READING FC were beaten 1-0 at home by Brentford in the M4 derby as their winless run in the Championship stretched to eight matches.

Lasse Vibe’s 74th minute strike proved to be the difference as Royals failed to score for the third league match in a row.

Liam Kelly’s free-kick did hit the bar in the second half, but play-off chasing Bees had the edge for most of the game as they claimed a fifth win in six games.

Reading have now lost five times in their eight-match barren spell as the pressure mounts on manager Jaap Stam.

You have to go back to early December for Reading’s last Championship victory when they triumphed at relegation-threatened Sunderland.

Today’s results saw the gap between Royals and the drop zone cut to four points and if things continue Stam’s men will be sucked into relegation battle – if they haven’t been already.

Stam made six changes from the side that defeated Stevenage in the FA Cup third-round replay with Vito Mannone, Joey van den Berg, Liam Moore, George Evans, Mo Barrow and Omar Richards all coming in.

Moore had passed a late fitness test after picking up an ankle knock in the 0-0 draw at Hull a week earlier.

Meanwhile, an unchanged Brentford squad included Yoann Barbet in the starting XI after Bees knocked back Reading’s bid for the French defender earlier in the week.

After a minute’s applause to remember the late Cyrille Regis before kick-off, it was Brentford who looked the more likely to open the scoring.

However, Mannone came to Royals rescue with a brilliant double-save in the eighth minute, spreading himself to deny Vibe then throwing his body in the way of Ollie Watkins’ follow-up.

But Stam’s men regrouped and enjoyed a decent spell of their own.

Yet when Chris Gunter got free and whipped over a telling cross, Kelly’s touch deserted him and the ball bounced over his foot 12 yards out from goal.

There was no time for Mannone to switch off at the other end as the Italian made another crucial save in the 27th minute, diving full-stretch to his left to tip Barbet’s well-struck free-kick over the bar.

Then three minutes later Romaine Sawyer was a yard off target from a free-kick in s similar position.

Reading threatened four minutes before the break when Kelly broke free down the right and crossed to Bodvarsson, who controlled the ball with his first touch hand then hit a volley on the turn – but straight down Bentley’s throat.

Yet the hosts were hanging on at the end of the first half as Watkins cross-shot flashed across the face of goal before Brentford’s strong penalty appeals were turned down by referee Darren Bond when Ilori collided with Vibe.

Stam made a change the break and replaced Richards with Tyler Blackett, and the ex-Manchester United defender had an instant impact with a goal-saving clearance on the line to deny Florian Jozefzoon’s shot three minutes after the restart.

Sawyers also smacked an effort narrowly wide from outside the Reading box as the game approached the hour mark.

But Royals hit back immediately and Bodvarsson went agonisingly close with a first-time effort from Gunter’s cross that bounced an inch wide of Bentley’s far post.

Then luck deserted Stam’s men in the 65th minute when Kelly’s 25-yard free-kick rattled the Bees crossbar with Bentley beaten.

Brentford sub Sergi Canos gave his some an energy boost when he came off the bench, but he missed the target by a mile when he cut in from the left and found a shooting chance.

Royals, though, blew a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead in the 74th minute.

Kelly cut out a pass 30 yards from goal and found Bodvarsson who laid the ball off to Barrow in acres of space and with Bees desperately back-tracking.

But the former Swansea winger took too long, allowing Brentford to scramble back and smother his shot.

It was the turning point of the match as the visitors broke the deadlock less than a minute later.

Mannone made a smart save to deny Jozefzoon, but Vibe picked up the pieces and steered an angled drive from 15-yards into the far corner with Reading’s defence all at sea.

It was a hammer blow for the hosts who were fortunate not to concede again in the moments that followed, with Mannone pulling off a fine stop to deny Kamohelo Mokotjo before Canos blazed over.

Royals almost levelled eight minutes from time when an effort from substitute Yann Kermorgant deflected into Barrow’s path, but Bentley raced off his line to smother the winger’s shot.

Bees almost grabbed a second in the closing stages, Mannone denying Vibe when clear through before blocking Mokotjo’s follow-up with his legs.

And while Kemorgant and Bodvarsson both missed the target deep into stoppage time, Brentford held on to clinch the victory that maintains their play-off challenge and leaves Royals desperately needing a change of fortune.

Reading: Mannone, Gunter (c), Moore, Ilori, Richards (Blackett 46), Van den Berg (Kermorgant 77), Evans, Kelly, Aluko (Beerens 60), Barrow, Bodvarsson. Subs: Jaakkola, McCleary, Edwards, Clement. Booked: Van den Berg 10, Gunter 45.

Brentford: Bentley, Bjelland, Barbet, Jozefzoon (McLeod 87), Yennaris (c), Watkins (Canos 65), Mokotjo, Sawyers, Vibe, Woods, Mepham. Subs not used: Daniels, Maupay, McEachran, Marcondes, Clarke. Booked: Bjelland 85, Canos 86.

Referee: Darren Bond.

Attendance: 17,893 (Brentford 2,866).