READING FC are without a win in seven Championship matches after today’s 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough in front of new watching boss Jose Gomes.

The Portuguese was sitting in the stands as Royals slumped to their 12th loss of the Championship season that leaves them outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

Gomes had not been officially unveiled as Paul Clement’s replacement, but was nonetheless present on another disappointing afternoon for the home side.

Reading – under the caretaker watch of Scott Marshall for the third time – were in the match for long periods but finally succumbed to George Friend’s 77th minute winner, earning Tony Pulis his first ever win as manager against the Royals at the 10th attempt.

If Gomes was unaware of the size of the task ahead he can be in no doubt now.

Reading desperately need a change of fortune and direction and it is his job to achieve that sooner rather than later.

Yet questions have already been asked about his ability to pull that off in a notoriously difficult league he has never managed in before.

Time will tell whether Gomes’ appointment turns out to be the right one, but he will have little time to settle in and is due to take charge of his first match at Millwall on Boxing Day.

Marshall made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Rotherham a week ago.

Reading’s injury crisis at centre half got even worse as Tom McIntyre was ruled out with an injury sustained on his debut last weekend.

With Liam Moore, Paul McShane, Tiago Ilori already out and John O’Shea only fit enough for a place on the bench, it meant a Royals debut 20-year-old defender Gabriel Osho.

Full-back Omar Richards returned for his first appearance since a 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat by Watford on August 29 while Academy youngster Danny Loader got the nod up front.

Mo Barrow was also recalled to the starting XI, meaning John Swift and Garath McCleary dropped to the bench.

Royals raced out of the blocks and went close in the fourth minute, Loader backheeling to Josh Sims who played in Sam Baldock only for Darren Randolph to block the striker’s shot with an outstretched leg.

Britt Assombalonga headed wide at the other end as Boro grew into a game.

And the powerful striker went close again on 17 minutes by holding off Tyler Blackett and firing low. But Anssi Jaakkola made himself big and blocked the shot with his body.

The visitors’ tails were up and Reading were lucky not to fall behind on 25 minutes.

Aden Flint got the better of his marker to head home from six-yards from a free-kick, only for the referee’s assistant to raise the offside flag.

Chances were few and far between for the hosts and a tame effort from Loader on 35 minutes that bobbled through to Randolph was a rare opportunity.

However, Marshall’s men finished the first half strongly and threatened on two more occasions.

A low drive from Richards from 20 yards looked to be creeping in the corner until Randolph got a hand to it four minutes before the break after Muhamed Besic had been booked for hauling down the Reading youngster.

Baldock then saw a long-range effort deflect into the arms of the grateful Randolph before Andy Yiadom blazed over from a decent position as Reading continued to attack.

The home side created another opening less than two minutes after the restart when a deflected shot from Leandro Bacuna bounced into Randolph’s arms.

Boro hit back and saw Flint’s header from Saville’s corner comfortably held by Jaakkola.

Moments later Josh Sims nodded over the bar from Bacuna’s flag-kick as the deadlock remained.

Marshall and Pulis turned to their respective benches to look for a solution, with Reading’s Loader making way for John Swift with 20 minutes remaining.

Two minutes later Royals were screaming for a penalty when Bacuna’s half-volley struck Ayala in the box, but referee Stephen Martin waved play on.

Boro hit back when a fierce drive from sub Lewis Wing stung the hands of Jaakkola in the 75th minute.

It didn’t matter as Reading’s resilience was finally broken two minutes later.

Royals’ defence was pulled apart as sub Paddy McNair raced into the area and pulled the ball back to Friend whose crisp, first-time finish burst the back of the net, giving Jaakkola no chance.

It was a hammer blow for Royals who looked destined to gain at least a point from an even contest.

The home side were lucky not to fall further behind in the 86th minute when Friend somehow hit the crossbar from two yards after ping-pong in the box from a corner.

Yet they could easily have snatched a draw during time added on, but Blackett horribly blazed over at the back post when he should have at least hit the target.

Reading FC: Jaakkola, Richards, Blackett, Osho, Yiadom, Bacuna ©, Rinomhota, Barrow, Loader (Swift 70), Sims, Baldock. Subs not used: Mannone, O'Shea, McCleary, Edwards, Bodvarsson, McNulty. Booked: Rinomhota 73, Blackett 90.

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend ©, Flint, Ayala, Stotton (McNair 38), Saville, Clayton, Howson, Fry, Besic (Wing 67), Assombalonga (Hugill 67). Subs not used: Batth, Braithwaite, Tavernier, Lonergan. Booked: Besic 41, Saville 80.

Referee: Stephen Martin.

Attendance: 14,943 (Boro 1,233).