READING FC Under 23s lost ground in the Premier League 2 Division 2 promotion race after a 3-2 home defeat to Middlesbrough.

Sunday’s loss at Wycombe’s Adams Park leaves Scott Parker’s Royals drop to fourth in the table after being leapfrogged by their opponents.

Reading are now without a win in five games and have fallen six points behind leaders Blackburn Rovers and five behind second-placed Aston Villa having played at least one more game.

A lively opening saw Boro threaten twice with Mikael Soisalo and Tyrone O’Neill seeing efforts blocked.

The hosts replied when a Ben House drive forced a decent save out of Zach Hemming.

But Marshall’s young side fell behind in the 27th minute when Luke Armstrong showed good strength before crossing for SoiSalo to convert from close range.

However, Royals levelled within two minutes when Tyler Frost rifled a shot past Hemming from the edge of the box.

Boro regained the lead early in the second half thanks to a powerful strike from O’Neill.

The visitors then went 3-1 up 10 minutes before the end when Hayden Coulson punished a defensive error by firing past Liam Driscoll.

Royals raised hopes of a comeback five minutes later when Ade Shokunbi reduced the deficit after excellent work from full-back Ramarni Medford-Smith.

But Marshall’s men couldn’t muster an equaliser as Boro left with all three points.

Reading U23s return to action on March 5 when they host West Brom at Adams Park.

Reading U23: Driscoll, Watson (Howe 8), Osho, Holmes, Medford-Smith, East, Rollinson (Shokunbi 62), Holsgrove, House (Nolan 78), Frost, Loader. Subs not used: Desbois, Odimayo.

Middlesbrough U23: Hemming, Tinkler, Reading, Spence, Brewitt, Mahmutovic, Soisalo (Hegarty HT), Malley (Walker 66), O’Neill, Armstrong, Coulson. Subs not used: Brynn, Curry, Elsdon.