Henry header earns Wolves winA first half header from former Royals Academy graduate James Henry was enough to earn Kenny Jackett's Wolves all three points in an open and free-flowing Boxing Day affair at Molineux this evening.
Wolves edged an entertaining first half that could have ended with countless goals at both ends - but despite penalty appeals at either end, the woodwork denying Wanderers and a goalline clearance thwarting Reading, the sides were separated by James Henry's 18th minute header.
Reading bossed the second half from start to finish, but when Oliver Norwood's drive from distance cannoned high into the right post and then Carl Ikeme spilled a Nick Blackman effort only for the ball to spin inches wide, travelling Royals fans began to realise it wasn't going to be their team's day and Reading will look to bounce back at home to Bristol City on Monday.
Brian McDermott kept an unchanged side, sticking with the eleven who won him his first game back in charge at Madejski Stadium before Christmas. Andrew Taylor recovered sufficiently to take a place on the bench, but Stephen Quinn kept the left back berth while Rowan Liburd was named on the bench at Molineux in place of Alex Fernandez.
The first sight of goal fell for the home side when James Henry's free kick was fizzed low into the box and Dave Edwards met it with a swinging left leg only for his effort to be charged down by a Reading body on the edge of the six yard box.
Reading then mounted a counter attack that saw Blackman set McCleary away from inside the centre circle. The Royals winger sped forward, cut inside a defender inside the area and looked to cross towards Vydra only for Dominic Iorfa to deflect it back to his goalkeeper with what looked like the use of a left arm. Appeals fell on deaf ears and the game Carl Ikeme resumed the action with a goal kick.
Afobe got in behind McShane with ten minutes gone and he hooked the ball back towards the edge of the six yard box. Hector coolly took a touch before clearing under pressure from Edwards who came steaming in looking to steal a toe poke.
The first half continued at a relentless pace and Reading had to glorious chances moments later. The first saw Robson-Kanu feed Vydra in space just inside the box on the break. But the striker couldn't get the ball out of his feet quickly enough and Ebanks-Landell was equal to his stabbed effort at the end of a promising move. The ball pinged out to McCleary though whose effort at goal was cleared by last man Conor Coady. Then, a minute later, McCleary cut inside onto his right boot and drilled an effort inches wide of the bottom right corner.
But in an open first period, Wolves opened the scoring from a set piece. McCleary clipped the heels of Iorfa, Graham dinked a free kick into the box from the right and former Royals Academy graduate James Henry got there ahead of everyone to nod home a powerful header.
Danny Batth directed a header just over the crossbar soon after as the home fans found their voice. But Reading looked to respond and Carl Ikeme came off his line to claim a cross from McCleary after the winger had turned inside Iorfa on the left ton deliver a good ball.
Robson-Kanu did well to control a sliced Batth clearance but scuffed a shot wide. Then Quinn slid in to do just enough to deny Afobe in front of goal as he bore down on Bond. Appeals for a penalty were again waved away, but just shy of the half hour mark Wolves came within a whisker of a second - Henry crossing and Afobe deftly flicking it past Bond but against the left upright, the ball bouncing back into Bond's arms to Reading's relief.
With little more than eight minutes of the first half remaining, Williams found space to run into down the right and Blackman fed the ball into him. He pulled a cross back to the open Norwood who shot first time but miscued his effort which bobbled wide.
Brilliant work from McCleary out on the right set up Robson-Kanu for a shot at goal, but again the effort was charged down before Ikeme was forced to make a save, while at the other end Henry drove high over the bar.
Half-time:Wolves 1 Reading 0
The width of a post prevented Reading from levelling with the second half only minutes old. Vydra turned and teed up Norwood who thundered a stunnign right-footed effort at goal from more than 20 yards out. It flew past Ikeme and clattered into the right post and fell to a Wolves man on the rebound.
Gunter half appealed for a penalty after a shove from Henry had ended his run into the Wolves area, then Vydra turned his man to rifle a right-footed effort towards goal from the edge of the area - but Ikeme was equal to it.
Another well-timed sliding tackle from Quinn denied Wolves a clear view of goal just before the hour, but Robson-Kanu came close to equalising when he met a corner at the near post but glanced a header over the crossbar.
Just before Ola John and Andrew Taylor could enter the fray, Hector came so close to stealing in at the far post in an attempt to turn home a deep free kick. Then John himself made his first impact by supplying a superb cross from the same side, forcing Ebanks-Landell to head behind for a corner.
Gunter got in behind once more but his cross was intercepted before he could find Robson-Kanu in the middle, and the Royals were applying all the pressure.
Blackman took aim from 22 yards out and Ikeme spilled his powerful shot but the ball span inches wide of the bottom left corner - when on another day it could have easily tricked over the line and handed the Royals the leveller they deserved.
McDermott threw Sa on for Quinn with a quarter of an hour remaining and Blackman had a shot blocked before Williams dragged an effort wide. Time was running out for the Royals though, and as Ikeme flapped a cross from the left, Williams couldn't take advantage of the loose ball.
Four minutes were added to the ninety, but a tired Wolves side who had been made to work so hard in the second half, held on for the win. Reading now look to bounce back in front of their home fans when they host Bristol City at Madejski Stadium on Monday.
Full-time: Wolves 1 Reading 0
Wolves: Ikeme, Doherty, Edwards, Batth (c), Ebanks-Landell, Coady, Iorfa, Henry (Byrne 74), McDonald, Graham, Afobe (Holt 90).
Subs: McCarey, Golbourne, Wallace, Sigurdarson, Le Fondre.
Yellow: Edwards, Iorfa
Reading: Bond, Gunter, Quinn (Sa 76), McShane (c), Hector, Norwood, Williams, McCleary (Taylor 61), Blackman, Robson-Kanu, Vydra (John 61).
Subs: Al Habsi, Cooper, Piazon, Liburd.
Referee: Mr S Hooper