The Madejski Stadium is no fortress these days but a goalless draw at Reading kept Leeds United in credit at the end of a long week.
days on from extra-time in Doncaster, the pragmatist in Uwe Rosler accepted a point.
That feeling was shared by both managers after an honest Championship game which tried and tried before grinding to a resigned halt.
Goals were missing and chances came too infrequently to force the issue either way.
Creativity is a trait which Leeds and Reading need to make dream scenarios possible this season.
The scenario facing Rosler either side of yesterday’s game was and is and long way from ideal and United’s head coach knew that any result away at Reading would be a good result.
On the back of a late League Cup loss against Doncaster, his side controlled lengthy periods of their visit to Reading and took a hold of the match in the second half as Reading’s limited ideas faded into nothing.
There were briefly shades of Leeds’ 2-0 win at the Madejski in February, a night when their patient tactics paid off perfectly, as Rosler’s side pressed Steve Clarke’s back after half-time but the hosts’ goalkeeper, Jonathan Bond, was never close to being overwhelmed.
A Stuart Dallas volley in the first half was Leeds’ only shot on target.
Reading themselves produced just three.
The result left Leeds and Rosler with two points from as many league fixtures; par for the course or thereabouts in a division where only Brighton have taken two wins from two.
Rosler departed the Madejski last night with no complaints about organisation, the application of his squad or their fitness in the face of a ludicrous schedule.
Bristol City away on Wednesday night awaits.
United’s defeat at Doncaster last Thursday inflicted a hangover of sorts – the strain of 120 minutes and the loss of Lewis Cook to a three-match ban – but Rosler admitted at the end of that gruelling tie that his line-up for Reading was already chosen.
Some of the six changes made yesterday looked obvious, including the recall of Tom Adeyemi, but others were less predictable.
Liam Cooper replaced the hitherto impressive Giuseppe Bellusci in Rosler’s defence and Kalvin Phillips was sent into the centre of midfield, a big show of faith from his head coach and a selection which avoided pushing Luke Murphy too far too soon.
Leeds had the measure of Reading at the same ground last season and Reading’s form at home – no victories since the end of January and a complete loss of any psychological advantage – waved United forward.
Caution is not the way of things in the Championship, or not to judge from Leeds’ opening league games.
Reading’s first attack caused Rosler palpable concern, earning Sol Bamba the game’s first caution with a minute gone.
The centre-back had no choice but to slide in on Hal Robson-Kanu after Stephen Quinn found time and space near the centre circle and slipped a pass to the edge of Leeds’ box.
It placed Bamba on dangerous ground and Rosler admitted later that his captain had “got away” with a red card but the booking did not do much for Reading’s performance.
Three times in the first 10 minutes Leeds might have scored.
Bond was helped by his defence after scuffing a clearance to the feet of Alex Mowatt and he held a low volley from Stuart Dallas when the winger reacted first to a bouncing ball 20 yards from goal.
Another attack involving Mowatt needed only a square pass to Byram eight yards from goal – in exactly the position where he buried Reading in February – but Anton Ferdinand, Reading’s new signing and their most recognisable player, put himself in the way as Mowatt lifted his head.
A quick game was never anything other than end-to-end.
Bamba almost allowed Nick Blackman in on 14 minutes by losing his footing and spilling the ball but Blackman overran it and invited a hasty punt to safety from Charlie Taylor.
Robson-Kanu’s 25-yard strike on the half-hour mark – driven straight into the arms of Marco Silvestri – was hit in hope more than expectation and the contest needed a goal, despite being lively without one.
Gaetano Berardi’s wayward pass behind Byram and into touch, coming as Reading found themselves stretched, demonstrated the problem for both teams.
Dallas was a foot or so away from applying the magic touch when a proper opportunity finally presented itself five minutes before the break but he met Byram’s cross to the far post with a rising header which flew over the bar.
A 0-0 scoreline at half-time did the first 45 minutes justice.
The challenge for Rosler and Clarke during the break was to find a way of allowing their midfields to put a foot on the ball.
Leeds began to do so as the hour approached but without any reward.
A glancing header from Adeyemi sent a Phillips corner well wide in the 63rd minute, failing to cause Bond any trouble.
At the other end, Paul McShane sent a cross from Norwood high into a packed away end.
It was at times a like-for-like exchange. On 70 minutes, Chris Wood drilled a difficult chance into Bond’s side-netting.
Sixty seconds later, Orlando Sa burst away from Gaetano Berardi and did exactly the same.
The game’s lone strikers were negated as the football raged in the middle of the field.
Rosler had cards up his sleeve and Luke Murphy and Mirco Antenucci appeared with 17 minutes left, sent on to try and tip the balance.
Wood came closest to turning Reading over when, three minutes from time and with his first meaningful chance, a volley from 20 yards beat Bond and the crossbar but it was akin to Jonathan Obita’s injury-time free-kick, plucked from the air by Silvestri as the crowd held its breath – relatively close but no cigar.