A piece of magic from winger Ola John earned Reading a hard-fought three points against ten-man Bolton at the Macron Stadium.
After dominating the game from beginning to end it seemed the Royals would be denied by a battling Trotters side, but John’s late and spectacular 30-yard strike won it for Reading.
Brian McDermott made made four changes to the side that took to the pitch before the international break, with Lucas Piazon, Matej Vydra, Oliver Norwood and Jordan Obita all coming back into the starting XI.
The Royals started on the front foot and looked as though they had created their first opening of the afternoon when Jake Cooper's ball over the top looked to have found Vydra, but the ball just bobbled away from the Czech Republic international when it seemed he was through on goal.
Reading’s first effort of the afternoon came courtesy of Danny Williams. After a good interchange down the left wing between Piazon and Stephen Quinn, the latter produced a searching cross that Williams attempted to latch on to, but was unable to steer his volley goalwards.
Just before the quarter of an hour mark, Vydra nearly opened the scoring for the visitors. The chance again came as a result of good work down the left; this time Jordan Obita producing a cross which was floated to the back post. Yann Kermorgant rose and met the ball, heading across the box to pick out Vydra, but his header from close range just cleared the Bolton crossbar.
The game burst into life on the 22nd minute when Kermorgant and Vydra again combined. The Frenchman headed on to his strike partner after a long ball forward and with Vydra bearing down on goal, Rob Holding brought down the forward as he was about to pull the trigger.
The Wanderers defender was shown a straight red card by referee Geoff Eltringham who deemed Holding to be the last man; Vydra stepped up to take the kick, but his low effort was well saved by Ben Amos in the Bolton goal.
Despite dominating possession the Royals created only one more clear-cut chance before the break and again it was Vydra who was denied by Amos. After a Bolton goal kick Paul McShane won his header in the centre circle, which ran all the way through to Vydra who accelerated away from the Bolton defence. The striker drilled his effort at the near post but the ball was kept out by the sprawling Amos, this time stopping the ball with his foot.
Half-time: Bolton 0 Reading 0
Bolton had their first shot on target of the afternoon just after the break when Zach Clough made some space on the edge of the Reading box, but his firm shot was comfortably held by Ali Al-Habsi.
Reading continued to control the ball, enjoying the majority of possession, with Kermorgant putting another headed attempt a yard wide of the Bolton goal minutes later. A deflected cross from Piazon found Kermorgant at the back post, but he could only angle his header wide of Amos’ right hand post.
Oliver Norwood was he next to go close for Reading as they probed for the breakthrough. Substitute Ola John found the midfielder in space after some neat wing play, and Norwood’s strike from 25 yards flew tantalisingly wide leaving Amos looking relieved after scrambling across his goal.
As the clock ticked past the 80th minute, the Bolton defending became more and more desperate as Reading pushed hard for a winner.
Paul McShane met Norwood’s whipped corner and looked to have broken the deadlock with a powerful header, only for a combination of Bolton defender David Wheater and the post to somehow stop the ball from crossing the line and keep the scores level.
The post again came to Bolton’s aid two minutes later when Stephen Quinn’s fierce left footed drive clattered the home side’s upright. The Irish international cut onto his favoured left foot and shot from just outside the box, beating Amos, but not finding the net.
The breakthrough finally came for the Royals in the 90th minute -and in spectacular style. Ola John picked up the ball on the left hand side and drove into some space in the centre of the field. The Dutchman’s dipping effort from 30-yards flew past Amos and nestling in the top corner, earning Reading an eventual - but much-deserved - three points.
Full Time: Bolton 0 Reading 1
Bolton: Amos, Moxey, Vela, Clough (Heskey), Osede, Pratley (c), Dobbie (Trotter), Woolery (Danns), Wheater, Holding, Maher
Unused Subs: Rachubka, Davies, Wilson, Samizadeh
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, McShane (c), Cooper, Obita, Norwood, Williams, Quinn, Piazon (John), Vydra (Cox), Kermorgant
Unused Subs: Bond, Taylor, Evans, Ferdinand, Fernandez
Attendance: 13,469 (440 away)