Match report: Reading 2 Ipswich Town 1 – Tale of three penalties as Royals snatch win
It was a tale of three penalties as Ipswich Town lost 2-1 at Reading this evening, Jonas Knudsen’s foul in the fourth and final minute of stoppage-time proving costly.
Referee Jeremy Simpson appeared to cancel out one soft spot-kick award with another either side of half-time, Garath McCleary opening the scoring in first-half stoppage-time after a Grant Ward handball before Brett Pitman equalised after he was pushed by Tyler Blackett.
The Royals had dominated first-half possession, but Ipswich were the far more threatening team after the restart. A draw would have been a fair reflection of the game, but then Knudsen was penalised for grappling Joey van der Berg at a corner and Danny Williams scored the resultant penalty.
It was again a soft award, given that sort of contact goes on in the area at every set-piece, but Knudsen should have known better seeing as the referee had just warned the two sets of players for wrestling seconds earlier.
Both managers named unchanged starting XIs following 1-0 wins prior to the international break – Ipswich at home to Preston and Reading away to Cardiff. That meant that Blues new boys Tom Lawrence and Leon Best, as well as the fit-again Conor Grant, were among a much stronger looking substitutes’ line-up.
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Reading, now without Premier League parachute payments following finishes of seventh, 17th and, most recently, 19th, are looking to rebuild under new boss Jaap Stam. The former Manchester United star made nine signings after taking over from Brian McDermott in the summer, two of them fellow Dutchmen, with the emphasis on a possession-based game.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy wants his team to be less direct this season too, but having watched Wolves undo the Royals with a high and press earlier in the season that clearly was his game plan going into this game.
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It was a tactic that almost paid dividends very early on. Paul McShane was caught on the ball at the back inside the opening seconds, then another forced defensive error led to Freddie Sears’ shot palmed up into the air by keeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Town’s 4-3-3 formation increasingly began to resemble a 4-5-1 though and Reading were slowly but surely able to get their passing game going.
There was a huge let off for Ipswich in the eighth minute after Tommy Smith’s stabbed back-pass fell well short. For a split second it looked as though Rory Beerens would be left with the simple task of squaring the ball to an unmarked Yann Kermorgant for a tap-in, but Bialkowski did superbly to save at the Dutchmen’s feet.
Moments later, Beerens beat a leaden-footed Luke Chambers down the left, his cross headed onto the roof of the net by an unmarked George Evans.
Town were beginning to wobble as, time-and-time again, the home team moved the ball wide and got crosses into the box. Beerens against Chambers was certainly looking a mis-match.
Bialkowski – undoubtedly Town’s stand-out player this calendar year and arguably the division’s best keeper on current form – again came to the Blues’ rescue in the 26th minute. This time the Polish custodian did well to beat away Beerens’ well-struck effort after the latter had charged down Chambers’ clearance.
This was Town’s first away game since Daryl Murphy’s departure and they were clearly missing the Irishman’s ability to make the ball stick up front and ease the pressure for a spell. Brett Pitman had the thankless task of chasing lost causes.
Reading continued to get down the sides and put dangerous deliveries into the box, but, by hook or crook, Town always managed to get the ball clear.
Realising they were being over-run, Town players upped their tempo. This was typified by Cole Skuse sprinting half the length of the field to close down a Al Habsi clearance.
The home team suddenly had less time on the ball and there was a moment of controversy in the 41st minute when Evans, after taking a heavy touch under pressure, slid in recklessly on Grant Ward in the middle of the pitch. The Reading midfielder’s knee clattered into the Ipswich winger’s back and a yellow card was eventually shown. It could, and probably should, have been red.
Ipswich appeared to have ridden the storm and were looking solid, if not threatening, as half-time approached. However, with the one additional minute of extra time having just expired, referee Simpson controversially pointed to the spot after Ward handled Tyler Blackett’s cross.
Ward was inches inside the very outer corner of the box and his arm was certainly moving away from his body as he charged down, but you could argue it was simply a natural movement of his momentum and there was very little time to react with such little distance between the pair.
McClearly coolly sent Bialkowski the wrong way with his resultant penalty.
Five minutes after the restart, Ipswich were awarded a controversial penalty themselves when Pitman was ever-so-slightly shoved at the far post by Blackett as the pair contested Jonas Knudsen’s hooked cross.
It appeared to be a case of the referee cancelling out one soft spot-kick with another. Both were penalties you’d be screaming for when it’s your team that could profit, but raging about if given against you.
The goal lifted Town and, three minutes later, it required a fine stop from Al Habsi to deny Ward after his fine back-to-goal touch, spin and shot inside the area. It was a classy piece of fluid motion.
Ipswich continued to look the more threatening team and Tommy Smith was guilty of a gilt-edged miss on the hour mark after fellow centre-back Christophe Berra had nodded down Bru’s corner kick delivery. Smith has provided some clinical finishes in similar situations in the past, but on this occasion, when the ball popped up nicely for him on the edge of the six-yard box, he sliced badly over with his favoured left foot.
Town remained on the front foot. Al Habsi was forced to push Pitman’s angled shot around the post, then Berra powered a header narrowly over from the resultant corner.
Reading had a rare attack when substitute John Swift’s dipping shot from the edge of the box was well stopped by Bialkowski. From the resultant corner, Town counter-attacked at pace but Sears, having carried the ball a long way, ran into traffic instead of passing to a wide open Pitman.
The chance stayed alive and, when the ball went back into the box, sub Teddy Bishop was blocked by the out-stretched arm of Blackett. It was arguably more of a penalty than the two that had been given.
Reading went long in the closing stages and came close when Liam Moore’s knock down flew inches past the out-stretched boot of van der Berg inside the six yard box.
The late drama came deep into stoppage-time when referee Simpson booked both Berra and van der Berg following a spell of pushing and shoving at a corner. When the ball was eventually delivered, Knudsen grappled van der Berg, despite the previous warning sign, and was quickly penalised. It proved so costly as Williams converted.
Town now take on Derby, away, on Tuesday night before hosting Aston Villa, at Portman Road, next Saturday.
READING (4-3-3): Al Habsi; Gunter, McShane (cpt), Moore, Blackett (Obita 82); Evans (Quinn 59), van der Berg, Williams; McCleary (Swift 66), Yermorgant, Beerens.
Unused subs: Jaakkola, Watson, Harriott, Mendes.
Booked: Moore (29), Gunter (39), Evans (41), Blackett (50), van der Berg (90+)
IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Douglas, Skuse, Bru (Bishop 67); Ward (Varney 86), Pitman, Sears.
Unused subs: Gerken, Webster, Grant, Lawrence, Best.
Booked: Chambers (52), Berra (90+)
Attendance: 15,146 (1,070 away)
Referee: Mr J Simpson.