Scoring chances were at a premium as the Championship play-off semi-final first leg between Reading and Cardiff ended goalless at the Madejski Stadium.

Cardiff started brightly but their attacking options were hit when Craig Bellamy limped off with a suspected hamstring strain after 17 minutes.

Matt Mills came closest to scoring for Reading, poking wide from six yards.

City's best effort came from Peter Whittingham, who rifled a 25-yard effort inches past the post.

McDermott 'delighted' with Reading show

The two sides finished the Championship season separated by three points, and there was little to choose between them in a match high on tension but low on incident.

The Royals side showed six changes from the team which finished the regular season with a 2-1 home win over Derby County the previous Saturday with Andy Griffin, Jem Karacan, Shane Long, Noel Hunt, Jobi McAnuff and Zurab Khizanishvili starting.

Cardiff boss Dave Jones made two changes to the team which had been held to a 1-1 draw at Burnley with Darcy Blake in for Mark Hudson and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replacing Jason Koumas.

The home side had the first meaningful attack of the match inside two minutes, but Wales winger Hal Robson-Kanu's cross from the right was cleared by Paul Quinn.

Cardiff responded but defender Dekel Keinan heading a corner over the crossbar.

A hard-fought battle - Jones

The visitors came again and Bellamy broke into the box and saw his shot from 10 yards pushed behind by Adam Federici.

But Cardiff's hopes were dealt a blow on 17 minutes when captain Bellamy was forced off with a hamstring injury and replaced by Michael Chopra.

Jones' side reacted well and Whittingham's excellent free-kick put the Reading defence under pressure, although it was cleared, and another shot was blocked before falling to Blake, whose shot from 22 yards was gathered by Federici.

Reading came back and Karacan got to the right byeline before pulling the ball back to McAnuff, whose effort from 12 yards took a deflection and went just wide of Stephen Bywater's goal.

As half-time approached Cardiff's Kevin McNaughton made a last-ditch tackle to thwart Noel Hunt.

The visitors had the first chance of the second half as Jay Bothroyd headed wide from 15 yards following Paul Quinn's cross.

The home side were forced to make a change on 52 minutes with Mathieu Manset replacing the dangerous Robson-Kanu, who had suffered an injury.

Ian Harte, whose set-pieces had been a feature of Reading's play, put in another dangerous cross which forced Blake to head clear.

Although Cardiff defended well, they created little in the way of chances at the other end but on 66 minutes Reading skipper Mills had to block a Bothroyd flick-on from Quinn's cross before Whittingham's 25-yard effort flew past Federici's left post.

It gave the Bluebirds the impetus and within two minutes Emmanuel-Thomas won a corner, from which Keinan headed straight at Federici from 12 yards.

As full-time approached Bothroyd failed to finish and in a scrappy finale neither side could find the breakthrough, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of the second leg at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday 17 May.

Watch highlights on Match of the Day Wales

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (5)

Reading

  • 01 Federici
  • 02 Griffin
  • 05 Mills Booked
  • 15 Khizanishvili
  • 23 Harte
  • 04 Karacan
  • 08 Leigertwood
  • 11 McAnuff Booked
  • 19 Robson-Kanu (Manset - 52' )
  • 09 Long
  • 10 Hunt (Howard - 84' )

Substitutes

  • 41 McCarthy
  • 26 Pearce
  • 06 Gunnarsson
  • 07 Tabb
  • 20 Howard
  • 18 Church
  • 45 Manset

Cardiff City

  • 43 Bywater
  • 02 McNaughton
  • 12 Keinan
  • 14 Quinn (Naylor - 85' )
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 11 Burke
  • 20 Olofinjana
  • 23 Blake
  • 25 E'-Thomas (Koumas - 90' )
  • 09 Bothroyd Booked
  • 39 Bellamy (Chopra - 17' )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 03 Naylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 04 Rae
  • 19 Koumas
  • 08 Chopra
  • 16 Parkin
Ref: Halsey
Att: 21,485

Match Stats

Shots

6 8

On target

3 6

Corners

7 5

Fouls

16 9

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +5:14 Full time

Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.

90:00 +4:36

Mathieu Manset challenges Kevin McNaughton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephen Bywater takes the free kick.

90:00 +3:57

Corner taken left-footed by Brian Howard from the right by-line to the near post, save by Stephen Bywater.

90:00 +3:53

Ian Harte sends in a cross, clearance made by Lee Naylor.

90:00 +2:30

Inswinging corner taken by Jobi McAnuff from the left by-line, clearance by Peter Whittingham.

90:00 +0:50 Substitution

Substitution Jason Koumas comes on in place of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

87:26

Unfair challenge on Seyi Olofinjana by Shane Long results in a free kick. Kevin McNaughton takes the direct free kick.

87:02

Chris Burke takes a shot. Zurab Khizanishvili gets a block in.

82:27

Free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

82:27 Substitution

Substitution Paul Quinn goes off and Lee Naylor comes on.

82:27 Substitution

Substitution Noel Hunt goes off and Brian Howard comes on.

82:27

Mathieu Manset is flagged offside by the assistant referee.

80:58

Ian Harte concedes a free kick for a foul on Chris Burke. Free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

80:02

Chris Burke delivers the ball, clearance made by Matt Mills.

79:02

Noel Hunt delivers the ball.

77:14

Outswinging corner taken by Ian Harte from the left by-line, clearance by Seyi Olofinjana.

75:54

Shane Long is ruled offside. Stephen Bywater takes the free kick.

74:19

Handball by Jay Bothroyd. Adam Federici restarts play with the free kick.

73:36

Foul by Jobi McAnuff on Chris Burke, free kick awarded. Kevin McNaughton takes the direct free kick.

