEboseleat 57′minutes
- 38KnightSubstituted forMorrisonat 67′minutes
- 48PlangeSubstituted forKazim-Richardsat 57′minutes
Match ends, Reading 2, Derby County 2.
Second Half ends, Reading 2, Derby County 2.
Nathan Byrne (Derby County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Nathan Byrne (Derby County).
Josh Laurent (Reading) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Phil Jagielka (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mamadi Camara (Reading).
Attempt missed. Femi Azeez (Reading) header from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by David Junior Hoilett with a cross.
Goal! Reading 2, Derby County 2. Curtis Davies (Derby County) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Nathan Byrne with a cross.
Attempt missed. Femi Azeez (Reading) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Mamadi Camara following a fast break.
Substitution, Reading. Mamadi Camara replaces John Swift.
Attempt missed. Max Bird (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Goal! Reading 2, Derby County 1. Colin Kazim-Richards (Derby County) header from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Max Bird with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Scott Dann.
Attempt blocked. Curtis Davies (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ravel Morrison with a through ball.
Curtis Davies (Derby County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Curtis Davies (Derby County).
Josh Laurent (Reading) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Tom Lawrence (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Femi Azeez.