Middlesbrough 0 Reading 1
A smash and grab raid condemned Boro to a second-successive home defeat in the league as Reading scored with their only shot on target. Writes GORDON COX from the Riverside.
The Boro side showed two changes from that which lost here against Sheffield Wednesday seven days ago. Seb Hines came in for Daniel Ayala, while Adam Clayton replaced Dean Whitehead who, like Ayala, dropped to the bench.
Patrick Bamford, signed on loan from Chelsea yesterday afternoon, started on the bench.
All the early chances fell Boro’s way, all without success.
From a cleverly-worked set-piece Clayton set up Kike who shot low at Adam Federici.
Maintaining pressure, Lee Tomlin fed Adomah who shot low at an angle and Federici at full stretch tipped round for another corner, Adomah having won the first of the game when a low cross was turned behind.
From the second corner Hines headed just over.
With what amounted to their first serious attack Reading took the lead. With seven minutes played a long ball was played over the top into a dangerous area inside the Boro penalty area. Boro’s defence didn’t react, Tomas Mejias was stranded off his line and Simon Cox lobbed in from around 11 yards.
There wasn’t an immediate positive reaction from Boro, it took longer than was desirable for that to come. Throughout the next ten minutes or so, however, Reading failed to grasp the initiative.
Adam Reach twisted his way into the penalty area but was closed down before he could shoot. The ball ran to Tomlin, but he too was closed down very quickly.
Another good run from Reach helped set up Boro’s next attack. Playing the ball out wide to George Friend he continued his run into the box then dummied when the cross came over. That gave Tomlin a half chance, but once more he was quickly denied. Boro regained possession, keeping it until Grant Leadbitter shot a yard or so wide from fully 25 yards out.
Good touches from Adomah, good movement from Tomlin and industry elsewhere on the pitch occasionally caught the eye but wasn’t good enough to cause Federici any nervous moments.
Four minutes from the break Boro were handed a chance to get back in the game through a touch of fortune as a clearance rebounded to Kike who had plenty of time to control, but elected to head first time, tamely, at the Reading goalkeeper.
A minute later Clayton shot wide across goal on the volley.
The final action of the half ought to have brought an equaliser when a right wing corner from Leadbitter picked out Kike unchallenged inside the box, but he headed well wide.
It summed up a half where Boro had enjoyed the majority of possession, threatened often, but failed to make it count.
Half-time: Middlesbrough 0 Reading 1
Early pressure brought a corner for Boro but little else, though the fact the visitors were slowing the game down offered encouragement.
Federici was on the edge of permissibility when taking goal kicks and play was further broken up with two substitutions just two minutes apart.
There was still plenty time to turn things round.
A minute short of the hour mark Aitor Karanka made his first change as Bamford replaced Tomlin for his Boro debut.
As in the first half, Boro were enjoying more possession and it seemed a matter of time before they would draw level.
That almost happened on 64 minutes when a Reach cross was deflected on to Federici’s right-hand post with goalkeeper stranded.
A series of corners failed to be the catalyst for a breakthrough and this was now becoming a cause for concern.
This had turned into an afternoon rich in frustration as Boro kept adding to their corner count, Mejias had very little to do and in the final minute of normal time, before six added, a sweeping cross from Williams was missed by Kike in front of goal.
Scorer Cox, 7
Middlesbrough: Mejias; Damia, Omeruo, Hines (L Williams, 76), Friend, Adomah, Clayton (Whitehead 76), Leadbitter (Capt.), Reach, Tomlin (Bamford 59), Kike. Subs: Konstantopoulos (gk); Ayala, Gibson, Ledesma. Order of subs on 76: 1) Williams. 2) Whitehead.
Reading: Federici; Gunter (Capt.), Pearce, Norwood (Cooper 81), Cox (Tanner 55), Obita, Hector, Edwards, Mackie, Taylor, Kuhl (Akpan 53). Subs: Andersen (gk); Long, Stacey, Fosu.
Referee Darren Bond
Middlesbrough Leadbitter, 36, foul; Adomah, 76, foul.
Reading Akpan, 68, foul.
Attendance 14,970 (242 Reading)
Conditions Mild and sunny with a stiff breeze.
Possession: Middlesbrough 67% Reading 33%
WebsiteBoro 3-2-1: 3 Leadbitter, 2 Reach, 1 Adomah