Marvin Johnson’s first Championship goal in over two years ensured Boro were able to mark the 500th league game at the Riverside with a victory.
Johnson, whose last league goal came at Bolton in September 2017, is enjoying a Boro renaissance since Jonathan Woodgate took over, and he was able to crown another excellent performance with a goal to win the game against Reading.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed with both sides creating openings, but Johnson’s goal was a deserved winner for a Boro side who continue to work hard and play on the front foot.
The intentions were clear inside the opening two minutes with Paddy McNair’s driving runs creating the first openings of the game. Ashley Fletcher had a shot deflected across the face of goal after great build-up play.
Reading were set-up to play on the break and they were effective. Yakou Meite saw one effort blocked by Ryan Shotton, and Darren Randolph saved well at his feet.
Half chances came and went at both ends. Fletcher sent one wide after a great ball from Lewis Wing and Anfernee Dijksteel and Dael Fry made terrific interventions to deny Reading opportunities.
Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral cut out a McNair drive with Assombalonga waiting on the line to pounce, and the striker couldn’t quite get his head on another Johnson ball into the box as Boro finished the first half on top.
Boro had the ball in the net less than two minutes into the second half, but the flag went up for offside after Fry stabbed the ball beyond Cabral and Assombalonga touched it home. At the other end, Randolph made a good save to deny Ovie Ejaria.
But the breakthrough came on the hour, though, when Fletcher won a free-kick on the right deep inside the Reading half. Johnson delivered an inch-perfect set-piece which curled beyond Cabral and into the net.
That was the cue for Reading to throw on the cavalry from the bench - Lucas Joao and the highly-rated George Puscas - and Woodgate immediately responded by sending on Daniel Ayala and switching to three at the back.
If the game had ebbed and flowed before, it threatened to become more open. Lewis Wing waltzed through on goal but his shot was blocked and Cabral had to be at full stretch to deny Johnson.
Randolph was called upon to make another important save and Boro defended in numbers when Reading came forward. The Irishman also did well to deny John Swift with a free-kick as the game headed into the final 10 minutes.
There was still time for Puscas to turn a shot high over the bar, but Boro showed great determination and resilience to pick up a first win at the Riverside for Woodgate.