Modou Barrow's 10th goal of the season for Reading was the difference on the scoresheet against Preston North End, as the Royals claimed three vital points at Madejski Stadium.
- Barrow's 12-minute header puts Reading ahead
- Moult and Maguire each strike the frame of goal for Preston
- Royals hold on to claim consecutive home wins
It was similar to our Good Friday win in many respects - an early goal which gave us something to hold on... and hold onto it, we did!
It took heart and determination to keep out the Lancashire side, but the clean sheet came and three points were earned!
There were four changes to Paul Clement’s starting XI after the midweek defeat at Aston Villa – some enforced.
An injury to Tyler Blackett meant he dropped out of the squad completely, as did Dave Edwards in order to serve a suspension.
In their place came Omar Richards and John Swift, while Sam Smith and George Evans were replaced by Jón Daði Böðvarsson and Liam Kelly respectively.
North End create a decent opening with two minutes of kick-off – Callum Robinson cut in off the right and forced a save from Vito Mannone with a thunderous effort. Louis Moult was first to the rebound but it came to him too quickly for him to steer his first-time header on target.
But it was the Royals who took charge of the game, opening the scoring through Barrow in the 12th minute, with Böðvarsson heavily involved.
It was the Icelander’s skill down the flank that earned a free-kick – not to mention a booking for Ben Davies – and then when Kelly dinked over the free-kick, Böðvarsson’s header was tucked in on the far side by Barrow.
Moult was close to offering an instant reply for Preston. After a free-kick was conceded two yards outside the Royals box, the forward curled over the wall but the effort bounced off the post and wide.
The Royals support were claiming for a penalty when Swift’s reverse ball into the path of Kelly saw the midfielder dumped to the floor in the area at the hands of Darnell Fisher – but not enough for the referee to point to the spot. At the other end of the field, Liam Moore made a trademark block to deny Alan Browne’s powerful drive from the edge of the D.
With the game ticking towards the interval, the Lilywhites were looking threatening again - in particular down the right flank, through Callum Robinson and Billy Bodin. The latter's cross was a matter of inches from being touched in by Browne, but Mannone was able to cut it out.
And then Tom Barkhuizen lead a counter-attack as he glided into space - a firm effort from 20 yards was heading for the corner, before Mannone palmed it to safety.
Liam Moore almost sent Reading into the interval with a two-goal cushion; Aluko sent in a free-kick from the byline, which the centre-half met at the far side, only for goalkeeper Declan Rudd to claw around the post.
Half time | Reading 1-0 Preston North End
Both managers made changes at the break; Alex Neil made a double sub, while Pelle Clement replaced Richards for Reading.
And Bodin was wasteful when North End captain Greg Cunningham crossed from the left; the angle was narrow, but the midfielder missed high.
Then Bodin tried to turn provider, swinging in a delivery from the right-hand touchline. Half-time sub Sean Maguire stole a march and steamed onto it... his header crashed mercifully against the crossbar.
While Reading were defending their lead stoutly, they were picking their moments to show attacking intent. A neat one-two between Kelly and Böðvarsson could have brought an opening, but Kelly was penalised for handling the ball before firing his shot.
Preston continued to probe for the leveller; Reading's defence continued to stand tall. Moore, in particular, was putting his head in where it hurt time and again to prevent crosses being converted.
Aluko, the match-winner on Good Friday, tried to make it back-to-back Madejski Stadium goals when Clement's clipped cross was half-cleared into his path. Fashioning an acrobatic effort, he fired wide.
And Bodin, with quick feet, threatened to tie up the scores for Preston when he checked in onto his favoured left foot. His effort curled wide, and Maguire couldn't apply a touch.
And the Royals battled hard, to a man, until the final whistle. Another clean sheet at Madejski Stadium, and three points to show for it.
Full time | Reading 1-0 Preston North End
Reading: Mannone, Gunter (c), Ilori, Moore, Richards (Clement HT), Bacuna, Kelly (Evans 85), Swift, Aluko, Barrow, Böðvarsson (Martin 71).
Subs: Jaakkola, Van den Berg, Kermorgant, Holmes.
Yellow: Bacuna, Swift
Preston North End: Rudd, Fisher, Huntington, Davies (Clarke HT), Cunningham (c), Pearson, Browne, Robinson (Harrop 79), Barkhuizen, Bodin, Moult (Maguire HT).
Subs: Maxwell, Gallagher, Horgan, Earl.
Yellow: Davies, Fisher
Referee: Mr A Madley
Attendance: 15,501 (704 away)