READING FC made it three wins from three with a deserved 1-0 win over 10-man Middlesbrough at Select Car Leasing Stadium.

Allen Halilovic scored the only goal of the game which saw striker Matt Crook dismissed and shot stopper Joe Lumley glance a header just wide of the post in added time.

Royals’ injury crisis forced Veljko Paunovic’s hand as he named a starting XI without a recognised centre-back or striker.

In fact, Reading started the game with eight midfielders and two defenders. Dejan Tetek came into a makeshift back four for his first start of the season while Luke Southwood kept his place following an inspiring display at Craven Cottage.

Meanwhile, Premier League-winning midfielder Danny Drinkwater was also handed his first start of the campaign since penning a season-long loan move from Chelsea in the summer.

It was Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough who thought they had got off to the perfect start when Crook’s towering header hit the back of the net inside two minutes.

Reading failed to deal with the initial cross from the left flank but Crooks was deemed offside.

Paunovic’s side, looking for their third win on the bounce, looked comfortable in possession but lacked any attacking urgency in the opening 15 minutes.

Royals finally came to life after 22 minutes when John Swift and Ovie Ejaria both squandered opportunities to give Reading the lead.

The latter saw his strike from the edge of the box blocked before Swift was brilliantly picked out with time and space but the in-form midfielder fired straight at goalkeeper Joe Lumley.

Reading remained on the front foot but were limited to long range strikes as they struggled to carve open a defiant Middlesbrough defence.

Boro striker Andraz Sporar was presented with a gilt-edged chance to score after being played through on goal with 40 minutes played but scuffed his left-footed finish well wide of the target.

Royals should have taken the lead early in the second half when Drinkwater slipped Dele-Bashiru through on goal.

The Watford loanee had all the time in the world to pick his finish but fired straight at the Lumley, who had raced off of his line to meet him.

Reading clearly had fire in their bellies and eventually took the lead in fortunate fashion through ex-Barcelona ace Allen Halilovic.

Drinkwater, whose passing was instrumental all afternoon, cleverly found Swift on the right who in turn cut the ball back for Halilovic to bundle home.

Canada international Hoilett then snatched at a half chance from a tight angle after being played in behind the visiting defence. Boro pushed for an equaliser but looked lethargic in attack as they struggled to break down Royals’ makeshift defence.

A clearly frustrated Sporar fancied his chances from distance with 70 minutes on the clock but ballooned his shot high and wide of Luke Southwood’s goal.

Crooks found himself free in the six-yard box after a teasing ball from the left but he was smartly denied by Royals' ‘keeper.

It was the towering forward’s last action of the game before being handed his marching orders on 86 minutes after a lunge at Southwood. Royals’ keeper had smothered the ball but Crook followed through with his shot and was sent for an early shower.

The hosts had their heart in their mouths deep into added time when Lumley came forward for a corner to glance a free header inches wide of the post.

But the home side clung on in the remaining minutes to claim their third win on the trot and propel themselves up the Championship ladder

. Reading FC: Southwood, Yiadom, Rahman, Laurent, Tetek, Drinkwater (Stickland, 90), Dele-Bashiru, Hoilett (Puscas, 90) , Halilovic, Ejaria, Swift. Subs not used: Rafael, Sackey, Bristow, Clarke, Ehibhationmhan.