Reading 2 (Church 52, Le Fondre 59)
Brian McDermott's men answered their critics in the best possible way - with a confident, attacking and dominant display against Doncaster Rovers this afternoon.
The Royals threatened from the first whistle to the last and opened the scoring early in the second half when the impressive Simon Church tapped home a loose ball after Neil Sullivan had fumbled under pressure from substitute Adam Le Fondre.
Le Fondre then added a superb second, running onto a lovely Joseph Mills cross and placing a precise header inside the left upright for his first goal in the blue and white hoops.
The home side could have had more, Noel Hunt stabbed over, Jimmy Kebe, Mikele Leigertwood and Jobi McAnuff forced Sullivan into sharp saves and Jay Tabb was denied by a last ditch tackle.
But a fluent Royals side settled for 2-0 and deservedly took all three points after a much-improved performance in front of their home fans.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Cummings, Mills, Gorkss, Pearce; Tabb, Leigertwood, Kebe (Le Fondre 41), McAnuff (c); Hunt, Church.
Subs: McCarthy, Gunnarsson, Howard, Manset.
Doncaster (4-4-2): Sullivan; Spurr (Stock 79), Friend (c), Martis, O'Connor; Gillette, Bennett (Lalkovic 54), Oster, Barnes (Hird 79); Coppinger, Hayter.
Subs: Woods, Wilson.
Yellow: Hayter, Lalkovic
Ref: G Salisbury
Att: 15,124 (455 away)
Starting XI team news
Brian McDermott made four changes to his starting eleven, bringing Jay Tabb in for Jem Karacan in midfield, whilst changing both his strikers; Adam Le Fondre dropped to the bench along with Mathieu Manset to allow Noel Hunt and Simon Church a start. Shaun Cummings was the other alteration, the young right-back starting in place of Andy Griffin.
The Royals looked sharp and bright from the very start and Neil Sullivan had to produce some early acrobatics to prevent Jimmy Kebe from opening the scoring in just the 5th minute.
Superb work from Simon Church on the right saw him beat two and then whip a beautiful far post cross to Kebe, who directed a powerful header back towards the far corner, only for Sullivan to palm it over his bar.
Church was causing more problems moments later, delivering another sublime cross in for Noel Hunt at the far post, but under pressure from his marker Hunt could only direct his downward header wide.
12 minutes gone and Reading broke at pace. Church found McAnuff who burst inside one man before being dragged down by Shelton Martis, but to the players' surprise no foul was awarded and Rovers could breathe easy once more.
The visitors managed to get a foothold but couldn't create any route through a much more solid looking Royals unit, and Reading soon regained the ascendency.
Jay Tabb was teed up by Hunt but his left-footed long-distance effort was charged down, before the lively Church found some space on the left side of the box but scuffed his shot into the body of a relieved Sullivan on the half hour.
Leigertwood then burst from midfield to race onto a Church throughball and, shrugging off Martis, he dragged a right-footed effort just wide of the bottom left corner.
And five minutes before the break, Church looked like he was through one-on-one with the keeper, until the linesman raised his flag so signal what must have been a very tight offside decision.
Jimmy Kebe had to come off moments later, seemingly suffering a dead leg, and Adam Le Fondre replaced him, with Noel Hunt asked to play out wide.
But it didn't affect the confidence of a flowing Royals performance; the hosts still found time for two more good chances before half time. Jobi McAnuff had the first, driving low from outside the box to force Sullivan into a good low save.
And then a beautiful long ball from the Jobi McAnuff sent Church away and just as he pulled the trigger George Friend managed to stick out a leg to half block the strike and force the ball wide of the right post.
A slight misunderstanding at the back almost allowed James Coppinger to nip in and have a go at an untroubled home goalmouth, but the half time whistle sounded with the game still goalless.
In the opening throes of the second half Le Fondre and Church combined well, but Sullivan forced the latter wide and though Church recycled it back to McAnuff, the winger could only slice a shot over the bar.
The skipper saw another shot from distance charged down soon after and Reading were knocking at the Rovers door relentlessly.
Finally it paid off. A high ball over the top saw Le Fondre challenge with Sullivan. The Rovers keeper spilled the ball as a result and Church reacted quickest to race onto the loose ball and tap into a gaping net.
Five mintes later is was almost 2-0. Mills burst into the box from the left and unleashed a powerful right-footed drive that Sullivan could only palm out to Hunt. Hunt had to react fast and stabbed a reaction effort agonosingly over the bar.
Le Fondre then set up Church with a tidy pull back and after a deft turn onto his left foot, Church's drive was well stopped low to Sullivan's left.
Reading were not settling for the one goal lead and soon they had the cushion they were after. A delightful deep Mills cross found Le Fondre who placed a perfect header across Sullivan and inside the left post for 2-0.
Coppinger came close to pulling one back, but first drilled just wide from 25 yards out and then clipped the outside of the post from distance, and Alex Pearce produced a couple of excellent defensive blocks when Rovers threatened to spoil a Royals clean sheet.
But Reading were running the show, closing down Doncaster players within seconds of them receiving the ball and looking dangerous every time they attacked.
Leigertwood saw a deflected effort skim just wide with a quarter of an hour to go and Tabb was denied by a last ditch tackle from Simon Gillette.
But 2-0 it stayed and the Royals fans gave their players the ovation they deserved after a much, much improved performance earned the hosts all three points.