Josh Laurent’s goal 12 minutes from time gave Reading all three points as Rovers went a seventh successive away game without a goal.

Laurent’s strike proved decisive, just as Rovers looked to be pushing for a winner themselves, having relied on goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski to keep them in the game in the first half.

A fifth defeat in seven on the road leaves Rovers facing the prospect of heading into the international break outside of the top six with seven games remaining as their worrying run continued.

They dropped to sixth with the defeat, coupled with results elsewhere, and have now picked up only eight points from their last nine games.

Kaminski made a string of important stops in the first half, with Rovers’ best opportunity coming just before Laurent’s goal as substitute Bradley Dack was denied and Sam Gallagher unable to turn home the rebound.

Yet there were no real sustained periods of pressure, or chances, as they failed to overly extend Orjan Nyland in the Reading goal. This a Reading side who had conceded 73 goals in 38 matches.

There was a change in personnel and formation for Rovers, with Ryan Giles a surprise inclusion as a left back, with captain Darragh Lenihan moving to the right side of a four-man defence.

John Buckley and Sam Gallagher were recalled from the side that came from behind to beat Derby County in midweek, with Joe Rankin-Costello, Ryan Nyambe and Bradley Johnson the three to drop out of the side.

Ryan Nyambe travelled with the squad but wasn’t included in the matchday 18 as his absence stretched to a fifth game.

It was an attacking Rovers line-up, one designed to push forward with pace, Dolan and Giles linking up well down the left in the 13th minute for the on-loan Wolves man to fire a shot across Orjan Nyland but wide of the post.

Yet there was equally a more open look as a result of moving away from a three-man defence, Tom Ince able to profit as he collected a left-wing cross, his touching taking him clear of Scott Wharton, but Thomas Kaminski was quickly off his line to block.

Khadra was playing in advance of Lenihan down the right, operating slightly deeper than his usual role, but with licence to carry the ball forward at every opportunity.

There looked to be plenty of space for him to work in, Tony Mowbray having his hands on his head as a cross flashed across the six-yard box without anyone there to profit.

That proved to be indicative of the rest of the game.

A break in the 17th minute then found Buckley on the edge of the box, his shot charged down by Michael Morrison, as Dolan was left waiting for a pass.

Dolan did get his opportunity to shoot moments later, Reading caught trying to play out from the back, but his curling shot from the edge of the box was too close to Nyland who held comfortably.

However, a change to the Rovers team, with Khadra unable to continue after treatment when pulling up during a run down the right, almost saw the game swing in Reading’s favour.

Giles moved from left back to the right wing, as Harry Pickering came on, but there looked to be uncertainty in defence that Reading should have punished.

Rovers hadn’t looked themselves as a defence unit, Ovie Ejaria and Lucas Joao involved in the build-up to tee up the run of Andy Yiadom whose near-post effort was palmed behind by Kaminski.

Although they dealt with the resulting corner, they switched from the follow-up cross, Joao found unmarked in the six-yard box, only to head straight at Kaminski who was able to block.

The ‘keeper was then to the rescue again, this time of Rovers’ own doing, with Wharton’s back-pass selling Kaminski short, but Ejaria was stopped from rounding the Belgian by a fine sliding challenge from the Rovers No.1.

Kaminski was then at full stretch again, on the stroke of half time, this time Buckley guilty of losing the ball, Laurent finding room on the left edge of the box to shoot goalwards, only to be denied by a one-handed stop.

There were still moments for Rovers, Buckley dancing beyond two challenges to fire into the side netting, while both Dolan and Gallagher had shots blocked in what finished an open first half.

Rovers emerged unchanged from the dressing room but had a good opening inside 30 seconds, Buckley sliding in Dolan who was wasteful with his shot from a tight angle that flew well wide.

Dolan and Rothwell then exchanged passes to find Gallagher on the edge of the box, and while his shot was also well wide, the intent from Rovers was much better.

While Rovers were failing to test Nyland, the same couldn’t be said for the hosts who tested Kaminski again six minutes after the re-start, a low Tom McIntyre shot having to be turned around the post by Kaminski.

Nyland wasn’t to be shown up soon after however, a fine one-handed save to tip over Buckley’s shot from 12 yards.

With half an hour to play Rovers made a double switch, sending on Bradley Dack and Ryan Hedges to freshen up their attack as Dolan and Buckley were replaced.

Set plays had been key to the midweek win over Derby, and it from a corner Rovers threatened next in the 68th minute, Giles’ delivery met by Lenihan whose header was powerful, but too close to Nyland who held.

Then came the chance Rovers had been searching for with 17 minutes remaining. Pickering’s flighted ball was taken down by Dack, his left foot shot palmed away by Nyland which looked set to be turned home by Gallagher, but the striker slipped as he attempted the finish, with Holmes able to scramble the loose ball clear.

The pendulum was turning Rovers’ way in terms of territory, with the game almost exclusively played in the Reading half, but never a real sense of them breaking through.

Then, with 12 minutes to play, a bolt out of the blue from Laurent brought the stadium to life. Swift’s cross wasn’t dealt with and landed a the feet of Laurent who took aim with a curling shot on the angle from 25 yards which beat the dive of Kaminski.

It was the quality of strike needed to beat the Belgian who had kept Rovers in the game in the first half, but a combination of his attempted pass going out of play, and Wharton not getting a great enough distance on his clearance, afforded Laurent the chance to take aim which he took.

There was little response from Rovers, failing to test Nyland in their search for an equaliser as they hit another blank on their travels.

Reading: Nyland, Holmes, Morrison, McIntyre, Rinohmota (Swift, 31), Ince, Ejaria (Hoilett, 74), Drinkwater, Yiadom, Joao (Meite, 85), Laurent

Subs: Southwood, Dele Bashiru, Dann, Barker

Rovers: Kaminski, Lenihan, van Hecke, Wharton, Giles, Travis, Rothwell, Dolan (Hedges, 60), Buckley (Dack, 60), Khadra (Pickering, 25), Gallagher

Subs: Pears, Johnson, Rankin-Costello, Brown