Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-2 draw at Reading
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Ipswich Town drew 2-2 at Reading in a Championship clash this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives outlines the key talking points.
Town came into this match having not scored from open play in more than six hours. They’d failed to find the net in half of their 16 league matches.
The big worry was that, as good as the performance was in Paul Lambert’s first game against Preston, this Town team lacked a goal threat.
Lambert disagreed strongly in his pre-match press conference. He was vindicated as the Blues scored twice inside a dramatic opening 11 minutes.
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The opener came from a long Jonas Knudsen throw from the left. Two Reading players got in each others’ way at the near post, the ball was only half-cleared and Gwion Edwards slammed a shot back through the crowded area and inside the left-hand upright.
Less than two minutes later, the Royals were level when Yakou Meite produced a fine acrobatic finish with his back to goal after Sam Baldock had done superbly to dig a cross out from the byline.
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Town shrugged off the setback and soon were in front again. Bartosz Bialkowski’s goalkick skipped off a wet surface, Liam Moore misjudged the bounce and the alert Freddie Sears coolly converted one-on-one.
Town subsequently dominated the first half. It’s hard to remember the last time they had played quite so well. Reading, meanwhile, looked very brittle.
The only negative, therefore, was that they were not further in front come the half-time whistle.
Jordan Roberts had a glancing header, which Sears may have got a slight touch on, tipped around the post (23), Edwards was inches away from connecting with a dangerous low Knudsen delivery (25), Luke Chambers headed just wide from a corner (28) and Anssi Jaakkola did well to palm away an angled Roberts striker (37).
Come the break, Town had produced eight shots on goal – four of them on target – and forced four corners.
As it happened, that failure to kill the game off came back to haunt them.
It was a bit more loose from the Blues after the restart. Reading, as poor as they’d been, suddenly sensed a momentum swing.
Step forwards Bialkowski.
After the Blues had not dealt with a corner delivery particularly well in the 54th minute an almighty goalmouth scramble ensued. It looked for all the world as though Mo Barrow would score...
But Town’s big Pole in the goal produced a breathtaking stop to deny him from point-blank range.
It was a crucial save at a crucial moment. It was a reminder of just why he is the club’s three times Supporters’ Player of the Year, went to the World Cup and was handed a bumper new contract.
After a below-par start to the season which led to him being controversially dropped by Paul Hurst, the hope is that Bart is back.
Him on top-class form could be worth goodness knows how many points.
Paul Hurst had preached a high press, advanced full-backs and playing off a lone striker. It all sounded good, but we never really saw enough evidence of that. As the weeks went by the team appeared to have less and less identity.
Within a fortnight, Lambert has got the team doing all of the above.
The two centre-backs split as soon as Bialkowski got the ball to provide short options, Cole Skuse looked to play positively on the turn rather than short and safe, while Jordan Spence and Knusen constantly took up high starting positions. Everyone just seems to know their role in the team.
Yes, Town also got the ball forwards quickly at times, but it was always at the right moments and with purpose.
Individuals have improved too. Flynn Downes is a prime example. His confidence looked shot after a poor display at Hull earlier this season. Lambert has come in, asked him to take all the set-pieces, bigged him up publicly and, as a result, he must be feeling 10 feet tall. He certainly played like it today. The tenacious teenager was here, there and everywhere.
For the second weekend running, despite plenty of positives, Town only came away with a single point.
The Blues got deeper and deeper in the second half. Chambers made a last-ditch challenge on Barrow in the 77th minute. It all began to feel very nervy.
It was hardly a surprise when Meite ghosted onto a deep diagonal delivery to head home an equaliser in the 84th minute. Town were subsequently left holding on for a draw.
That leaves them still five points adrift of everyone else at the foot of the Championship table.
And, on paper at least, there are some tougher games on the horizon after next weekend’s international break.