Reading secured a fine victory on the road at Birmingham, with one goal enough to decide the match in the Midlands in an open affair under the lights.
On a rainy evening it was John Swift that provided a fine winner for the Royals with 12 minutes to play as the midfielder slotted home from close range after a fine move from Liam Kelly and Jordan Obita on the edge of the Birmingham box.
The result keeps the Royals third in the Championship table, as Jaap's side showed plenty of grit seeing out the away win.
The Royals made three change going into their match-up with the Blues, with Obita, Tyler Blackett and George Evans all coming into Stam's starting XI.
It was the Royals who had the first shot in anger of the evening at St Andrew’s when Garath McCleary looked to capitalise on a Birmingham mistake. The Reading forward picked up the ball midway inside the opposition half, before making a driving run towards the penalty area. His low shot looked destined for the bottom corner, but was well tipped around the post by Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and out for a corner.
The home side were quick to respond with an effort of their own. Lukas Jutkiewicz’s shot from inside the Reading penalty area was well dealt with by Ali Al-Habsi, who held the attacker’s low effort.
Reading were quick to close down the Birmingham defence when in possession, carving out a number of opportunities as the half progressed, with a light drizzle creating a very slippery surface in the midlands.
The best of these fell to Liam Kelly on the quarter-hour. Good work from Danny Williams on the right flank saw the American international slip Kelly into space in the Birmingham penalty area. The midfielder scampered in behind the opposition defence, with his driven effort across the face of goal rolling inches wide of Kuszczak’s right hand post.
Ten minutes later, Kelly was causing the Birmingham defence problems again when he saw his curling effort from range bounce off the crossbar and over. It was again a sustained spell of Reading pressure that saw the chance fall to the youngster, with the Blues only able to clear the ball as far as the edge of the box after a deep Williams cross. Kelly picked up the ball, before wrapping his foot round a dipping shot, which had the keeper beaten but was denied by the woodwork.
Liam Kelly was becoming a real thorn in the side of the Blues’ back-line, and went very close to putting Reading into a deserved lead at just gone the half-hour mark. The Academy graduate was played in by a fine reverse pass from Roy Beerens, and after a clever dummy that left his man on the floor, looked destined to score. However a last gasp block from Ryan Shotton denied the Royals the opening goal of the night.
In an open first half, both sides were creating a number of half-chances, but with neither team able to capitalise on some promising situations, the score was goalless at the break.
Half-time: Birmingham 0-0 Reading
The second period saw the Royals enjoy a good spell of possession, but it was not long until hosts Birmingham kicked into gear, creating their first real clear cut chance of the night.
A powerful run down the left wing from Kerim Frei saw the wide man reach the by-line before cutting a dangerous ball back across the Reading goal. It looked as though Frei had picked out his teammate Jutkiewicz in the centre, but the cross was just behind his teammate, allowing the Royals to draw breath as they hit the ball clear.
After a period of pressure from the home side, Reading did well to wrestle back the initiative, and were nearly rewarded for their endeavors when Beerens broke just after the hour. The Dutchman did well to skip past Jacob Dacres-Cogley but as he bore down on the Birmingham goal, looking to open his body for a shot, the recovering full back just managed to toe the ball away from danger.
Al-Habsi was forced into action for Reading a few minutes later as the rain intensified at St Andrew’s. Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner unleashed a trade-mark strike from range, but the Royals stopper was equal to it palming the effort away with a strong hand.
On 78 minutes Reading had their lead after some fine play on the edge from Liam Kelly and Jordan Obita. The former found the latter with a fine backheel, creating space for Obita running in behind the Birmingham defence. The full-back pulled a fine cross back from the by-line picking out his teammate Swift in the centre, who quickly adjusted his feet to slot Reading in front.
As the clock ticked down towards the 90th minute Birmingham pushed forward desperately looking for an equaliser. The hosts nearly had their leveller, when Gardner’s free-kick was headed over by Jutkiewicz and out for a goal kick. Reading held on to secure another fine three points on the road.
Full time: Birmingham 0-1 Reading
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter (c), Obita, Moore, Blackett, Williams, Evans, Swift, Kelly, Beerens (Mendes 83), McCleary (Meite 71).
Unused subs: Jaakkola, Wieser, Popa, Watson.
Bookings: McCleary, Meite.
Goals: Swift (78).
Birmingham: Kuszczak, Grounds, Robinson, Shotton (Morrison 46), Gleeson, Gardner, Adams, Jutkiewicz, Frei, Dacres-Cogley, Davis (Stewart 83).
Unused subs: Legzdins, Nsue, Kieftenbeld, Tesche, Stewart, Keita.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Att: 16,672 (627)