Captain Grant Leadbitter gave them the lead early in the first half when he thumped home a penalty. Reading searched hard for the equaliser but created few chances and were punished again in the 74th minute when Britt Assombalonga headed in his seventh goal of the season.
It is the latest setback at the Madejski Stadium for the Royals, who have now not won at their ground in four games after seeing their 15-match unbeaten home run end in a 1-0 loss to Bristol City last month.
It is part of a wider malaise for Jaap Stam’s side, who had won only once in the previous eight fixtures although Middlesbrough were also struggling having not claimed a victory in their last six outings. Boro’s most recent fixture in midweek saw an under-strength side beaten by Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup.
Stam gave a full league debut to striker Sam Smith, 19, and he made a lively bow as Reading controlled the opening stages. Sone Aluko tried to find Smith with a low cross into the middle but it carried too much pace and drifted wide.
Middlesbrough gradually made headway after a sluggish start and were rewarded when they went ahead in the 14th minute. Assombalonga fell in the area under a clumsy challenge from Joey van den Berg and referee Oliver Langford immediately pointed to the spot. Although Assombalonga appeared to want to take the penalty himself, Leadbitter disagreed and held on to the ball before hammering it into the roof of the net.
Reading’s woes continued when centre-backs Liam Moore and Tiago Ilori accidentally clashed heads near the home area, with the latter taken to hospital after leaving the field on a stretcher and replaced by Tyler Blackett. Moore came back after off-field treatment, nine minutes later, with a heavily bandaged head.
Ten-man Reading had held out comfortably during Moore’s absence and could have equalised when Smith narrowly failed to connect with a Chris Gunter cross.
Smith was again involved as Reading began brightly in the second half, with Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph saving well from his low shot. However, Assombalonga could have made it 2-0, when latching on to a Paul McShane error, but he flashed a poor attempt wide.
Middlesbrough held on comfortably in the closing stages, despite Reading’s often frantic efforts, and extended their lead in the 74th minute.
Jonny Howson crossed from the right and Assombalonga rose highest to nod in from close range. Substitute Marvin Johnson could have extended the winning margin but was denied by a fine late save from Reading goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
📈 TOP BOROFORM RATING
Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk was delighted with his side’s first victory in seven matches.
“That was an important win for us,” Monk said.
“We haven’t been in a good period recently and there’s been a lot of talk about that.
“To put ourselves back on track, we’ve got to strike that right balance between defensive and offensive play.
“We were very good defensively. And were clinical offensively when we needed to be.
“That’s the way to try to build again and we know that, as we get more confident, we have the players to offensively do very well. It was a really good, solid away performance.”
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