Reading forward Sam Smith labelled the start to the season as one of his 'most difficult periods of his career' after picking up an injury during pre-season.

The 25-year-old returned to Berkshire over the summer. Having risen through the ranks at the SCL Stadium, making 11 appearances during his first spell, the striker returns after scoring more than 30 goals in two seasons with Cambridge United.

A marquee summer signing, Smith played in two pre-season friendlies but Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Charlton Athletic was his first competitive involvement since his return.

Starting and lasting 60 minutes, the Mancunian cut a sad figure when speaking to the press at the Valley.

"It’s been one of the most difficult periods of my career," he said. "To play all the football I’ve played and then come and get injured straight away is something that I’ve never really experienced before. Coming back to a club like this, that means so much to me, I think I put more pressure on myself than anyone else so for it to start the way it has is heart-breaking.

"I’m working harder than ever to help the lads and the football club get back to where we need to be. I see my position as a privilege and hopefully, I can do everything I can to start getting some results."

Over 2,500 Royals travelled to South London, witnessing the 19th consecutive away match without victory- with the club having one match left to prevent going a calendar year with a win on the road.

Ruben Selles' men host fellow strugglers Fleetwood Town tomorrow, a first-ever meeting with the Cod Army.

Hoping to hit the ground running at home, Smith is keen to give supporters something to smile about at RG2.

"You can’t do anything but applaud it. My first game and seeing that turnout and support is overwhelming. When we are going through the situation with everything at the club, the only thing we can hope is that the fans are onboard and supporting. Credit to every single one of them today, and hopefully we can go onto Tuesday at home and get a win."