Reading suffered their first home defeat of 2024 as the division's lowest scorers- Shrewsbury Town- netted a trio of first-half goals to win 3-2 at the SCL Stadium.

Tom Bayliss and Jordan Shipley had put Salop two up within five minutes, but the Royals rallied and were level before the break through Sam Smith and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan. Unfortunately, Tom Bloxham's strike in first-half stoppage time, and a dogged second-half performance, was enough for victory in Berkshire.

Shrewsbury got the game underway and there was barely three minutes on the clock before Reading had a centre of their own. A floated corner reached the edge of the box and Shipley caught the ball well from outside the box before it flew past David Button in the goal. It went from bad to worse for the Royals two minutes later, Tyler Bindon being led on a merry dance by Bayliss before the midfielder tucked past Button in the near post.

Despite falling two behind, the players kept their heads up and dominated the following 40 minutes. To their credit, the supporters stayed onside too and roared Ruben Selles’ ‘Barmy Army’ into wave after wave of attack. It didn’t take long for the first to be pulled back, with Smith poking past Marko Marosi after Harvey Knibbs had threaded a ball through the defence. Bloxham fired wide after a swift counterattack on the 15-minute mark but from then on it was all Reading, ending the half with 68 per cent of possession. Ehibhatiomhan nearly capitalised on Liam Feeney’s poor backpass but was forced wide before both Smith and Bindon fired headers over the crossbar. It seemed like a matter of when, and not if, the equaliser would come.

It duly came with 10 minutes of the half remaining when Ehibhatiomhan cut in and his shot took a wicked deflection over Marosi and into the corner of the net. Working hard to get back into the game, the frustration was audible from the crowd when they fell behind again in the final seconds of the half. A corner was played short, and no player reacted quick enough to close Bloxham down, his shot nestling in the top corner from the edge of the box to send Salop into the half-time break leading.

Spoiled for action in the first half, unfortunately, it was in short supply during the second period. Content with their lead and determined to keep hold of it, Salop proved incredibly tough to break down and the Royals laboured to create anything meaningful in front of goal. Bowman had the first chance of the half as he swivelled and shot inside the box, only to find the gloves of Button.

Reading huffed and puffed, with over three-quarters of the ball, but Marosi remained relatively untested. Azeez came closest in the final 15 minutes when a Mola cross found its way out on the right and the winger cut in before firing an effort down the throat of the shot-stopper and earned a corner, which came to nothing.

The Shrews saw out the game expertly, to the frustration of over 12,000 Royals in the stadium, and ensured Reading remained just five points clear of the drop heading into a trip to bottom side Carlisle United on Saturday.