Despite a hearty second-half showing, Reading weren’t able to take anything away from their trip to the KCOM Stadium as hosts Hull City ran out 2-1 winners.
Jarred Bowen and Jackson Irvine had the Tigers two up at the break as they impressed in their first home outing of the year; Lucas João pegged one back with a debut goal as Reading looked much improved after the interval.
But the Royals couldn’t quite make the pressure pay with an equaliser. A harsh reflection on a good showing in the second period.
After the conclusion of a busy week of transfer activity, there were three immediate debuts for the Royals – Lucas Boyé, Lucas João and Pelé all jumped straight into the starting XI, while George Pușcaș was available to call upon from the bench.
The first real chance of the game came for Bowen with a bit of contention, as Tom Eaves appeared to climb all over Matt Miazga as he won the nod-down – but a block arrived from a blue and white shirt just in time.
But Bowen did soon get the game’s first goal. It was Kamil Grosicki who wriggled clear on the Hull left and chanced his arm from a tight angle, striking the base of João Virginia’s post. The ball broke kindly for Bowen to hammer in from inside the six-yard box.
Reading looked for a quick response and nearly got it when John Swift danced into the area on the left and laid into the path of Andy Rinomhota to shoot. His blocked effort looped upwards, and Yakou Méïté’s acrobatic follow-up was blocked.
And so, just after the quarter-hour mark, Hull doubled their lead. This time Bowen was the architect; scampering free down the right, he cut onto his left foot and flighted in a delivery which Irvine steamed onto and headed the Tigers further ahead.
Two new arrivals combined to almost half the deficit. It was sheer brilliance from Boyé to cleverly wriggle free in his own half, and then set off on a lung-busting run downfield. The run was matched with a delightful diagonal ball to João, but the striker was denied by the base of the near post as he chested down and shot.
Chances began to try up at either end as the game became somewhat scrappy on a windy day in Humberside. Swift’s quick free-kick tried to find Méïté on the run, but goalie George Long was alive to the danger.
Bowen continued to be a threat for the hosts and the KCOM crowd bayed him to shoot as he drifted into the middle. He obliged, but Virginia did well to save and hold.
The Royals' best chance before the break saw Swift switch the play to Omar Richards on the left; a teasing cross just evaded everyone as blue shirts streamed into the six-yard box, with Boyé just inches from getting his head to it.
Half-time: Hull City 2-0 Reading
Reading began the second half with positive intent, with Pușcaș replacing Boyé at the break and shooting towards the travelling Reading support.
Méïté’s persistence might have brought a penalty in Reading’s favour when he chased down a forward ball and beat goalkeeper Long to it in the area; there looked to be a collision of legs but the referee waved away the claims for a spot-kick.
Then soon after he was inches away from converting a brilliant ball in from the left, from the outside of Swift’s boot, but couldn’t direct his header on target.
Midway through the second period, Reading made the pressure pay.
Riding challenges on the left, Swift had the wherewithal to pick out João as he faded towards the far side. Feinting to shoot, the debutant cut inside his marker and lashed in past Long - game on.
And then a few minutes later, nearly another debut goal as Richards found the run of Pușcaș - the full-back's ball dissected the defence, allowing the Romanian through on goal, but the goalkeeper covered his angles well.
Reading were flooding forward in search of the leveller. Andy Yiadom hung a cross up to the far post, where João nodded back to Pușcaș who forced the goalkeeper into another stunning stop - although the flag had gone up for offside anyway.
But the reminders were there that the Tigers still had threats of their own; danger-man Bowen tested Virginia with a vicious effort as he went outside on the right.
Still Reading pushed, but the second goal just wouldn't come. Sub Charlie Adam fed João, who slipped in Pușcaș in turn, but a rocket of a shot only found side-netting.
With an instinctive effort, Pușcaș shot on the spin as the ball broke his way in the area as Adam won a header in a crowded box... this time the crossbar denied the forward.
Michael Morrison was handed his competitive debut in the final throes, put on to win aerial balls, but the Royals couldn't quite grab a goal to earn a point.
Full-time: Hull City 2-1 Reading
Hull City: Long, Lichaj (c), De Wijs, Burke, Kingsley, Stewart, Batty (Dicko 68), Bowen, Grosicki (Honeyman 78), Irvine, Eaves (Toral 68).
Unused subs: Ingram, Tafazolli, Bowler, Pennington.
Goals: Bowen (6), Irvine (16).
Reading: Virgínia, Yiadom (Morrison 89), Moore (c), Miazga, Richards, Pelé (Adam 68), Rinomhota, Swift, Boyé (Pușcaș HT), Méïté, João.
Unused subs: Walker, McIntyre, Olise, Barrett.
Goal: João (66)
Referee: Mr M Donahue