GARATH McCleary played his first competitive game since February today as Reading U23s drew 1-1 with Portsmouth in a friendly, writes Jim Tatum.

The Jamaican winger has been sidelined since February after suffering a broken ankle against Sheffield United last season.

But the 31-year-old got 60 minutes under his belt for Scott Marshall’s U23s this afternoon in the behind-closed-doors clash at Hogwood Park.

McCleary’s near return to first-team action will be a welcome boost for manager Paul Clement, whose side continue to struggle for creativity and goals and lie bottom of the Championship table without a win this season.

The former Nottingham Forest star has been making a steady improvement recently and sat among the substitutes during Reading’s 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday last time out.

However, it is thought this Saturday’s clash at Preston North End (3pm ko) will come too early for the pacey winger.

Today’s friendly against Pompey was very much a training exercise for Marshall who gave 21 players a run-out ahead of Friday night’s U23s Premier League 2 clash against Manchester United U23s at Old Trafford (7pm).

The visitors, fielding a mixture of first team players and reserves, went in front in the 21st minute when Louis Dennis collected a Bradley Lethbridge pass before firing past Luke Southwood.

Tom Holmes went close with a 30-yarder for the hosts after good work from McCleary, Royals stepped it up after the break with Adam Liddle heading a Teddy Howe cross inches wide.

Pompey responded when Danny Rose clipped the crossbar with substitute keeper Jokull Andresson well beaten.

Marshall range the changes on the hour, with McCleary among those taken off.

And Ben House made an immediate impact after coming on when he drew a foul in the area and centre-back Gabriel Osho stepped up to convert a 65th minute penalty for 1-1.

Reading went close to a winner late on, but Pompey keeper Luke McGee made a vital save to deny Josh Barrett.

Elsewhere, Jordan Obita has returned from a week’s intensive rehabilitation in the United States.

The 24-year-old left-back spent time at the YSC Sports physiotherapy centre in Wayne, Pennsylvania as he continued his recovery.

The state-of-the-art facility has been used by some of the world’s top footballers as they get over serious injuries.

Obita had reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament last September after colliding with advertising hoardings in the final minutes of a 1-1 draw with Hull City at Madejski Stadium.

Unfortunately, there were problems with his recovery and he was forced to have a second operation in May to ‘tidy up the knee.’ He is not expected to start first team training until October.

Meanwhile, Callum Harriot and Dave Edwards are still recovering from injuries and Adrian Popa continues to get up to match fitness.

Reading: Southwood (J.Andresson 46), Howe (Balogun 60), Holmes (Osho 60), Odimayo (Burley 60), Green (Medford-Smith 60), Sidoel (Shokunbi 60), Coleman (Omolabi 60), McCleary (Wallace 60), Frost (Barrett 60), Nolan, Liddle (House 60).