JON DADI BODVARSSON bagged a hat-trick as Reading picked up their first win in nine games to see off League Two Stevenage in the FA Cup.
Royals had not picked up a victory since December 2 and also not scored a goal in 2018, but they soaked up some early pressure before Bodvarsson’s brace gave them a 2-0 half-time lead.
And the Icelandic international tapped in a third just past the hour mark, with Chris Gunter providing his third assist of the night, to wrap up a 3-0 victory and clinch a fourth round trip to Sheffield Wednesday.
Jaap Stam made 10 changes to the side which drew at Hull City on Saturday with only Gunter keeping his place. He also took the captain’s armband for his 250th appearance for the club.
Among those to be handed starts were cup keeper Anssi Jaakkola, Pelle Clement and for the first time in 2018, Roy Beerens.
Reading came into the game having scored just twice in their previous seven games and with the lowest Madejski Stadium attendance of the season of under 5,000, it was lower league Stevenage who started the better of the two sides.
Darren Sarll’s men had the ball in the net on 11 minutes when a free-kick was whipped in by Joe Martin and a glancing header from Matt Godden found the bottom corner, only for the flag to be raised for offside.
But Boro were not deterred, coming close again when Danny Newton robbed Gunter of possession and ran 30 yards before crossing for Godden, but Jaakkola produced a point blank range save to deny his free header.
Things were getting no better for the hosts with Jaakkola again called into action on 29 minutes to thwart Jack King’s shot from the edge of the box.
However, out of nothing Reading took the lead.
Gunter collected possession on the left and swung a cross into the box which flicked off a defender and fell kindly for Bodvarsson to tuck in on the volley.
And the Icelander doubled his tally before the break in fine fashion.
Leandro Bacuna sprayed a delightful diagonal pass across to Gunter, who crossed towards the edge of the box where Bodvarsson came steaming in to powerfully head past Tom King and in off the post.
There was a change at the break – to the kits. Both teams started the game with predominantly white and blue strips, but the Royals changed at half-time to their luminous orange away shirts.
But again it was the visitors who started the half brightly with Newton heading wide from a good position before Ben Kennedy could only direct his effort straight at Jaakkola.
And again they were punished for failing to take their chances as Reading killed off the game just past the hour mark.
Liam Kelly’s lovely through ball found the onrushing Gunter, who rolled the ball across goal for his third assist of the night with Bodvarsson tapping in to double his tally for the season.
Stevenage will leave wondering how they didn’t at least grab a goal with Tom Pett blazing over from inside the box in the closing stages.
But it is Reading who progress to round four, where they will face Sheffield Wednesday after they saw off Carlisle United 2-0 in a replay.
READING: Jaakkola; Gunter (c), Ilori, Blackett, Bacuna (Richards 80); Kelly, Edwards, Clement; Aluko, Beerens, Bodvarsson.
Subs not used: Mannone, Andresson, Evans, Popa, McCleary, Kermorgant.
Goals: Bodvarsson x3 (32,44,64)
STEVENAGE: T. King; Henry (c), Wilmot, J. King, Martin; Smith; Kennedy (Samuel 71), McKee (Conlon 71), Pett, Newton (Georgiou 85); Godden.
Subs not used: Fryer, Franks, Wilkinson, Vancooten.
Yellow card: Newton (40)
Referee: Tim Robinson
Attendance: 4,986 (inc. 608 away)