READING FC’s hopes of pulling away from the Championship relegation zone fell flat after they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City on Tuesday night.

Royals were hoping to secure-back-to-back wins following their 3-1 home triumph against fellow strugglers Millwall on Saturday, but second-half goals from Gary Gardner and Blues' top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz trumped a stoppage-time effort from Yakou Meite as Brum extended their unbeaten record at St Andrew’s to 12 games.

Reading boss Paul Clement made two changes to the side which had beaten Millwall on Saturday, striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and midfielder Josh Sims coming in for Sam Baldock and Garath McCleary.

It was the home side who had the opening chance as early as four minutes, Jutkiewicz’s missing to the left with a header from a Jota corner. Jacques Maghoma then blazed wide from outside the box before Meite, fresh from his weekend brace against Millwall, forced a fine save from Lee Camp with a left-footed shot towards the right-hand corner.

Royals defender Andy Yiadom was booked for a poor challenge just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, and from the resulting Jota set-piece, Gardner headed over.

Birmingham’s Maikel Kieftenbeld was the next to shoot wildly from distance, while at the other end, Liam Kelly almost benefitted from a Camp blunder when the ‘keeper fumbled his 20-yard effort onto the post and out for a corner.

Reading began to come on strong midway through the half and after Meite had a shot blocked, Tyler Blackett forced Camp into action, albeit a straightforward save.

Gardner then played in Che Adams to force a save from Anssi Jaakola, while Camp had to be on his toes to prevent John Swift giving Royals the lead with a free-kick on the half-hour mark.

There was little of note in either goalmouth in the final 15 minutes of the opening period, Swift having a shot blocked in injury time shortly after the injured Maghoma had been replaced by Connor Mahoney. Royals made a disastrous start to the second half as they fell behind in the 49th minute.

Having breathed a sigh of relief when Michael Morrison’s close-range header went wide, the same player then knocked down a corner for Gardner to place the ball home after Royals shot themselves in the foot by gifting the set-piece away when Kelly failed to keep Tiago Ilori’s 40-yard back-pass in play.

Royals rallied and Swift had a shot blocked before Jaakola pulled off a fine save to keep out a Jota effort, Clement then trying to make something happen with a double substitution on 63 minutes as McCleary and Baldock came on for the duo who had replaced them in the starting line-up.

Swift was then booked before Birmingham doubled their lead on 70 minutes, Jutkiewicz finding himself free on the left-hand side of the six-yard box to plant a header past the diving Jaakola into the top right corner from an Adams cross, the hosts’ player having outmuscled the unfortunate Ilori.

Jota let fly as he tried to put the game to bed, while Baldock forced a save at the other end before Sone Aluko was introduced for Swift with little more than 10 minutes remaining.

With time winding down, Mahoney had a shot on target superbly saved by Jaakola before Adams blazed over, while Royals had a chance only for Aluko to fail to hit the target.

Meite forced Camp into a save with two minutes remaining, but the Ivorian gave Reading a glimmer of hope when he collected a Yiadom through ball to loop the ball home as the game entered injury-time. However, Royals were unable to find an equaliser and slip back to 21st in the table ahead of a tricky trip to Swansea City this coming Saturday.

Birmingham City: Camp, Morrison (c), Colin, Kieftenbeld, Maghoma (Mahoney 43), Pedersen, Dean, Gardner, Adams, Jota (Solomon-Otabor 79), Jutkiewicz (Lubala 87).

Subs not used: Trueman, Harding, Lakin, Roberts.

Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Blackett, Moore (c), Ilori, Bacuna, Kelly, Swift (Aluko 79), Sims (McCleary 63), Méïté, Böðvarsson (Baldock 63).

Subs not used: Walker, Gunter, O'Shea, Rinomhota.

Booked: Yiadom, Swift

Attendance: 22,126 (503 away)

Referee: Tony Harrington