Bristol Rovers 2-1 Reading
Bristol Rovers 2 (Richards 21, Clarkson)
Reading 1 (McCleary 67)
The Royals were edged out by Bristol Rovers in their final pre-season friendly at the Memorial Ground on Sunday afternoon.
After a bright start in which Pavel Pogrebnyak fired over after fantastic work from Garath McCleary, the home side took the lead against the run of play as Eliot Richards bundled a cross that was headed over Stuart Taylor to the far post.
Reading attempted to rally, but were two down on the stroke of half time after David Clarkson stroke home coolly, latching onto a clever slid rule pass.
McCleary did throw his side a lifeline in the second period, slamming home a piledriver from 25 yards to cap a fantastic individual performance.
However the visitors couldn’t quite grab an equaliser, though they did get the chane to hand some first team action to bright young prospects Gozie Ugwu, Craig Tanner and Sean Long – who were all introduced off the bench.
Reading: Taylor, Gunter (C)(Sean Long 84), Cummings, Mariappa, Gorkss, Akpan (Ugwu 52), D'Ath, McCleary (Tanner 70), Obita, Taylor, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Henly, Partridge, Sweeney, Sean Long, Tshibola, Tanner, Ugwu
B Rovers; Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes (C), Clarkson (Hunter 79) , Harrold (Harding 36), RIchards, Brown, Norburn Lockyer 75), Harrison (Santos 66), McChrystal (Keary 75), O'Toole (Rigg 84)
Subs: Gough, Harding, Goddard, Lockyer, Hunter, Santos, Keary, Southway, RIgg, Green
Attendance: 1738 (88)
Referee: Simon Hooper
The Royals started brightly, with Garath McCleary particularly a thorn in the Pirates’ side. He sent a clever through ball towards Jake Taylor in the third minute, and the Welsh under 21 international was about to get a shot away as he was sent tumbling under heavy pressure in the box – but no penalty was given.
McCleary then did superbly to bamboozle two Rovers defenders on the right wing before sending a teasing ball into the six yard box – but Pavel Pogrebnyak could only crash his shot over the bar from close range.
Reading were in control, as Hope Akpan’s snap shot was held by Steve Mildenhall, but were caught napping as the home side took the lead after 22 minutes.
The ball was recycled back into the area after the visitors only half cleared their lines, and as it was headed to the far post Eliot Richards ghosted in to tap home with Stuart Taylor stranded.
That seemed to lift the Gas – as they grew in confidence in the first period, with Ellis Harrison firing wide after a clever run down the right wing.
Indeed they grabbed a second goal on the stroke of half time; some tricky work in midfield ended in David Clarkson stealing through on goal – before stroking home coolly to double the deficit for Nigel Adkins’ men.
Rovers created the first chance of the second half, as Harrison found space ten yards out – but running onto the ball, could only clip is shot over the bar.
Gozie Ugwu replaced Hope Akpan, as the Royals switched to 4-4-2 two and worked hard for away back into the clash – but came up against a resolute Pirates backline.
It needed some magic for the Royals to peg one back – and that touch of class came from the boot of McCleary.
Reading’s number 12 latched onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal, cannoning a thunderous drive past the helpless Mildenhall.
Craig Tanner was introduced with 20 minutes remaining, as the Academy product got his first taste of first team football with the Royals with Adkins looking for an equalising goal.
Irish youngster Sean Long was also introduced, and with Bristol Rovers making plenty of substitutions in a stop start closing period to the game – the away side couldn’t quite gather the momentum needed to grab a leveller.