- Four goals in opening 24 minutes
- Gray hat-trick hands City 4-1 HT lead
- Murray heads home Reading's goal
- Shinnie adds a fifth 30 seconds after the restart
- Cotterill's free kick floats in for six
An afternoon to forget for the Royals as Birmingham City clinically put their visitors to the sword, scoring six goals to send Reading home with nothing from a freezing cold St Andrew's afternoon.
The scoreline flattered the Blues, who found themselves 4-1 up at the break thanks to Demarai Gray's treble and Paul Caddis' drive, despite conceding the vast majority of possession to a Royals side that looked dangerous when they got forward.
But scoring 30 seconds into the second half through Andy Shinnie's solo effort, City put paid to any thoughts of a remarkable comeback and when David Cotterill's inswinging free kick floated in at the far post it summed up a sorry performance for the Royals.
Back at home to high-flying Watford on Saturday, Nigel Adkins' men will be desperate to provide a positive response...
Birmingham City: Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson (c), Grounds, Davis, Gleeson, Gray (Thomas 88), Shinnie (Moussi 78), Cotterill, Donaldson (Zigic 84).
Subs: Doyle, Edgar, Novak, Reilly.
Reading: Federici, Kelly, Gunter (c), Hector (Pearce 66), Cooper, Norwood, Williams (Taylor 78), Obita (Blackman 73), McCleary, Cox, Murray.
Subs: Andersen, Cummings, Tshibola, Stacey.
Referee: Mr Nigel Miller
Reading began on the front foot and in the first minute good passing football allowed Obita to cross low into Murray at the near post, but the Royals striker couldn't control and turn to take the first shot on goal.
But the first attempt on target went Birmingham's way and it resulted in the opening goal of the game. Jake Cooper's slip forced him to foul Clayton Donaldson on the edge of the box and a worked set piece saw Grounds slide the ball into the feet of Paul Caddis
who arrowed a well-struck effort inside the right post to give the hosts a 4th minute lead.
Reading should have equalised minutes later when a superb run and cross from Obita at the corner flag picked out Simon Cox 10 yards out. He volleyed it first time and connected too cleanly with it, hammering it into the body of Darren Randolph. The ball popped back out to Cox who this time hooked it into the ground and over the bar.
And again, Reading threatened when Jake Cooper knocked it down to Murray who directed the bouncing ball towards goal, but Randolph could easily gather it into his arms.
Incredibly, despite the Royals having all the possession and the best chances of the opening period, City doubled their lead thanks to a virtuoso goal from Demarai Gray
, who scuttled forward from midfield and drilled a rasping effort into the bottom left corner for 2-0.
With less than 20 minutes played, the Royals pulled one back. A deep cross from Garath McCleary from the right was met by a scuffed hook from Obita and the ball bounced up for Murray
to loop a header inside the left post, Randolph helpless to do anything about it.
restored the home side's two goal cushion when he controlled a weak clearance from Cooper and used raw pace to create the space to shoot, angling a shot across the face of Federici's goal and inside the bottom left corner.
Murray crossed from the right and a glancing header from Davis almost caught Randolph out, then Cox got in behind the back line and cut a ball across for Murray to sidefoot home, only for the offside flag to rule it out after Cox had breached the Birmingham offside trap too early.
A brave diving header from Cooper caused mild panic in the Birmingham box five minutes before the break, but in first half injury time Gray
completed his hat-trick with a breakaway effort that he slid past Federici for 4-1.
The second half couldn't have begun worse. Within the first 30 seconds, Andy Shinnie
weaved his way in from the right, skipped into the box and rifled low past Federici to add a fifth.
Birmingham carved open the Royals back line ten minutes later, but this time Federici denied Donaldson by diving at his feet as he stabbed the ball goalwards.
And it only got worse when David Cotterill
's inswinging free kick sailed over everyone and dropped inside the far post to make it 6-1 on the hour mark.
Reading kept trying to give the travelling fans something to cheer and Murray's far post header hit the side netting and Garath McCleary dragged a long-range effort harmlessly wide, before Alex Pearce was introduced for Hector at the back.
With ten minutes remaining McCleary got past two and kept the ball from rolling over the byline, cutting it back to Murray who from eight yards out sidefooted it firmly against the crossbar, a consolation eluding the Royals' loanee.
Two minutes of additional time were played out and Reading could head back to Berkshire to reflect on how to put a poor performance right next weekend.