Derby County made it two away wins out of two since the international break with a hard-fought victory against a Reading side who were reduced to ten men following Orlando Sa's sending off.
Except for Michael Hector coming in for Anton Ferdinand, Steve Clarke named an unchanged line-up following the impressive victory against Ipswich Town four days earlier.
Paul Clement surprised many by making three changes to a side who were dominant in victory at Preston at the weekend. Scott Carson came in for the unlucky Lee Grant and Craig Forsyth replaced Stephen Warnock. In the only enforced change, Jeff Hendrick replaced captain Chris Baird following his late clash of heads at Deepdale with Chris Martin taking on the captain's armband.
Both sides were lively in the opening exchanges with the hosts looking perhaps the better of the two, showing more purpose with their passing. Aaron Tshibola hit a fierce drive, deflected over before Martin, fresh from a brace at the weekend, wasted a good goalscoring opportunity when he dallied in the fourth minute, with Hendrick shooting wide when the ball broke loose.
Displaced Derby captain, Richard Keogh headed straight at Royals keeper Jonathan Bond, when he perhaps should have done better after 11 minutes and Jacob Butterfield was twice denied on the edge of the area by committed Reading defending.
Reading grew into the game and Oliver Norwood nearly repeated his Friday night goal against Ipswich Town when he pulled the trigger from 30 yards, with Carson equal to the midfielder’s effort, turning it away one-handed.
Moment of madness
The turning point of the match however happened deep into first half injury time. It was hat-trick hero Sa who turned hero to villain when, off the ball, he was involved in an altercation with Jason Shackell which saw the front man sent off for an alleged headbutt. Shackell was cautioned for the incident as well.
Inevitably, Derby started to control the game after half time, with a number of good opportunities seriously testing Bond and some going further astray.
On 69 minutes, Derby made the breakthrough. Butterfield fed the ball to Derby captain Martin, who came off the back-line. He fed the ball first time into the path of the onrushing Ince, who took a touch before stabbing past Bond in front of the travelling Derby fans. It was Ince’s first of the season after signing permanently from Hull City in a then club-record transfer fee of £4.75million.
Reading responded well and the ten men continued to work hard. Norwood shot again from distance, wide of the target and Nick Blackman fired over the crossbar from a free kick he had won himself.
Following the home side making all three changes, they continued to press Derby further back and looked the more likely to find the second goal. Danny Williams was involved heavily, first delivering a header into the danger zone which was cleared by the defence and then having a shot blocked as the pressure intensified. From the resulting corner, Hal Robson-Kanu headed over from a Gareth McCleary corner.
It all proved in vain however, with Derby recording their second consecutive away victory and remianing unbeaten away in the league. Reading will rue Sa's moment of madness having played well for large parts of the game.