READING FC'S young striker Sam Smith starred as Royals almost staged a sensational second-half fightback as their pre-season ended with a 3-2 defeat against Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.

Royals had a first-half to forget and found themselves two goals down at the break. Things were made worse when new signing Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was forced off at half-time with an injury.

Young Smith was thrown on to replace the Icelandic international and despite Reading going three goals down almost immediately into the second-half, the 19-year-old put on a fine display to help Reading claw their way back into the tie.

First Smith was hacked down in the box allowing John Swift to score from the penalty spot. Royals began to up their momentum and Smith was unlucky not to score himself when he crashed a shot against the post with 71 minutes gone.

But the ball fell kindly to Popa who made no mistake from inside the penalty area. Royals could not quite find the third however and eventually lost 3-2.

Stam handed starts to new signings Vito Mannone, Pelle Clement and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson while youngsters Danny Loader, Smith, Omar Richards and Andy Rinomhota were all named on the bench.

Royals almost had a dream start after a delicate through ball nearly found its way to the on-rushing Bodvarsson with just two minutes played. The striker could not quite get a toe on it however and the ball was hooked out for an early corner to Reading.

But Stam’s men found themselves a goal down after Vitesse’s Bryan Linssen was played through on goal with less than 15 minutes on the clock. Mannone made an initial save but the ball fell kindly to Linssen, who had the simple task of tapping it into the back of an empty net.

Joey van den Berg found then himself on the resulting end of a crunching challenge and was forced to make way with Liam Kelly coming on to replace him.

Seconds later Royals were handed a golden opportunity to level the score line through John Swift. A glorious cross from captain Gunter found Swift unmarked in the box, the England under 21 international leapt high but blazed a free header well wide of the post.

But things went from bad to worse for Reading and they found themselves two goals down with 30 minutes played. Vito Mannone again got a touch on the ball but was unable to prevent Tim Matavz from tucking home a cross from the right wing.

Bodvarsson nearly got Reading back into the game with a curling effort from the edge of the box following some neat footwork from Clement. The striker’s shot sailed high of the crossbar however.

Liam Moore then squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to put Royals back in the game following a fine corner-kick from Swift. The former Leicester City centre-back rose highest put powered his header just over the bar.

Worryingly, Bodvarsson was forced to limp off the pitch right on the cusp of half-time, potentially adding to Stam’s striking woes with both Yann Kermorgant and Joseph Mendes already out injured.

Royals went into the break trailing by two goals after a disappointing first-half performance.

Stam made two changes at the break with striker Sam Smith replacing Bodvarsson up front and Richards coming on for Obita.

Reading made a bright start to the second-half with some neat passing in midfield. Liam Kelly dictated the tempo well but Royals struggled to find a breakthrough.

But the visitors piled misery on Reading and soon went three goals up following a dreadful touch by Swift. Mannone’s clearance found Swift but his touch was far too heavy and gifted Matavz with the chance to score his second of the game.

Royals then had desperate appeals for a penalty turned down after Clement latched on to a poor back-pass and drifted around goalkeeper Room. The Dutchman looked certain to score but for a last ditch challenge which was deemed a fair one by the referee.

But it sparked a bit of life into Royals’ play as Popa then crashed a thunderous strike onto the crossbar moments later.

Reading continued to move the ball around nicely and youngster Smith was sent sprawling in the box with 62 minutes played. The referee made no hesitation this time around and pointed to the spot.

John Swift placed the ball on the spot and made no mistake from 12 yards, crashing his strike to low and hard to the goalkeeper’s right.

Liam Kelly could have made it 3-2 with 69 minutes played after picking up a fine pass from Popa on the edge of the box. The 21-year-old took a touch before forcing Room into a good save down to his right.

But the comeback was officially on after a fine cross from Kelly fell to Smith who in turn crashed his shot against the post with 70 minutes on the clock. Luckily though, the rebound fell straight to winger Popa who took a touch before firing the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-2.

Royals continued to pile on the pressure and Jaap Stam threw on young striker Danny Loader with 13 minutes left to play in a bid to try and level the scores at Adams Park.

And Loader could have stolen all the headlines when he danced past two defenders on the left before fizzing a cross towards Smith in the box. The delivery was not quite good enough however and the visitors were able to clear the danger.

Despite Reading’s sensational second-half display the visitors held onto their lead and the final whistle blew with Royals losing 3-2.

Reading FC: Mannone, Gunter, van den Berg (Kelly, 23), Moore, Evans, Swift (Loader, 77), Obita (Richards, 45), Ilori, Clement, Bodvarsson (Smith, 45), Popa (Rinomhota, 77).

Subs not used: Jaakola

Referee: Dean Whitestone