REPORT: Ipswich Town 0 Reading 1

Ipswich v Reading Daryl Murphy on the ball.

Ipswich v Reading Daryl Murphy on the ball. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Ipswich v Reading: Ipswich Town suffered only their third home league defeat of the season, conceding a 14th minute goal against the run of play and then struggling to find the creative spark needed to break down a well-organised Reading side in a 1-0 loss.

Strike duo Daryl Murphy and Freddie Sears both wasted early chances following a rapid start by the Blues before Jamie Mackie’s angled strike from the edge of the box sneaked past Bartosz Bialkowski to give the Royals a lead against the run of play.

Reading then sat back and protected that one-goal lead, with Town devoid of invention in their attempts to break down a side employing two solid banks of four and intent on running down the clock.

Town remain fourth-place in the Championship table, three points behind second-place Middlesbrough (who lost 1-0 at home to Leeds) and two points above seventh-place Brentford (who beat Bournemouth 3-1 at home).

Derby – who twice came from behind to beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 at home – are the new league-leaders (five clear of Ipswich), while Norwich’s 3-0 win at Watford saw them leapfrog the Hornets and move to within one place and one point of their East Anglian rivals.

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Blues boss Mick McCarthy named an unchanged starting XI following a 2-1 win at Fulham but made three alterations to the bench. New loan signings Richard Chaplow and Luke Varney came in for the injured Hunt brothers, while the previously out-of-favour Cameron Stewart replaced Dylan Connolly.

Reading manager Steve Clarke said he was ‘embarrassed’ of his side’s ‘rubbish’ performance following a 1-0 home defeat against Wigan on Tuesday night. He made two changes to his starting XI, fit-again centre-back Michael Hector and winger Jamie Mackie replacing Oliver Norwood and Garath McCleary respectively.

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Town striker Sears made a particularly lively start to the game, playing on the shoulder of both centre-backs and always providing an option for a through ball.

It was from one of these scenarios that the hosts created a golden opening in the sixth minute, Murphy’s attempt to put Sears clear down the right deflecting kindly back into his path. The Irishman drove forwards into the space that opened up, beat two players to break into the box but then fluffed his right-footed shot straight at keeper Adam Federici.

Town’s encouraging start continued as Kevin Bru’s dipping shot from 25 yards was well held by Federici. Moments later, the Blues counter-attacked rapidly following a fine Christophe Berra block tackle, Murphy powered his way to the by-line and delivered a cross straight on to the head of an unmarked Sears; the latter not getting enough contact on the ball in his attempt to glance an effort across the keeper.

Reading’s 14th minute opener therefore came completely out of the blue. After Pavel Pogrebnyak won the headed flick on, Town looked to be in little danger when Mackie received the ball out on the right, but Mings backed off and the wideman, on the angle of the box out on the right side, unleashed a low shot into the bottom corner. Keeper Bartosz Bialkowski was slow to get down in his attempted save. Portman Road fell into a stunned silence.

It was a sucker punch for Ipswich and, suddenly tasked with breaking down a Royals side happy to stick two banks of four behind the ball and protect their lead, the home team looked devoid of ideas in their attempts to find a way to goal.

Town had strong penalty appeals waved away when Murphy’s cross from the right struck Alex Pearce’s arm in the box from close range. Then, in the 21st minute, Jay Tabb put a close-range, but acutely angled header the wrong side of the far post after good work by Luke Chambers have given Sears the chance to cross from the right.

Reading could have scored again on the half hour mark, several players beating Town’s attempted offside trap after a raking ball over the top. Simon Cox was unable to pluck the ball out of the sky though, with a relieved Bialkowski grabbing the ball.

Town continued to huff and puff, finally getting a sniff at goal in the 36th minute. Teddy Bishop’s reverse pass found the over-lapping Mings, his cross to the far post was headed back into the six-yard box by Chambers, but Sears’ hooked volley was blocked by Pearce.

Bishop’s hooked half-chance was then charged down in a crowded area in the latter moments of the half.

It required a fine save from Bialkowski to prevent Reading doubling their lead eight minutes after the restart, the Polish custodian diving full-length to tip Nathaniel Chalobah’s well-hit free-kick around the post.

Ipswich then wasted a glorious counter-attacking opportunity in the 53rd minute, Sears finding Murphy in acres of space only for the Irishman to get crowded out after failing to play a pass to unmarked men on either side of him.

A minute later, following Chambers’ headed flick on and Sears’ clever chip in the box, Tabb’s cross-cum-shot flew across the face of goal.

Town weren’t able to build on those encouraging quickfire openings though, McCarthy’s men continuing to lack attacking spark.

Very soon, the home crowd voiced their frustration in the direction of time-wasting keeper Federici. Reading then strung out a double substitution as long as possible.

New signing Varney was introduced for Sears in the 79th minute and he had an immediate impact, winning a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Fellow sub Paul Anderson took the ball off Kevin Bru and fired the dead ball chance high and wide.

Reading had a golden chance to kill the game off in the 84th minute, Mackie firing wide on the angle instead of picking out an unmarked team-mate in the six-yard box.

Murphy’s snap-shot was beaten away by Federici and hacked behind for a corner in stoppage-time. Following the resultant delivery, there were handball shouts turned down after the ball pinged about a crowded area.

Town had hardly been banging the door down though, this an afternoon in which they never managed to build any momentum.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Bishop (Anderson 64), Skuse, Bru, Tabb (Parr 64); Murphy, Sears (Varney 79).

Unused subs: Gerken, Clarke, Chaplow, Stewart.

Booked: Bru (67).

READING (4-4-2): Federici; Kelly, Hector, Pearce, Obita; Mackie (Cooper 90), Chalobah, Williams, Robson-Kanu (McCleary 77); Cox (Akpan 77), Pogrebnyak.

Unused subs: Anderson, Norwood, Blackman, Yakubu.

Booked: Obita (77).

Attendance: 21,298 (433 away).

Referee: Eddie Ilderton

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