Reading U23s fell to a second successive Premier League 2 defeat, as despite taking the lead early on, Mehmet Ali's side conceded three as they suffered a 3-1 defeat against promotion contenders Stoke City U23.
Amongst the starting eleven were Liam Moore and George Pușcaș, both of whom banked 45 and 55 valuable minutes towards their continued return to full fitness.
The young Royals enjoyed a perfect start to proceedings at Bearwood Park, and took the lead after just five minutes, as Tennai Watson swung in a low cross which the visitors failed to clear, the ball fell into the path of Nahum Melvin-Lambert who pounced to prod home after just five minutes.
However, just four minutes later Melvin-Lambert's opener and sixth of the season was cancelled out as D'margio Wright-Phillips worked himself some space inside the Reading area before slotting a low, right-footed effort beyond Coniah Boyce-Clarke.
Following two early goals, Pușcaș had arguably the best chance of the remainder of the half, as after 23 minutes he latched onto Michael Stickland's long ball over the top, before curling his side-footed effort just over Blondy Nna Noukeu's bar on the half-volley.
Mamadi Camara also went close to restoring the Royals lead nine minutes before the break, as Moore's swooping cross was fumbled by Nna Noukeu under the challenge of Melvin-Lambert, the ball then fell to Camara who blasted narrowly over from edge of the area.
Half-time: Reading U23 1-1 Stoke City U23
Four minutes after the restart however, it was the Potters who took the lead for the first time. The ball fell to Stoke striker Ethon Varian inside the area, as he slotted his low strike in off the post, beyond the reach of Boyce-Clarke.
Another four minutes passed before Varian put Stoke two up with his second of the afternoon, Wright-Phillips weaved his way into the box before his initial effort was saved by Boyce-Clarke, but the follow up fell kindly for Varian to tap home.
Stoke had a handful of opportunities to add a fourth, but Boyce-Clarke produced a string of strong saves to deny Christian Norton on a number of occasions, both one-on-one and from range.
Next up for Ali's U23s is a trip to the North to face the division's bottom side Newcastle United U23 at the Newcastle United Academy on March 1st at 1pm.
Full-time: Reading U23 1-3 Stoke City U23
Reading U23: Boyce-Clarke, Watson, Samuels (Nevers 72'), East, Stickland, Moore (Dorsett 46'), Onen, Lawless, Pușcaș (Azeez 56'), Camara, Melvin-Lambert
Unused subs: Holden, Leavy
Yellow: Lawless 76', Stickland 81'
Scorer: Melvin-Lambert 5'
Stoke City U23: Nna Noukeu, Coates, Jones, Malone (Sy 70'), Taylor, Macari, Wright-Phillips (James-Taylor 78'), Sparrow, Varian (C), Adebambo, Norton
Unused subs: Nixon, Cooper, Goodwin
Scorers: Wright-Phillips 9', Varian 50' 54'