Despite a late rally from the Royals, a brace from Adama Traore sees Reading lose 2-1 at the Riverside.
- Traore scores just before half-time to give the hosts the lead
- Traore doubles the advantage early in the second half
- Martin scores first Reading goal to give late lifeline for the Royals
- Assombalonga misses late penalty for Boro
The hosts kicked off on the front foot, an early foul drawn on the far side with Leandro Bacuna bringing down Adama Traore. Former England international Stewart Downing provided the cross from the resulting free-kick, with Tiago Ilori having to be alert to clear the danger.
Long throws were an obvious weapon for Boro from the off, with Ryan Shotton and George Friend providing balls into the box and troubling the Royals' defence. A Shotton throw was lobbed towards Rudy Gestede, with the powerful forward heading over the bar.
The Royals had to work to gain a foothold in the match at the Riverside, and had their first chance after Sone Aluko threaded a ball through two Boro defenders to find Garath McCleary on the run on the left. He squared across to Liam Kelly, who had more time than he perhaps realised as his first-time effort swirled wide.
The hosts then broke down the other end, with Gestede looping a ball to the back post for Downing to fire on the volley across goal, it was well-struck but went past Vito Mannone's left-hand post.
Joey van den Berg was tackled in the hosts' half, the Dutchman was in pain on the floor but play continued as Boro broke, Traore hanging up a cross for Bamford but Dave Edwards was fouled by the striker, as the Royals kept the scores level after 25 minutes.
McCleary superbly dispossessed the lively Traore in the defensive third and spread the ball to Aluko on the run. Aluko crossed deep to try and bring Jón Daði Böðvarsson into play, but it was out of reach of the Iceland striker as it bobbled behind.
Boro got forward once more in an open encounter at the Riverside, Traore free to chase a through-ball on the left but Ilori was at full pelt and slid to intervene in the box in a perfectly-timed challenge.
It looked as though the teams would go in goalless at the break, but Traore opened the scoring with just one minute of the first period left. It was a fine effort, cutting in from the right and making space for himself before striking venomously towards Mannone's near post. The goalkeeper got a hand to it, but the power in the strike kept the ball moving and into the net.
Half time | Middlesbrough 1-0 Reading
The second half started with an opening for the Royals, McCleary beating his man on the far side and lofting towards Böðvarsson, who improvised with the outside of his boot to shoot but it was comfortable for Randolph to catch.
Before they knew it, the Royals were two behind. Traore again found joy on the right flank and fired beyond Mannone from the edge of the area to double the deficit for Reading.
Boro could have gone further ahead with Traore crossing to the far post for Patrick Bamford in space, but he spooned his shot wide of the target.
Boro struck the woodwork as well, with Grant Leadbitter's free-kick thumping the post as they strove to put the result beyond doubt.
Chris Martin and Pelle Clement were introduced after the hour mark for the Royals, and that was soon followed by a consistent spell of pressure from the away side as they aimed to get back into the game.
An Aluko corner was only half-cleared by the Boro back-line into the path of Bacuna, who chested down and volleyed left-footed, but he couldn't direct his effort on target.
The Royals broke forward again with Aluko finding Gunter on the right, crossing towards substitute Yann Kermorgant, whose effort was deflected for a corner. The resulting set-piece wasn't cleared properly and Martin fired home expertly from 20 yards to net his first in a hooped shirt and give the Royals a lifeline.
The Royals kept the pressure up but looked like the game would go beyond them after Traore fell in the box under the challenge of Edwards, with the referee giving a penalty.
Substitute Britt Assombalonga stepped up and offered a candidate for one of the worst penalties you'll see all season, stuttering on his run-up and his shot heading into the back rows of the Boro faithful.
Tempers frayed among the players as Boro tried to run down the clock with the Royals in the ascendency, Adam Clayton standing over the ball with Reading wanting to take a free-kick. Tetchy scenes played out afterwards with the players shoving back and forth with the free-kick not taken for more than two minutes while the referee dished out cautions.
Five minutes were added as the Royals tried to find the equaliser, but it wasn't to be on the day for Reading.
Full time | Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Shotton, Gibson, Leadbitter (c), Bamford (Clayton 66), Howson, Downing (Cranie 90+1), Traore, Gestede (Assombalonga 79).
Subs: Dimi, Fry, Harrison, Besic.
Goals: Traore 44, 49
Yellow: Friend, Clayton
Reading: Mannone, Gunter (c), Moore, Ilori, Bacuna, Van den Berg, Edwards, Kelly (Martin 63), Aluko, McCleary (Kermorgant 73), Böðvarsson (Clement 63).
Subs: Jaakkola, Kermorgant, Blackett, Richards, Smith.
Goals: Martin 78
Yellow: Van den Berg, Gunter, Bacuna
Referee: Mr D Coote
Att: 23,491 (257 away)