A tense but relatively one-sided game finished with Saints taking a fully deserved three points that moves us to the relative safety of 15th place in the Premier League.
The major surprise before kick-off was the reinstatement of Kelvin Davis in the home goal. Gazzaniga didn't even make the bench with Artur Boruc providing back-up. Ramirez was also on the substitute bench with Jay Rodriguez promoted to the starting eleven.
Saints looked by far and away the sharper team as the match began, Morgan Schneiderlin and Rodriguez had early chances but neither seriously threatened Royal's keeper Adam Federici. After a half volley from Lallana was also blocked, Rickie Lambert had the first clear opportunity, a curling shot from the left corner of the area forcing Federici to produce a fine save at full stretch.
Jay Tabb provided a rare outlet for Reading as a pacey run in from the left wing eventually led him into the home penalty area. A strong shot at the near post brought a solid block from Kelvin Davis, a rare moment when our veteran goalkeeper had to intervene in an otherwise quiet match for him.
It seemed as though we had opened the scoring as the half wore on. A Jason Puncheon header at the far post from a corner flew in but to the disappointment of the vociferous home crowd play had already been halted due to an alleged foul by Maya Yoshida at the front post. Having now seen replays of the incident it was clearly a very harsh decision.
An injury to Adam Lallana put a downer on the half as Ramirez looked to shake off his jet-lag after a mid-week trip back to Uruguay and replaced our captain on 40 minutes. Reading looked to finish the half brightly and hit the post from a corner, Robson-Kanu headed the ball against the frame of the goal after collecting Morrison's floating header. It was a rare moment of opportunity for the Royals and one they would pay severely for not taking.
Saints set about their task well in the second half, a far cagier affair then the first forty five minutes, there were few chances as Saints looked to make the most of their dominance over a very poor Reading side. Comfortable in possession we were pegging back the Royals but were frustrated by Brian McDermott's well drilled defence.
Jason Puncheon, who had a fine game on the right, saw a fine strike saved by Federici. Thankfully his endeavour was soon to be richly rewarded. Rickie Lambert threaded the ball through to Nathaniel Clyne on the right wing. Clyne spotted Puncheon's run into the box and picked out the tricky winger. After steadying himself with his first touch Puncheon pulled the trigger from a tight angle to the right of goal. His shot flew through the legs of a defender and crept in at the far post beyond a despairing Federici's out-stretched hand. St Mary's erupted with joy as our dominance finally paid off.
Puncheon celebrates after putting us ahead.
Chances for Jobi McAnuff and Adam Le Fondre were the only moments of note from that point on for Reading who were well beaten by Saints. A chance for substitute Guly Do Prado was hit straight at the goalkeeper in the closing stages but the score was to remain 1-0. We had achieved an extremely satisfying win and hushed the noisy away end who seemingly still hadn't moved on from last season's Championship win.
One highly disappointing note was the reaction of the crowd to Do Prado's appearance in place of the impressive Jay Rodriguez on 78 minutes. Booing from sections of the crowd brought a puzzled reaction from both Nigel Adkins and Jose Fonte who looked to rally the crowd to chant Guly's name. Do Prado played well when he came on and took the game to Reading in the final few minutes when it could have been so tempting to sit back. The positivity shown by the entire team in closing the game out was reflective of our dominance over a distinctly unimpressive Reading side.
Saints: Davis, Clyne, Shaw, Yoshida, Fonte, Schneiderlin, Cork, Lallana (Ramirez, 40), Puncheon, Lambert, Rodriguez (Do Prado, 78 )
Unused Substitutes: Boruc, Hooiveld, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka, S. Davis
Reading: Federici, Shorey, Mariappa, Morrision (Pearce, 65), Cumings, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Tabb (Hunt, 69), Robson-Kanu (McCleary, 77), Le Fondre, Roberts
Unused Substitutes: Taylor, Harte, Guthrie, Samuel