A fantastic away performance from the Royals saw them merit every bit of their 3-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, as Yakou Méïté, George Pușcaș and Sam Baldock all grabbed goals at Hillsborough.
Méïté’s tenth of the season saw him latch onto a perfect through-ball by Ovie Ejaria to slot in. The complexion of the game changed soon after the break when Wednesday full-back Osaze Urhoghide picked up his second yellow.
And Pușcaș diverted in an Andy Yiadom effort in the second period, sealing a well-deserved win for the Royals.
There were three changes to the team selection – one enforced, as a minor injury setback meant Pelé was unavailable to call upon. Andy Rinomhota stepped in at the back of midfield, with fellow Academy graduates Omar Richards and Michael Olise both also recalled. On the bench, Ayub Masika was involved in his first matchday squad.
One look at the weather forecastr suggested that it never looked destined to be one for the purists. By the time kick-off came around, the weather was simply abysmal. With Storm Dennis inbound, the driving wind and swirling rain were playing their part in proceedings.
Owls wide-man Kadeem Harris was first to go close. Reading had pressed high upfield, but a ball slipped down the left for the winger set him clear into space. Striking hard and low across goal, Rafael got an all-important palm to the low strike and birthday-boy Omar Richards was quickest to the loose ball, sweeping behind for a corner with Fernando Forestieri lurking nearby.
Atdhe Nuhiu escaped the referee’s notebook after two heavy-handed challenges, but Osaze Urhoghide was first to receive a caution as he grabbed the leg of Ovie Ejaria after the Royals man had wrestled back possession in his own half.
But bang on 20 minutes, Reading took a lead in emphatic fashion. Ejaria’s first touch on halfway was exquisite to spin into space – and with wonderful vision, he dissecting the entire Wednesday defence with a perfectly-weighted ball to pick out the run of Méïté. With his first touch, the forward stabbed in.
There was a lengthy delay before the half-hour mark, with good reason. Wednesday defender Julian Borner took a heavy, inadvertent collision around the throat and looked like he was struggling for air. The medical staff were on the scene quickly to assess their patient, who was eventually able to play on after receiving careful attention.
Then Reading were denied a penalty claim when Richards’ whipped delivery pinged skywards off a defending leg, and Dominic Iorfa stretched to get to get a toe onto the ball as it dropped out of the air. He clattered Olise in the process; the referee deemed that he had played the ball first.
The Royals were looking the likelier to grab the game’s second before the break. And a slick combination between creative pair Swift and Ejaria perhaps should have earned it. Swift scampered through the midfield line, linked up with Ejaria down the left, and eventually Ejaria’s side-footed strike cleared the bar.
Half-time: Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Reading
So far, so good for the Royals at the break. Not so for the Owls, who put on string-puller Barry Bannan at the interval.
But the hosts' best-laid plans were scrapped when, three minutes after the restart, they were reduced to ten. Urhoghide, already on the tightrope, hacked Ejaria down in a wide position. There could be little argument; the youngster was shown his second yellow and his marching orders with it.
Iorfa escaped the book with a late challenge on skipper Liam Moore, from which he needed a bit of attention from the medical staff. And soon after a ball was strafed over the head of Moore, but Forestieri struck side-netting from a wide angle as he latched on.
Wednesday were doing their utmost to get level, despite being a man light, and had a lengthy spell of possession - without really threatening. Conversely the Royals did look dangerous when they broke and Andy Rinomhota's run brought a free-kick in the D, from which Swift drew a save from Cameron Dawson.
But with 20 minutes to go, the Royals' lead was doubled. Sub Charlie Adam sent over a dangerous corner; Andy Yiadom thrashed at the ball as it broke to the edge of the area, and Pușcaș got a little nick on the ball to divert it past goalie Dawson - although he might have done better, as the wet ball squirmed out of his grasp.
A third could have followed almost immediately. A hacked clearance by Liam Palmer was loose - Ejaria picked it up on the edge of the box and popped off an early shot. This time, the goalkeeper's gloves were firm and true to bat away for a corner.
The remainder of the game was something of a procession as the Royals looked after the ball well, not allowing Wednesday much of a sniff. Jacob Murphy tried to catch out Rafael with a 30-yarder which had plenty of fizz on it, but nothing to trouble the goalie's safe hands.
Baldock was introduced late, as was Masika for his first ever involvement in Reading colours.
And just before the fourth official showed five added minutes, Reading had a penalty. It was Rinomhota who got to a loose ball, drew a foul from Iorfa in the area, and Baldock was on hang to smash in from the spot.
Three goals, three terrific points for the Royals!
Full-time: Sheffield Wednesday 0-3 Reading
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer (c), Lee, Urhoghide, Borner, Harris, Pelupessy (Bannan HT), Da Cruz (Murphy 56), Iorfa, Forestieri, Nuhiu (Wickham 67).
Unused subs: Wildsmith, Lees, Hunt, Windass.
Reading: Rafael, Yiadom, Morrison, Moore (c), Richards, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria (Masika 85), Olise (Adam 67), Méïté, Pușcaș (Baldock 82).
Unused subs: Walker, Araruna, Blackett, Osho.
Goal: Méïté (21), Pușcaș (72), Baldock (90+1 pen).
Referee: Mr A Woolmer