READING FC slumped to a fourth defeat in six games under Jose Gomes after a 2-1 loss at Derby County.

Royals were looking for consecutive wins in the Championship for the first time since December 2017.

But once again they fell short after paying the price for a woeful first half at Pride Park.

A shoddy start saw Gomes’ men fall behind to a Duane Holmes goal in the third minute.

The hosts could and perhaps should have added more goals in a worrying opening period Royals will probably want to forget.

But Harry Wilson’s deflected strike doubled Derby’s lead five minutes before the break and, although substitute Sone Aluko reduced the deficit midway through the second half, Reading failed to find an equaliser and went home empty handed.

Gomes made one change from the side that beat Nottingham Forest as Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker was handed his first start.

Omar Richards dropped to the bench with Andy Rinomhota slotting in at right-back and Andy Yiadom switching to the left.

Former Royals midfielder George Evans was among the Rams subs as boss Frank Lampard also made just the one change after their midweek FA Cup win against Southampton on penalties.

But there was no sign of tiredness in Derby legs after a blistering start left Royals stunned.

The hosts went ahead with less than three minutes on the clock when they punished a mix-up between John Swift and Baker.

Rams broke quickly, Wilson slipped in Holmes and the USA international lifted the ball over Anssi Jaakkola for a dream lead.

Reading’s shambolic start continued as Lampard’s men threatened to run riot.

They almost scored a second goal in the fourth minute when Jack Marriott seized on Tiago Ilori’s back-pass, but Jaakkola saved his blushes by blocking the shot with his legs.

Royals were let off the hook again a minute later, Marriott’s effort landing on the roof of an unguarded net after Jaakkola had headed the ball straight to him.

It was one-way traffic as Wilson narrowly missed the target from distance and Marriott’s effort was blocked by Liam Moore.

But Royals somehow rode the storm without conceding a second and found a foothold in the match.

They began to see more of the ball and nearly equalised through Swift midway through the first half.

The midfielder found Mo Barrow out wide then continued his run into the box.

Swift was unmarked when he ran onto Barrow’s cut-back, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.

It was a similar move that led to Swift’s opener against Nottingham Forest a week earlier, but this time his finishing let him down.

It did, though, give Derby something to think about.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson then got on the end of a cross, with Jayden Bogle eventually chesting the ball back to Kelle Roos.

But Reading’s sloppy passing continued to get them into trouble.

Baker put Ilori under pressure, the defender compounding the issue with a poor header back to Jaakkola who was forced to punch clear to prevent Martyn Waghorn from getting in.

However, Royals’ defence was breached again five minutes before the break.

Tom Huddlestone picked Ovie Ejaria’s pocket before Waghorn combined with Wilson, whose shot took a wicked deflection off Rinomhota and wrongfooted the unlucky Jaakkola.

It was, perhaps, no more that Derby deserved and it left Royals with a mountain to climb.

Gomes made one substitution at the break by replacing Baker with Sone Aluko.

This time, Royals were quick out of the blocks with Barrow’s excellent cross causing havoc in the Derby area before the winger hit a shot from 20 yards over the top.

Swift failed to keep a free-kick from a dangerous position on target in the 53rd minute.

And another chance went begging a minute later when Bodvarsson was an inch away from converting Barrow’s cross after Leando Bacuna’s superb pass had set the wheels in motion.

Rams hit back only to see a Waghorn goal ruled out for offside before Wilson blazed over from distance.

They also blew a glorious chance to extend their lead on the hour when Mason Mount somehow shot over the top of an open goal.

Gomes threw on Danny Loader and took off Bodvarsson in the 63rd minute.

And Royals hopes were raised when Aluko pulled one back three minutes later.

This time it was Derby’s turn to cough up possession and Reading took full advantage with Ejaria releasing Aluko, who calmly slotted past Roos for 2-1.

Suddenly, Derby were rocking as Reading pressed for an equaliser as Andy Yiadom sliced an effort well wide before Bacuna stung Roos’ hands.

But Lampard’s late substitutions took the sting out of the game as Derby held on for only their second win in nine league games.

Reading remain 22nd in the Championship and two points behind Rotherham, who lost 4-2 at home to Brentford today.

Royals are without a fixture next weekend and return on Tuesday, January 29 with a crucial trip to Phil Parkinson’s fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers, the side immediately below them in the table.

Bolton were not in action today and host West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

Derby County: Roos, Tomori, Keogh ©, Bogle, Malone, Huddlestone, Mount, Wilson (Evans 90), Holmes (Nugent 87), Marriott (Bennett 8), Waghorn. Subs not used: Mitchell, Bird, Buchanan, Wilson. Booked: Malone 69, Holmes 81.

Reading: Jaakkola, Rinomhota, Ilori, Moore, Yiadom, Bacuna, Baker (Aluko 46), Barrow (McCleary 73), Swift, Ejaria, Bodvarsson (Loader 63). Subs not used: Walker, Gunter, Blackett, Richards. Booked: Ejaria 65.

Referee: Andy Woolmer.

Attendance: 26,404.