Reading’s resurgence continued with a 3-0 home win against Luton Town – making it three Madejski Stadium victories in succession.
Michael Morrison and Ovie Ejaria struck before the break, and sub Garath McCleary sealed the win in the second half to send the Royals into the international weekend with another win to celebrate.
The Royals showed quality throughout, and steeliness when it was needed in the second period to keep out one of the division’s top-scoring sides. The points were well-merited.
After our act of Remembrance – including an immaculately-observed minute’s silence – the game got underway in the driving rain at Madejski Stadium. The Hatters were first to go close as Jacob Butterfield’s free-kick from wide on the right found its way over to skipper Martin Cranie, but Rafael produced a good stop.
The Royals’ first effort of note came from Sam Baldock, looking to make it goals in three consecutive fixtures. John Swift’s smart ball with the outside of his right boot found the striker on the run, but Matty Pearson made a smart block.
Baldock and strike-partner George Pușcaș were looking to link up as the duo sped towards goal, but Baldock’s final ball was perhaps too unselfish and cut out at the last. That sparked a counter-attack for Luton; soon the ball was at the other end of the pitch, where James Collins headed wide.
Full-back Omar Richards came close to opening the scoring in spectacular fashion when a clearance came to him, 30 yards from goal. After trapping the ball as it fell from the sky, he danced through the defence and fired with his right boot and forced a smart stop from goalie James Shea.
But from the resulting corner came that first goal of the game. Simple stuff it was, too – a dangerous delivery by John Swift and a towering header by Morrison, nestling inside the post. 1-0 to the Royals.
And on the stroke of the half-hour mark, 2-0 – this one was a bit more spectacular. It all started at the back as Richards turned the ball over with a meaty tackle on Luke Bolton – Reading countered, Swift slid a ball wide for Ejaria, who cut inside and slammed inside the far post.
Reading’s front two had opportunities to get in on the action. Pușcaș went on a slaloming run but his final touch was a tad too heavy, allowing a much-needed tackle to arrive from a Luton perspective. Then Baldock thrashed one goalwards as Andy Rinomhota drove forward and slipped him in; this time Shea was equal to it.
The Royals’ strike partnership were looking on the same wavelength; Baldock’s flicked round the corner for the Romanian, and continued his run. Pușcaș in turn slotted in his teammate, but Baldock struck the side netting from a tight angle as Shea closed down the shot.
Half-time | Reading 2-0 Luton Town
Swift could have put the game out of sight early in the second period, as a scuffed clearance stuck to the damp surface. The midfielder had time to run onto the loose ball, unchallenged, but struck high over the bar from outside the area.
Luton were looking for a way back into the game, but weren’t being given anything for free from a stingy Reading defence. Full-back Andy Yiadom was offering a forward threat at every opportunity and almost found Pușcaș in the six-yard box, only for the goalie to snaffle out the chance.
Richards too had been a willing contributor at both ends; darting to the byline, he hung up a cross to the far stick where it was met by Pușcaș, but Shea acrobatically kept it out as the header came back across goal. His last action, as Yakou Méïté came on for the final 20.
Sitting on a two-goal lead, the Royals were content at repelling the Hatters’ attacks and looking to strike on the counter. Luton had an optimistic cry for a hand-ball in the Reading box, but Mr Woolmer displayed no interest.
And then, with 10 minutes remaining, substitute McCleary sealed the win – and it was all his own doing. He sensed a moment of hesitation from Luton substitute Alan Sheehan, dispossessed him, and rushed towards goal unchallenged. He kept the coolest head in the Madejski to slot past Shea.
McCleary had an opportunity for his second and Reading’s fourth as the ball broke his way outside the area, but his powerful shot was always rising and didn’t trouble Shea in the Luton net.
Not that it mattered. The Royals had done more than enough damage, and were great value for another three points. The feel-good factor continues to grow in RG2.
Full-time | Reading 3-0 Luton Town
Reading: Rafael, Yiadom, Miazga, Morrison, Moore (c), Richards, Rinomhota, Ejaria (McCleary 64), Swift, Baldock (Loader 80), Pușcaș (Méïté 69).
Unused subs: Walker, Howe, Blackett, Pelé.
Goals: Morrison (22), Ejaria (30), McCleary (79).
Luton Town: Shea, Cranie, Potts, Tunnicliffe, Pearson, Bolton (Sheehan HT), McManaman, Jones, Butterfield (Lualua (69), Collins, Cornick (Shinnie 57).
Unused subs: Sluga, Lee, Ruddock-Mpanzu, Bree.
Attendance: 15,251 (2,097 away).
Referee: Mr A Woolmer