Performance of hope and encouragement

WHILE the result was relief all round, the performance was one that will offer hope and encouragement.

Derek Davis

WHILE the result was relief all round, the performance was one that will offer hope and encouragement.

Just as the poor start probably didn't warrant the depths of despair shown in some quarters, nor should this victory be the cause of over celebration.

Yes, it was good and one to be enjoyed and take heart from. However, both managers acknowledged how different it would have been had Reading got the first goal, and they had plenty of chances to do so in the first half.

But they didn't and much of that was owed to a real desire to defend, not just from the back five, but throughout the side.

Jon Stead epitomised that early into his debut when he sprinted back to catch the speedy Jimmy Kebe and make a tackle.

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Kebe was a right Royal pain down Town's left side supported by Liam Rosenior, especially in the first half but David Wright, playing left back with Ben Thatcher out with a dead leg, working hard to contain the threat.

It was Richard Wright who came to the rescue a few times early on, saving with an outstretched leg with Kebe clean through and then making a brilliant tip over save when the same player tried to chip him from 16 yards.

Reading skipper James Harper scorned a good chance by hitting over the bar when another Kebe effort was blocked by David Wright.

Harper dictated much of the play in the first half but even when Gareth McAuley limped off with a dead leg to be replaced by Pim Balkestein Reading could not crack the resolute defence led superbly by undisputed skipper Richard Naylor.

After weathering that early storm, Ipswich then slowly imposed their own game and had plenty of good moments themselves. Not least as Stead and Pablo Counago combined so well.

The Spaniard twice with the bar, the first with a powerful header from a Stead cross, which came back from the underside of the bar straight into Marcus Hahnemann's arms.

The second with a hooked volley that deserved so much more.

Alan Quinn, so often left trailing in Kebe's wake early on, took full advantage of the space left by the Mali international, who didn't seem to want to defend, and also hit a post with a terrific shot after another Counago effort was blocked.

Quinn almost broke clear after good work from Naylor and Counago, but Hunt did enough to put him off his shot 20-yards out and it trickled wide.

The breakthrough came from a free kick hit by Balkestein across field to Walters who, despite his head swathed in a blood-stained bandage, nodded down to Stead.

The big striker swivelled nimbly away from Ivar Ingimarsson and from just outside the area fired in a perfect left-footed curler which went in off the far post.

It was a brilliant start for the striker on loan from Sheffield United and a goal both he and Ipswich richly deserved. It also owed a lot to Walters who made the header even though he was sporting four stitches to a cut after an accidental collision.

Although Reading threatened they never really looked convincing.

Manager Steve Coppell took off defender Chris Armstrong and threw on an attacking midfielder in Convey in search on an equaliser while Town countered, not by tightening up, but by adding Kevin Lisbie to the attack and exploit the gaps left by Reading going forward.

It worked a treat and Lisbie set up Town second with a cleverly floated ball to the back stick for the courageous Walters to run on to and nod past the hapless Hahnemann.

Lisbie, along with Iván Campo, had been left out of the starting line up but both decisions were vindicated by Town's performance.

They had to match reading's energy and tempo to earn the right to play their own football and they did that to great effect.

Reading were far less effective in the second half, although Alex Pearce did squander a good chance by hitting over the bar after Town failed to clear a corner, and Moritz Volz cleared off the line when Noel Hunt headed down a corner from his brother Stephen.

Volz further endeared himself to the Blues faithful with a mazy run from deep and even though he ended up in a cul-de-sac it showed a willingness to join in the attack.

While there is still clearly much to be done and more time needed for Magilton's new players to gel, this was a good win over a side, that like Ipswich last year, are poor on the road, but will still be serious play-off contenders.

Ipswich need to use this as a platform to build on and follow it up with success at Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday over the next few days with four points a realistic expectation.