Reading’s play-off chances suffered a huge dent as they were held to a goalless draw by Luton at Kenilworth Road.
Town had the best effort of the opening 10 minutes, Elijah Adebayo having a go from 20 yards, his strike deflecting into the hands of Royals stopper Rafael.
The Brazilian might have been picking the ball out of the net after 20 minutes when Jordan Clark met Kal Naismith’s inviting left-wing cross, only for the Hatters attacker to volley narrowly wide.
Rafael was then called upon to tip Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s fizzing 22-yard drive behind, with James Bree putting his angled free-kick just past the far post.
Reading had their best chance on the stroke of half-time, striker George Puscas unable to find the target with a free header after an ambitious volley dropped to him inside the area via a hefty deflection.
After the break, Adebayo advanced on the right-hand side, but rather than try to find the bottom corner, he sliced off target, with the impressive Michael Olise blasting well over for the Royals from 25 yards.
Both sides made changes as the game wore on, with one of Luton’s, Harry Cornick, sending over a cross that Rafael picked off the toes of Adebayo.
Reading went close when Ovie Ejaria manufactured some space 20 yards from goal, driving an attempt that cannoned behind off a home defender with Simon Sluga left rooted to the spot.
With nine minutes left, the Hatters had a spell of pressure, substitute George Moncur arriving in the box to unleash an effort that Rafael did well to turn away at his near post.
From the corner, Town should have broken the deadlock, Glen Rea rising highest, only to divert over the bar from close range.
With Reading making a number of attacking changes as they tried to keep their play-off hopes alive, Sluga was out well to save at the feet of Yakou Meite, while Lewis Gibson saw his shot from outside the area drift wide.
In the closing stages, John Swift’s 25-yard free-kick was gathered by Sluga at the second attempt, before it was Luton who should have won it at the death.
First Moncur’s cross was met by James Collins, with Rafael managing to deflect behind, while from the resulting corner, Collins could only nod into the stands when being left unmarked.
With Barnsley winning 1-0 at Huddersfield, Reading are now six points adrift of the final play-off place, with just three games remaining.
What the managers said…
Luton’s Nathan Jones: “I’m delighted with the level of performance, just disappointed with the result as I felt we were the better side. We came out, we were aggressive, we moved the ball really well, created enough to have won the game, and limited a very, very potent team to very little. We wanted to be aggressive and to go really after a team as if you let them settle they can hurt you, but we were absolutely excellent from start to finish.
“I’m really proud of the performance, there’s just a tinge of disappointment and if we really want to do something then we have to win games like that. It sounds silly me saying that as these are a fantastic side and they don’t lose many games, they can out-pass you, out-play you, out-score you, but we were better tonight.”
Reading’s Veljko Paunovic: “We have to convert our opportunities and it’s not going to be many opportunities at this point of the season. You have to be clinical, we have to know it’s not going to be an easy or perfect opportunity, it’s probably going to be a sloppy ball, or a bounce back or a rebound and you’re going to have an opponent on top of you, but that’s what teams do in order to get results and that’s what we’re going to have to get better at.
“They defended very well in a lot of numbers and first half we didn’t understand the importance of finishing our actions, and that’s not a criticism, it’s just the fact. We have to have that killer instinct and at this point of the season that shouldn’t even be mentioned, understanding how important that you get in the final third, you get set, finish, score. We’ve got to work on that.”