Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough enhanced their hopes of securing a play-off spot after they produced a strong display to beat Reading 2-0 at the Madejski.
Reading were seeking their first victory over Boro since the 3rd October 2015 to aid their own hopes of cementing a play-off spot, but it was Boro who came out victorious in this clash, thus meaning it’s three home league defeats in a row for the Royals.
First-half goals from Ashley Fletcher and Marc Bola sealed the win for Boro, leaving them now only four points away from sixth placed AFC Bournemouth.
It was Reading who started the brighter in the early advances of the first half and just before the ten minute mark, Michael Olise made a great run down the right, he cut inside to find Andy Rinomhota but his shot flew just wide of Bettinelli’s right-hand post.
The Royals continued to look the more likely to score and nearly did when Olise swung in a corner which met Lucas João’s head, but the ball went just over the bar.
However, the deadlock was broken by the away side in the 21st minute as a Paddy McNair whipped in a free kick from the edge of the box which was headed across goal by Dael Fry, and Ashley Fletcher was there to apply the finish and poke the ball past Rafael.
Paunovic’s men looked to launch an immediate reply and they nearly found an equaliser as Laurent found Ejaria with a short pass on the edge of the area, but the former Liverpool man’s low strike flew narrowly wide
Just as you felt Reading could get back into the game, Middlesbrough struck again in blistering fashion.
Industrious work from Duncan Watmore and Sam Morsy in the middle of the park carved out a chance for Marc Bola who was teed up with 20 yards to the goal, and he fired a thunderous strike into the top corner.
Just before the stroke of half-time, the away side could have put the game almost out of sight – Jonny Howson sparked a counter attack, he slid in Paddy McNair but Rafael Cabral made the save to keep it at 0-2.
In truth, the second half was bereft of too many chances but 15 minutes after the second half whistle was sounded, Reading carved out an opportunity to get one back.
Michael Morrison found Andy Yiadom on the right, who played a one-two with Tomas Esteves but he stabbed an effort narrowly wide inside the area.
Boro could have extended their lead ten minutes from time as substitute Marvin Johnson went on a mazy run through the middle of the park where he then laid off Ashley Fletcher but his strike was saved by Rafael.
Moments later, Reading continued to try and break down the resilient Boro rearguard and nearly did as Michael Morrison drove towards the area and let fly, but his effort stung the palms of Bettinelli who parried clear.
However, Boro remained solid and expertly kept Reading at bay to secure a massive three points in their season.