Sheffield Wednesday failed to crown Dejphon Chansiri’s takeover of the club with a victory, sliding to a 2-0 defeat at mid-table Reading this afternoon.
First half strikes by Pavel Pogrebnyak and Nathaniel Chalobah sentenced the Owls to just their third away defeat of the campaign - just two days after Chansiri acquired a 100% stake in the Championship club.
The margin of the defeat could have been even heavier had Hal Robson-Kanu converted a second-half penalty but Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood thwarted the Welsh international from 12 yards.
It was sweet revenge for Reading, who lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture at Hillsborough in September.
Fresh from serving a one-match suspension, Sam Hutchinson returned in midfield, replacing Jose Semedo, who is understood to be sidelined by a toe injury. It is Hutchinson’s first start since October 18.
Top-scorer Atdhe Nuhiu droppe to the substitutes bench, with Gray opting to restore Kieran Lee to the middle of the park.
Reading threatened in the early stages through Garath McCleary, who’s dangerous cross was cut out by Keiren Westwood and ultimately cleared by Liam Palmer.
Simon Cox, a transfer target for Wednesday last August as part of the deal which culminated in Michail Antonio moving to Nottingham Forest, beat the off-side trap in the eighth minute, latching on to a fine through ball by Hal Robson-Kanu only to be denied by the agility of Westwood.
But the hosts were not having it all their own way as Chris Maguire tested Adam Federici’s reflexes after a rapid counter attack involving Lee and Jacques Maghoma.
McCleary was proving to be a good outlet on the right flank for Reading. On the quarter of an hour mark, he raced on to Nathaniel Chalobah’s pass before cutting inside on to his left foot and slicing an effort off target when he should have done better.
In an open, entertaining, half, Lewis Baker curled a left foot shot from just outside the penalty area straight into the arms of Federici to remind the Royals of the quality they possess.
Reading nearly broke the deadlock in the 25th minute following a pacy run by Jordan Obita. His low centre was hacked away by Mattock after Tom Lees failed to snuff out the danger.
But the Royals, who are also Thai owned, deservedly opened the scoring through Pogrebnyak, who steered a powerful header into the top left hand corner, giving Westwood no chance, following a peach of a delivery by Stephen Kelly.
Moments later, Wednesday suffered another blow when captain Glenn Loovens was cautioned for a late tackle on McCleary. That was the Dutchman’s 10th booking of the season, meaning he will sit-out their next two fixtures due to suspension.
Things could have got even worse for the Owls but Cox blazed over following patient build up play by the hosts.
Reading doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Chalobah, on loan from Chelsea, drilled a fierce shot out of Westwood’s reach after more good play by McCleary.
That strike appeared to rattle Wednesday and Loovens had to be alert to hack Robson-Kanu’s goal-bound effort off the line.
Against the run of play, the Owls almost reduced their arrears on the stroke of half-time but Federici produced a stunning stop to keep out Baker’s shot. From the resulting corner, Mattock just failed to turn the ball in from close range as the visitors finished the half on the front foot.
Gray made a double change at the interval in an attempt to spark his team into life, bringing on Jeremy Helan and Atdhe Nuhiu for Mattock and Baker.
Reading thought they had grabbed a third in the 47th minute when McCleary, the Owls’ tormentor in chief, drilled an unstoppable effort past Westwood after being fed by Robson-Kanu but the speedy winger was adjudged to be standing in an off-side position.
The Royals, who have lost only one of their last seven games in all competitions, were awarded a penalty just before the hour mark after a clumsy challenge by Helan on Pogrebynak. Robson-Kanu duly stepped up but Westwood dived to his right to deny him from 12 yards.
Maguire had a penalty appeal waved away in the 65th minute following a collision with Obita but referee Brendan Malone was not interested.
With 16 minutes remaining, Maghoma wasted a glorious opportunity to give the Owls a lifeline when he raced on to Nuhiu’s pass but the winger, under pressure from Federici, dragged his attempt wide.
As the Owls piled on the pressure, it took an inch perfect block by Kelly to stop Lee’s goal-bound volley.
Claude Dielna, a second half replacement for Hutchinson, tried his luck with a 25-yard free-kick, forcing Federici into an outstanding save to compound their frustrations.
Reading: Federici; Kelly, Pearce, Hector, Obita; McCleary, Chalobah, Williams, Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak, Cox. Substitutes: Norwood, Mackie, Karacan, Blackman, Travner, Andersen, Cooper.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Mattock; Baker, Hutchinson, Lee; Maguire, Maghoma, Keane. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Buxton, May, Nuhiu, Coke, Helan, Dielna.