Reading saw their lead in the championship reduced by two points after an unconvincing performance at Pride Park, but revealed a determination that pleased their manager, Steve Coppell, and spoiled Seth Johnson's celebrations after the one-time England midfielder, still a player of largely unfulfilled potential, scored his first goals since returning to Derby last summer.
Johnson, who joined his former club on a free transfer four years after Derby had sold him to Leeds for £7 million, put Derby in front after 32 and 62 minutes, but each time Coppell's team bounced back, even though their second equaliser came with only two minutes left.
Reading failed to match the standards that had seen them win 10 in a row before yesterday. They had some help too, in that Derby were reduced to 10 men for the final 19 minutes after the central defender Andrew Davies was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.
In mitigation, they suffered the absence of the injured Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita, which left Coppell with only one recognised striker in Kevin Doyle. "We were not at our best and needed to go a goal behind before we started playing," Coppell said. "But it was the first time this season we had started with only one striker and we missed a bit of physical presence." Doyle and the substitute Shane Long were Reading's scorers, the latter making an impact in two ways, firstly as the victim of the tackle that resulted in Davies' dismissal.
Johnson pounced for the first time after a nice piece of play involving Marc Edworthy and Tommy Smith on Derby's right flank. The defender's well timed pass slipped his team-mate behind the Reading rearguard and Smith's cut-back wrong-footed three defenders to set up Johnson's close-range strike.
Reading were level inside little more than a minute, a pass by Steve Sidwell opening up a similar opportunity for Glen Little, whose cross invited Doyle to produce a well-executed finish at the near post.
When Johnson made his mark again, bringing down a long ball from Davies before connecting sweetlywith his left foot, Derby looked ready to end Reading's run. But after Davies' dismissal the task of protecting their lead proved too much. When Sidwell headed Nicky Shorey's corner back across goal, the substitute Long nodded it over the line.Reuse content