A second half Jason Puncheon strike was enough to grant Southampton all three points at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
The midfielder drifted into the box on the hour mark and fired low past Adam Federici, after good work by Nathaniel Clyne on the right wing.
The Royals may have felt that Jay Tabb should have won a first half penalty after he was clipped inside the area, whilst Adam Le Fondre headed a Robson-Kanu cross wide to end hopes of a comeback in an otherwise uneventful second period.
Jay Rodriguez had a small section of St Mary’s over-excited within the first five minutes, though his scrambled shot into the side-netting proved to be nothing more than an illusion for those Saints fans on the other side of the goal – who thought their number nine had opened the scoring.
Some slick football from the Saints raised the noise levels again moments later, as a quick passing move was almost rounded off by Morgan Schneiderlin, though the midfielder could only slice a volley wide from six yards out.
The Royals did manage a couple of forays into the opposition half, but still had to contend with a lively Soton front line – as Lallana tested Federici from distance fifteen minutes in, with the Australian proving equal to his 20 yard drive.
Jay Tabb, looking for his first Royals goal, got on the end of a Roberts cross moments later – but could only fire over the bar under intense pressure.
At the other end, with 20 minutes on the clock, Federici had to again be alert – brilliantly palming away Lambert’s swerving effort.
Some superb hold up play by Jason Roberts released Tabb five minutes later – who scampered into the area before forcing a smart stop from Kelvin Davis. Reading’s number 16 appeared to have his legs clipped in the box as he scrambled to get to the rebound – but no penalty was given as he fell to the floor.
The Saints had the ball in the net shortly after the half hour mark, but Puncheon’s far post header was ruled out for a push somewhere amongst a tangled goalmouth scramble.
Nigel Adkins received a blow before the half was out, as captain Lallana limped off with a knee problem – replaced by £12 million pound man Gaston Ramirez.
Another packed penalty box opened an opportunity for Lambert again in the 42nd minute, though as Yoshida and Leigertwood battled for a header on the goalline – the Liverpudlian striker could only shank a rebound over the bar.
As two minutes of stoppage time was announced, it was McDermott’s men who would finish the half in the ascendancy – as quick corner routine resulted in a header across goal by Morrison, which Robson-Kanu cannoned back off the post.
Jason Puncheon mustered the first effort on target of the second period, twisting and turning on the edge of the area before sending in a low effort – which was easily palmed away by Federici.
The Royals had to endure a spell with 10 men as Sean Morrison received treatment for a nasty looking knock, and just as the centre half hobbled back on Rodriguez almost took advantage of the confusion – firing wide from 20 yards.
However as the clock ticked over to the hour mark, the Saints did take the lead. The lively Clyne scuttled down the right hand side before sending a low ball into Puncheon – who fired brilliantly inside the far post despite a desperate lunge from the limping Morrison.
Reading looked for an immediate response, as McAnuff jinked past Clyne from the left flank – but could only crash over the bar.
Alex Pearce replaced the injured Morrison, whilst Noel Hunt took the place of Jay Tabb as the Royals prepared to throw it all at their hosts.
Robson-Kanu almost levelled as he span and shot from close range, only to see a deflection take all the pace of the ball – whilst Le Fondre headed wide past a wrong-footed Davis after more good work from Robson-Kanu and Roberts.
The lively Puncheon was always a threat, especially on his lethal left foot – as he cracked a shot wide from 25 yards in the 84th minute – before substitute Guly Do Prado curled narrowly over from the same distance.
Do Prado found space again a minute later, only to see Federici again alert to deny the giant number 21 with a low save.
There was to be no comeback from the Royals, as the final whistle brought an end to a frustrating afternoon for the visitors.