READING FC Under 23s threw away their hopes of being crowned champions of Premier League 2 following a 3-1 defeat to high-flying Aston Villa on Monday night.

First-team star Joseph Mendes continued his recovery with another 45 minutes of action and found himself on the scoresheet after just eight minutes.

But a youthful Royals outfit soon found themselves put to the sword by fellow promotion hopefuls Villa, as two own goals and a Rushian Hepburn-Murphy strike ensure the Midlands outfit all three points.

The result saw Reading mathematically squander any hope of securing the league title, but the play-offs are still within reach for Scott Marshall's side as they fight for an immediate return to Premier League 2 Division One.

Marshall's men were off to a flyer when injury-plagued Mendes latched on to goalkeeper Matija Sarkic's short pass and fired Royals ahead after eight minutes.

But Royals' inexperienced back line was quickly tested and their resistance broke down when James Finnerty's header cannoned back off the crossbar and ricocheted off goalkeeper Liam Driscoll to level the tie.

Villa then took the lead on the hour mark when a Callum O'Hare cross was bundled into the back of the net by Royals defender Teddy Howe in their second stroke of rotten luck on the night.

Hepburn-Murphy then kept Villa's first-place hopes very much alive when he latched onto a Jake Doyle-Hayes through ball and blasted beyond Driscoll.

Royals have just two games remaining to cement their place in the play-offs, with Newcastle their next opponents in a month's time.

Reading U23: Driscoll, Howe, Shokunbi, Odimayo, Green, Balogun (Coleman 64), East, Rollinson (Wilson 81), Frost, House, Mendes (Nolan 46).
Subs not used: Rosario, Omolabi