73:27

Noel Hunt delivers the ball, save by Stephen Bywater.

70:01

Mathieu Manset takes a shot. Save by Stephen Bywater.

68:19

Corner taken by Peter Whittingham from the left by-line, Dekel Keinan takes a shot. Adam Federici makes a save.

68:13

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas sends in a cross, Noel Hunt gets a block in.

67:16

Ian Harte delivers the ball, clearance made by Dekel Keinan.

67:06

Noel Hunt sends in a cross, clearance made by Paul Quinn.

65:58

Shot from a long way out by Peter Whittingham goes wide of the left-hand upright.

61:39

The ball is delivered by Ian Harte.

60:39

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Ian Harte from the right by-line, clearance by Paul Quinn.

59:33

Free kick awarded for a foul by Seyi Olofinjana on Jem Karacan. Direct free kick taken by Ian Harte.

58:52

Michael Chopra is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Ian Harte takes the indirect free kick.

58:13

Ian Harte concedes a free kick for a foul on Chris Burke. Stephen Bywater restarts play with the free kick.

58:01

The ball is sent over by Shane Long.

57:04

The ball is crossed by Noel Hunt, blocked by Darcy Blake.

55:50

Jay Bothroyd fouled by Shane Long, the ref awards a free kick. Kevin McNaughton restarts play with the free kick.

52:40

Seyi Olofinjana challenges Jem Karacan unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Matt Mills.

51:10 Substitution

Substitution Mathieu Manset is brought on as a substitute for Hal Robson-Kanu.

48:01

Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Ian Harte.

47:47

Ian Harte delivers the ball.

46:48

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Seyi Olofinjana by Mikele Leigertwood. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

46:00

Paul Quinn crosses the ball, Headed effort from inside the area by Jay Bothroyd misses to the left of the goal.

45:01

The second half has started.

45:00 +2:29 Half time

Half Time The referee calls an end to the first half.

45:00 +2:05

Jobi McAnuff produces a cross.

45:00 +1:36

Peter Whittingham challenges Noel Hunt unfairly and gives away a free kick. Matt Mills restarts play with the free kick.

44:13

The official flags Jobi McAnuff offside. Indirect free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

43:05

Outswinging corner taken by Chris Burke from the right by-line played to the near post, Zurab Khizanishvili makes a clearance.

42:30

Noel Hunt is caught offside. Stephen Bywater takes the indirect free kick.

41:05

A cross is delivered by Ian Harte, Header by Jem Karacan from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.

40:40

Michael Chopra gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mikele Leigertwood. Free kick taken by Ian Harte.

39:56

Jobi McAnuff takes a shot. Save made by Stephen Bywater.

38:57

Free kick taken by Ian Harte.

38:57 Booking

Booking Jay Bothroyd goes into the book.

38:47

The referee gives a free kick against Jay Bothroyd for handball.

37:47

Stephen Bywater takes the direct free kick.

37:47 Booking

Booking Matt Mills goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.

37:34

Kevin McNaughton fouled by Matt Mills, the ref awards a free kick.

36:12

Michael Chopra gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jem Karacan. Free kick taken by Andy Griffin.

35:37

Jobi McAnuff takes a outswinging corner.

35:21

The ball is sent over by Jem Karacan, Hal Robson-Kanu takes a shot. Save by Stephen Bywater.

34:25

The ball is delivered by Andy Griffin, Peter Whittingham makes a clearance.

33:20

The assistant referee signals for offside against Noel Hunt. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

32:48

Jay Bothroyd gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Zurab Khizanishvili. Adam Federici takes the direct free kick.

32:11

The assistant referee flags for offside against Noel Hunt. Indirect free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

30:02

Kevin McNaughton fouled by Shane Long, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

28:35

Unfair challenge on Dekel Keinan by Shane Long results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Stephen Bywater.

26:26

Kevin McNaughton fouled by Shane Long, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Kevin McNaughton.

25:12

Kevin McNaughton takes the free kick.

25:12 Booking

Booking Jobi McAnuff is booked.

24:58

Free kick awarded for a foul by Jobi McAnuff on Michael Chopra.

23:43

Free kick awarded for a foul by Noel Hunt on Jay Bothroyd. Stephen Bywater takes the free kick.

22:14

Darcy Blake takes a shot. Save made by Adam Federici.

20:40

Foul by Zurab Khizanishvili on Jay Bothroyd, free kick awarded. Peter Whittingham fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.

18:35

Long range effort by Noel Hunt goes wide right of the net.

17:13

Free kick awarded for a foul by Mikele Leigertwood on Jay Bothroyd. Peter Whittingham takes the free kick.

16:22 Substitution

Substitution Michael Chopra replaces Craig Bellamy.

14:09

Darcy Blake challenges Hal Robson-Kanu unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ian Harte takes the free kick.

12:42

Ian Harte takes a corner.

11:58

Outswinging corner taken by Peter Whittingham from the left by-line, Jay Bothroyd takes a shot. Save by Adam Federici.

11:28

Craig Bellamy takes a shot. Adam Federici makes a save.

9:59

Shane Long fouled by Dekel Keinan, the ref awards a free kick. Jem Karacan restarts play with the free kick.

7:49

Dekel Keinan challenges Shane Long unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ian Harte fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.

4:52

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jay Bothroyd by Matt Mills. Craig Bellamy takes the direct free kick.

3:02

Chris Burke takes a outswinging corner.

2:21

Outswinging corner taken by Chris Burke, clearance made by Jem Karacan.

1:21

The ball is crossed by Hal Robson-Kanu, clearance made by Paul Quinn.

0:00

The game gets underway.

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