Gallery: Woeful Ipswich suffer Reading beating as Norris faces another ban

IPSWICH Town were brought crashing back down to earth, following their eye-catching win at promotion-chasing Cardiff, as visiting Reading eased to victory at Portman Road.

Ipswich 1 Reading 3

IPSWICH Town were brought crashing back down to earth, following their eye-catching win at promotion-chasing Cardiff, as visiting Reading eased to victory at Portman Road.

An early header from Shane Long, the Championship’s in-form striker, gave Reading a deserved half-time lead.

And an out-of-sorts Town leaked two further goals late on, via Ian Harte’s ferocious free-kick and Noel Hunt’s solo run.

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Connor Wickham lashed home a consolation goal in the last minute of injury-time, but this could not hide what had been a very disappointing night for Paul Jewell’s men.

Long’s decisive blow arrived after just 18 minutes, with the Republic of Ireland international making the most of some slack Town defending from a corner.

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Brian Howard swung over a corner from the left, towards the back post, and Long steamed in unattended to head clincally home from the fringe of the six-yard box.

It was Long’s 18th league goal of the season, a remarkable tally when considered that he had only bagged two goals by the beginning of November.

Town huffed and puffed in the second-half, but their fate was sealed by Harte’s spectacular 25-yard free-kick, which gave Marton Fulop no chance in the 86th minute.

Hunt then burst onto Long’s accurate pass to round the onrushing Fulop and tuck home Reading’s third in the 89th minute, before Wickham rammed home his sicth goal of the season.

And to add salt to the wounds, skipper David Norris picked up his 10th booking of the season, and so now faces a two-match suspension, starting at Leeds this Saturday.

Town boss Jewell was forced into a couple of changes to his starting-line up, from the superb 2-0 win at Cardiff.

Mark Kennedy limped off with a sore hamstring just before the half-hour mark in South Wales, while Jimmy Bullard was also sidelined with a knock.

So in came Darren O’Dea for Kennedy at left-back, after the Celtic loanee had impressed during the final hour at Cardiff.

Andy Drury had the difficult job of trying to fill Bullard’s boots in the centre of the park. It was the ex-Luton midfielder’s second start in the Football League, following a sound full debut against Hull last month.

Reading had been on a roll, fresh from a six-match unbeaten run, an FA Cup triumph at Everton and a 5-2 thrashing of Middlesbrough on Saturday.

It was not surprising, then, that the Royals should dictate the early stages against Town, at least in terms of possession and territory.

Ironically, Town still registered the game’s first goal-attempt, with lone striker Jason Scotland aiming his low 20-yard drive straight at Alex McCarthy on six minutes.

Reading were forced into a change after just 16 minutes. Defender Matt Mills, who had been sent off in this fixture last season, was out of luck again. The ex-Colchester United loanee hobbled off with a groin injury.

But two minutes later and the visitors were ahead, thanks to Long’s 18th goal of the season.

Town were really struggling to get going, perhaps suffering a hangover from that fantastic win at Cardiff just three days earlier.

McCarthy stooped to collect a scuffed shot from Martin, down at his near post, but otherwise there was no joy for Jewell’s men.

And it needed a dramatic goal-line clearance from Delaney to prevent Reading from doubling their lead in the 33rd minute.

Defender Zurab Khizanishvili rose above Fulop to head Howard’s free-kick across the face of goal, and Noel Hunt’s low shot at the far post was hacked away by Delaney, in front of an otherwise empty net.

The closest that Town came to an equaliser, before half-time, was from a free-kick routine on 38 minutes. David Norris teed up Grant Leadbitter, who flicked the ball up before connecting sweetly with a volley that flew only a foot wide of the far post.

Two minutes later and Drury warmed McCarthy’s hands with a fierce shot from the edge of the box, following Scotland’s lay-off. The Royals keeper did not have to move his feet to make that save.

But at the other end, Fulop had to move sharply to thwart Hunt, who had nipped in between Delaney and O’Dea to crack in an angled drive. The Hungarian blocked with his legs.

Town squandered a good chance to equalise inside three minutes of the second-half. Scotland squared into the danger-zone, but Drury and Martin both went for the same ball with Drury’s effort looping harmlessly over the bar.

But Reading should really have killed off the game in the 55th minute. Danger-man Long burst past defender McAuley and crashed in a shot that Fulop did well to beat away with strong hands.

Jem Karacan pounced on the rebound and set up Howard, only for the ex-Barnsley midfielder’s shot to roll agonisingly wide of the far post from just eight yards out. That was a bad miss.

The game began to open out as it entered the last quarter, prompted by Long flashing a diving header inches wide from Howard’s cross.

Town’s best move of the match saw Wickham chase a long ball and back-heel superbly into the path of Martin. The winger’s first-time cross was met by Tamas Priskin, but the substitute could not get enough power in his header and McCarthy easily saved.

There was pinball in the Royals box on 68 minutes. Drury’s free-kick caused panic, with McAuley’s snap shot blocked by a defender, and then Martin’s effort from the rebound was parried at point blank range by McCarthy.

But Town faded during the final 20 minutes, and late efforts from Harte and Hunt gave Reading a comfortable victory, despite Wickham’s late strike.

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