Latics scrap to dogged win
- Debutant Pearce gives Wigan early lead
- Chalobah and McCleary denied by Al-Habsi
- Norwood comes close with free-kick
- Seven yellow cards and 11 minutes added on
Malky Mackay's men took all three points when the debutant centre-back was in the right place to stab home the rebound from a saved header and a lacklustre Reading never looked like retrieving the situation.
Ali Al-Habsi saved well from a Chalobah header and both McCleary in the first half and Norwood in the second forced smart saves from the Omani stopper, but the home side didn't create enough to truly threaten the Latics' lead and Wigan defended their advantage well to take the win.
Reading: Federici, Kelly, Obita, Pearce (c), Chalobah, Williams (Akpan 84), Norwood, McCleary, Robson-Kanu (Blackman 67), Cox (Yakubu 67), Pogrebnyak.
Subs: Andersen, Cooper, Travner, Mackie.
Wigan: Al Habsi, Taylor, Herd (Bo-Kyung 54), Maguire, Pearce, McClean, Ojo (Waghorn 73), Perch, Kvist, Clarke, Fortune (Mckay 81).
Subs: Carson, Bong, Flores, Robles.
Yellow: Herd, Pearce, Clarke, Ojo, Taylor,Bo-Kyung.
Att: 14,601 (198 away)
In the opening five minutes Reading almost made an early impact. Obita's cross from the left fell to the feet of McCleary but his low drive was charged down and the Royals had a corner. The ball was swung in from the right and the ball deflected goalwards off a combination of Alex Pearce and Harry Maguire only to be cleared off the line by Sheyi Ojo.
James McClean swept a free kick harmlessly over the Royals crossbar at the other end, but Leon Clarke almost found a way past Federici when he pounced upon a loose touch by the Aussie's from a back pass.
With the aid of Pearce, Feds did enough to force the ball behind for a corner, but Wigan broke the deadlock from the subsequent set piece. Federici had to scoop a downward header off his line and Jason Pearce slammed home from close range to hand Malky Mackay's men the lead.
A poor clearance from Al-Habsi handed Robson-Kanu a fleeting chance from distance but his low shot ricocheted behind off a defender before it could trouble the Omani keeper scrambling back to his goalmouth.
A lovely move down the left involving Obita led to the ball being threaded into the feet of Robson-Kanu just inside the Wigan box soon after, but his shot deflected up and over the Latics bar. Then McCleary's volley from a cleared corner cannoned off Chalobah's head and whistled inches wide of the left post.
Reading were full of industry but were struggling to create much to really threaten the visitors' lead, McCleary turning Andrew Taylor from a throw in and forcing Al Habsi into a save at his near post with five minutes of the half remaining. Chalobah connected with the resulting corner but Al-Habsi was equal to it again, tipping over his bar.
But a frustrating first half came to an end with the Royals a goal behind.
The first chance of the second half was a good one. Norwood's inswinging corner was met by the head of Chalobah but the ball fizzed just wide of the far post when it seemed Al-Habsi was sure to be troubled.
Hal then headed over from a corner from the opposite side but injuries and bookings kept bringing a scrappy half to a halt and neither team could find any sort of flow.
On the hour, Robson-Kanu did well to win a free kick on the very edge of the Wigan area but Obita's far post cross was headed back across by Pearce and eventually cleared by a yellow shirt.
At the other end, Marc-Antoine Fortune scuffed a low shot across the box which Perch almost managed to control on the edge of the six yard box, but Reading mopped up the danger.
Yakubu and Blackman were introduced before Pogrebnyak appealed in vain for a penalty after his shirt was almost pulled from his back as he looked to latch onto a free kick into the Wigan area.
Jordan Obita was pulled back by Ojo to win a free kick to the left of the penalty box next, and Norwood forced a smart save from Al-Habsi as his arcing effort arrowed in towards the target.
A delightful ball from Norwood found Blackman who chested the ball down but a last ditch tackle was made as the substitute was about to pull the trigger.
Reading were running out of time and not looking like getting an equaliser against a side scrapping their way to three vital points. McClean even led a late breakaway and it took Pearce to hack the ball off his line in denying the visitors a second.
An incredible 11 minutes of injury time were signalled, but it didn't look as though the off colour Royals were going to find a way back into it, and so it proved.