Lucky it was only three!

SO superior were Reading last night that Ipswich were lucky it was only three.Although the Blues never lacked effort they were way short of the quality that oozed from the Royals, who went top of the table and it is easy to see why.

By Derek Davis

SO superior were Reading last night that Ipswich were lucky it was only three.

Although the Blues never lacked effort they were way short of the quality that oozed from the Royals, who went top of the table and it is easy to see why.

They had movement, guile, style, athleticism and finishing ability, something Ipswich were sadly lacking.

Manager Joe Royle made something of a shock tactical decision in leaving out Nicky Forster and going with just Sam Parkin up front.

Also out from Saturday's starting line-up at Coventry were skipper Jim Magilton and Ian Westlake, with Darren Currie and Matt Richards again taking their places, while Kevin Horlock provided the anchor in front of defence after returning from suspension. At first glance it looked as if Town were going for a draw by bottling up the midfield and nullifying Reading's athletic and dangerous central players.

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But the Blues also showed attacking intent with Currie supporting Parkin in an advanced role in the early stages and when Reading had the ball he dropped deeper and over to the right.

Royle had to change things after just 18 minutes though with Forster going on for Parkin, who had picked up an ankle knock.

Although Town worked hard to close down Reading and starve them of chances the visitors found ways through and caused numerous problems and Ipswich were made to pay the 29th minute.

Jay McEveley lost the ball and Bobby Convey took advantage and got behind the defence to cross.

Kevin Doyle's goal-bound effort was blocked by Sito Castro but Steve Sidwell ran in to drive the ball into the centre of the goal.

That prompted Royle to change things again with Fabian Wilnis going on for Horlock and dropping into centre defence alongside Jason De Vos while Richard Naylor went up front - to huge cheers.

It almost had an immediate desired effect as Sidwell almost poked into his own net while under pressure.

The Royals had already got the ball in the net earlier but it was flagged for offside and Wales No. 1 keeper Lewis Price made an excellent one-handed save to deny Doyle and although Lita followed up with a stooping header he was already in an offside position.

Price, who has just signed a new deal keeping him at Portman Road until the summer of 2008, got behind a Lita effort as Reading showed why they have been unbeaten since the opening day of the season.

He also made an excellent save with an outstretched leg as Wilnis tried to cut out another Reading attack.

A determined Ipswich went at Reading, with Currie putting in a good cross for Naylor who headed wide and then combined well with McEveley, who battled to the by-line and pulled back for Forster, who shot wide.

Those missed chances were instantly punished as Reading raided down their left side.

Convey found Doyle and the young Irishman got the ball back, despite De Vos's attempted block and Lita hit a superb first-time, left-footed, volley to make it two.

Currie continued to try to get crosses in, one spun off Forster and another was too high for Naylor.

It took 67 minutes before the Blues managed a shot on target, which turned out to be their only one of the match, with the American keeper Marcus Hahnemann having no trouble plucking Williams's effort out of the air - to a loud burst of ironic cheers.

But once again it was Reading who showed how it was done and scored, with surprising ease, from a corner.

Ibrahima Sonko headed back Little's flag-kick, which Lita then flicked on and Doyle had a simple finish, for his second goal in four days and sixth of season.

Former Royal Forster tried twice from long range but neither troubled the keeper or defence. It was clear Town were never going to score and the home crowd booed when three minutes were added at the end.

So dominant were Reading that they appeared to cruise the final stages and Ipswich had to accept they were well-beaten by a much better side.

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