The Royals took on Oxford United at a baking hot Bearwood Park this afternoon, giving the squad players who had not started against Stoke City on Saturday the opportunity to get more minutes under their belt.
Before the match begun, both sets of players and staff observed a minute's silence to pay their respects to the victims of Saturday evening's tragic events in Forbury Gardens.
Reading were very much on top though and Andy Rinomhota forced the keeper into a fine save with his legs soon after, jinking between defenders before getting a shot away. With less than 12 minutes played, Sam Baldock arrowed an effort high towards goal and again the United keeper took evasive action to tip it over with a glove.
Sam Walker was down well to a low shot after Oxford carved out their first real opportunity 20 minutes in, but Baldock was soon up to mischief at the other end driving high into the side of the goal to come close to breaking the deadlock.
The referee did point to the spot after a drinks break – Andy Rinomhota tripped after he stole possession from the goalkeeper inside the area. But the Simon Eastwood was equal to Baldock’s penalty and the game remained goalless.
The Royals continued to make the pace; Masika struck a fearsome effort that was tipped over, then Baldock slid onto a low ball into the middle only for the keeper to come off his line and smother his toe-poked effort.
The second half period saw the deadlock broken when an Oxford corner was only cleared as far as Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn, who drilled low through a crowd and into the bottom right corner.
But the Royals levelled when McCleary shimmied inside from the right and his deflected cross was bundled over the line by the arriving Charlie Adam on the edge of the six yard box.
After a flurry of changes, Reading took the lead through substitute Danny Loader – a defensive miscalculation allowed Felipe Araruna’s forward ball to float into the path of the Royals forward who got a toe to the ball before the goalkeeper could come and thwart the attack. The ball looped over the keeper and dropped inside the right post.
Lucas Boye almost found a yard inside a crowded box to get an effort away in injury time and then slid in to connect with a late Adam cross but couldn’t direct it on target and the game ended with a slim victory for Mark Bowen’s side.
Another useful workout for the players who didn’t play a big part in last weekend’s draw with Stoke City – against an Oxford side, containing a number of familiar faces, ramping up for their play-off semi-final against Portsmouth.