Church answers Royals’ prayers as Town lose late on

SIMON Church scored with his very first touch to poach a winner with just four minutes remaining to end Ipswich Town’s proud unbeaten away run at the Madejski Stadium last night.

SIMON Church scored with his very first touch to poach a winner with just four minutes remaining to end Ipswich Town’s proud unbeaten away run at the Madejski Stadium last night.

The goal came from a corner. Jem Karacan fired in a shot from the edge of the box and Church managed to divert the ball home from six yards out.

It was cruel on Town, who had deserved at least a point for their endeavours.

They had been reduced to 10 men in the 52nd minute, when Luke Hyam was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Cautioned in the first half for a foul on Shane Long, Town’s 18-year-old midfielder was then flashed a second yellow and ensuing red card for kicking the ball away after a free-kick was given against the visitors.

However, Reading were also down to 10 men just seven minutes later, with centre-half Matt

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Mills sent off for the second successive season against Town, this time for fouls on Andros Townsend in either half.

Roy Keane’s men earlier spurned the best chance of the first period. Jason Scotland fluffed his lines when standing just eight yards from goal, with just keeper Adam Federici to beat his shot drifted wide.

Reading stepped up a gear after the break, but the game still seemed to be heading for a draw until Church’s late intervention.

Keane opted for his more familiar 4-1-4-1 formation, having been unhappy with the way his team started at Scunthorpe in the more traditional 4-4-2 set-up.

But the changes in personnel were primarily in defence.

Darren O’Dea switched from leftback to centre-half, Jaime Peters was recalled at left-back, and Troy Brown was given his first ever league start at right-back.

This time it was a much brighter start from Town. In fact, they nearly broke the deadlock after just 30 seconds, thanks to a quick burst from Carlos Edwards.

Town’s winger raced to the edge of the box and squared for Grant Leadbitter, who in turn slid into the path of Andros Townsend.

The Tottenham loanee cut inside his marker but smashed his 18- yarder high and wide.

Reading had finished Saturday’s home game against Barnsley in rip-roaring fashion, scoring twice in stoppage time in a 3-0 win, but they created nothing of note until the 20th minute.

Marton Fulop was at full stretch to meet a teasing cross from Jobi McAnuff, under pressure from two Royals attackers.

But although he dropped the ball, Town’s keeper did enough to avert the danger with O’Dea hoofing to safety.

At the other end, lone striker Jason Scotland floated a header wide from Leadbitter’s deep freekick, while midfielder David Norris’ speculative long range shot flew harmlessly wide on 23 minutes.

Just two minutes later and Scotland blew a great chance to give Town the lead.

The ex-Wigan marksman did well to shrug off the challenge of defender Mills, from a big punt upfield by Fulop, and suddenly he had just keeper Federici to beat. However, the finish was dreadful as he screwed his shot wide from eight yards out.

This bad miss seemed to breathe confidence into Reading’s ranks, and Frenchman Jimmy Kebe flashed a shot narrowly off target from the edge of the box. Kebe had netted the opener against Barnsley on Saturday.

And Kebe was in the action again in the 38th minute. Fulop made a meal of the winger’s cross, but McAnuff, lurking at the far post, could not take advantage with his header and the Hungarian scooped up the loose ball.

But clear-chances continued to elude both teams. A brisk run from Townsend caused problems in the Royals back-line, with centre-half Alex Pearce only clearing into the path of Leadbitter.

His first-time shot rolled well wide of target.

Into the second half and Town again started promisingly. Federici had to fling himself to his right to palm away a 25-yarder from Edwards, which was heading for the net, while fellow winger Townsend slammed in another long-range shot that was eventually smothered by the Royals keeper.

Yet the visitors were soon left with a mountain to climb, due to Hyam’s second yellow and ensuing red card on 52 minutes.

Keane made a double change, by introducing fresh legs up front with Connor Wickham coming on for Scotland, while Reggie Lambe replaced Edwards down the wing.

Referee Mr Crossley evened up the numbers just before the hour mark by sending off defender Mills, also for a second bookable offence.

He had been booked for a foul on Townsend just before the break, and was then giving his marching orders for another foul on the winger.

Fulop was the busier of the two keepers during the last half-hour, although both sides had chances to win it.

A header from Shane Long flew straight into Fulop’s arms in the 61st minute, and Town’s keeper also made a terrific save to push a fierce shot from Jem Karacan around his post.

Fulop remained defiant, and he was again in the right place to deal with McAnuff’s long-range with 12 minutes remaining.

Town went close on one occasion, when substitute Jake Livermore, making his Town debut, whistled a shot wide from the edge of the box.

But it was Reading who stole the winner, with four minutes remaining, thanks to Church’s deflected shot.

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