Date with Royals ends in defeat
- James Linington
AFC Bournemouth missed out on the chance to move into fourth place in the Championship after going down to fellow high-fliers Reading.
First-half goals from Josh Laurent, Tom McIntyre and Lucas Joao left the Cherries with a mountain to climb at the Madejski Stadium.
And although Jason Tindall’s team had the better of the second period, they were unable to repair the damage of the first 45 minutes.
Junior Stanislas came off the bench to net a consolation for the visitors, the frontman beating Reading goalkeeper Rafael with a free-kick from 30 yards six minutes from time.
Chris Mepham returned to the starting line-up as boss Jason Tindall made four changes from the team which suffered defeat at Derby ten days ago.
Mepham, who came off the bench at Pride Park, had missed the previous seven league games after sustaining a calf injury in early December.
Diego Rico, Phil Billing and Joshua King also started, while there was a welcome return on the bench for Stanislas following his recent ankle injury.
Early on, McIntyre’s long ball out of defence bounced over Mepham and almost fell for Joao but Asmir Begovic came off his line to avert the danger.
Arnaut Danjuma forced Rafael into making the first save of the match after five minutes, the Reading goalkeeper beating away the Dutchman’s fierce strike from 25 yards.
A promising run into enemy territory by Danjuma ended with the attacker being prevented from getting a shot away by defender Tom Holmes.
The Cherries had a let-off after Lewis Cook’s backpass failed to find either Begovic or Mepham in the 20th minute.
But although Joao seized on the loose ball and teed it up invitingly for John Swift, he contrived to fire wide of the post.
However, there was no reprieve when the hosts broke the deadlock in the 24th minute through Laurent.
The midfielder was on hand to lash the ball home from close range after the Cherries had failed to clear Michael Olise’s corner.
There was a touch of good fortune about the goal as a speculative effort from McIntyre, after Olise’s flag-kick had fallen to him, hit Mepham and landed at the feet of Laurent inside the six-yard box.
Reading doubled their lead just seven minutes later when McIntyre converted the rebound after Begovic had parried Olise’s free-kick into the path of the defender.
The lively Olise dragged his shot wide following another Reading attack before the Royals further extended their advantage two minutes before half-time.
Leading goalscorer Joao, fed by Ovie Ejaria, sidestepped the challenge of Steve Cook before stroking the ball past Begovic to register his 18th goal of the season.
David Brooks, Jack Wilshere and Adam Smith replaced Jefferson Lerma, Danjuma and Rico at the break as the Cherries looked for a way back into the contest.
Smith nodded Brooks’s corner narrowly over the crossbar at the start of the season half before Begovic saved comfortably from Swift’s long-range effort.
Lewis Cook’s piledriver from 30 yards flashed past the post before Swift lifted his shot over the crossbar as play quickly switched to the opposite end.
King’s run down the right ended with Andy Rinomhota almost turning his low cross past his own goalkeeper before McIntyre prevented Dom Solanke latching on to Jack Stacey’s centre.
The Cherries’ improved second-half showing continued with Mepham denied by the hand of defender Holmes after Brooks’s 62nd-minute corner had fallen to him before King fired the rebound narrowly wide of the upright.
Billing saw his first-time effort from a Brooks cross saved by Rafael, the Reading goalkeeper also tipping Steve Cook’s header around the post.
Joao warmed Begovic’s hands with a strike from the edge of the box before Laurent’s effort went straight down the Cherries goalkeeper’s throat.
Substitute Stanislas, who replaced Billing ten minutes from time, finally found a way past Rafael, the frontman picking his spot in the bottom corner from a free-kick from 30 yards six minutes from time.
Unused subs: Gibson, Tetek, Onen, Southwood (g/k).
Referee: James Linington.