Report: Reading 5 Ipswich Town 1 – Sobering night as Blues fold in front of TV audience
Ipswich Town folded in front of a television audience on a sobering night, Reading ending their Madejski goal drought in style with a thumping 5-1 victory – Orlando Sa bagging a hat-trick.
The Royals had gone four months without netting on home turf, but they converted five of their nine attempts on goal – some slick attacking play helped hugely by some shambolic away defending.
Sa netted twice in the opening 15 minutes, either side of Freddie Sears’ quick reply, with Nick Blackman netting the morale crushing third soon after the restart, Sa claiming the match ball in the 63rd minute, with Oliver Norwood’s 30-yard strike at the death rubbing salt in the wounds.
The moment which summed up Town’s night was the piece of miscommunication between keeper Dean Gerken, undoubtedly the guilty party, and Cole Skuse ahead of Blackman’s goal.
Mick McCarthy’s men actually had plenty of goalscoring opportunities – Sears spurned a golden chance and Brett Pitman struck the bar – but, on this occasion, their much acclaimed forward strength was overshadowed by frailties at the back.
It was a result, and performance, which puts Town’s new footballing philosophy into perspective. Supporters and pundits had heralded the new attacking ethos following a flying unbeaten start to the season, but conceding eight goals in two successive defeats will have irked their pragmatic boss.
This was the first time since the 6-0 thrashing at Leicester in the early weeks of McCarthy’s regime that such a defeat has been suffered. The days of turgid goalless draws being ground out at the likes of Huddersfield certainly seems a long time ago now.
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McCarthy made two changes to his starting line-up following the 3-2 home defeat to Brighton prior to the international break.
Teenager Josh Emmanuel was replaced by fit-again centre-back Christophe Berra, meaning skipper Luke Chambers returned to the role of right-back.
David McGoldrick – having impressed off the bench against the Seagulls – came into the team at the expense of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, meaning Freddie Sears was deployed on the right of midfield.
Dropping two teenagers, both of who were given the hook at half-time in the previous outing, was no doubt an attempt to give Town a bit more know-how at the Madejski Stadium – a ground the Blues have not found a happy hunting ground in recent history.
No doubt McCarthy would have taken a tight, scrappy start to the match, but instead a breathless opening quarter of an hour finished with the home team 2-1 up.
Reading may have gone six competitive matches without scoring a goal on home turf (seven including a goalless pre-season friendly), but their dominant 3-1 victory at Brentford meant their fans went into the international break full of confidence.
The transfer deadline day addition of proven Championship striker Matej Vydra on loan from Watford also helped.
That feel-good factor was evident both on and off the pitch in the early stages as the Royals got on the front foot straight away.
The deadlock was broken in the eighth minute following a poor Jonas Knudsen attempted clearance from by the corner flag. It was a tired swing of the leg which you’d expect in the 98th minute, not the eighth.
Quick-thinking Vydra produced a well-weighted, first-time pass back up the line, wideman Nick Blackman worked half a yard of room and delivered a cross for Sa to head home. It was an expert finish by the £1m summer recruit from Polish club Legia Warsaw, but the Portguese was afforded far too space in the box.
Town hit back within less than two minutes following some slick play of their own. Brett Pitman flicked on with his head following a towering leap, Fraser gave him the ball and got it back, then jinked his way into the area before forcing keeper Jonathan Bond into a full-stretch save with a curling effort. There was nothing the home custodian could do to prevent an alert Sears from chesting the ball over the line from close-range.
Reading restored their lead four minutes later. Credit again has to go to the attackers, but on this occasion Town’s poor attempts to stop the threat has to go under the spotlight.
The Royals worked the ball from back to front right through the middle of the pitch under little pressure from away players. Vydra provided the final pass and Sa, after shifting the ball to the right of Berra, guided a fine, low shot across Dean Gerken and in off the far post.
Knudsen flashed a long-range volley just wide of the post in the 20th minute, then Sears passed up a golden opportunity to equalise soon afterwards when blazing over from close-range. The in-form front man had done all the hard work, nutmegging Paul McShane in the box after receiving a clever reverse pass from Fraser, but was then uncharacteristically rash with his shot.
Ipswich were enjoying plenty of possession, as the away side, but Reading would suddenly step up a gear at any given moment and leave men in orange shirts chasing shadows.
Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse and Fraser all went into the referee’s book for late tackles and, time and time again, Town rode their luck. If Reading’s final pass had been better then the visitors would have been further behind.
As it was, the Blues went into the break feeling as though they could have been on level terms after McGoldrick glanced a header, following Fraser’s corner, just wide. Blackman had done just enough, leaning into the striker and preventing him from making good contact.
Pitman lashed a shot wide of the post after a fine McGoldrick chested pass into his path soon after the restart, but any hope that Town could build some momentum was quickly quashed when a defensive calamity gifted Reading their third goal.
After Blackman’s low cross clipped the heels of Sa at the far post the danger looked over, but Gerken remained rooted to his spot as Skuse gestured to the keeper to come and collect the loose ball.
Skuse, realising that wasn’t going to happen, tried to clear, but Vydra nipped in, the ball broke to Blackman and he smashed a fine angled effort into the roof of the net. It was a sublime finish, but the chance should never have arisen.
At the other end, from nowhere, Ipswich hit the woodwork – Pitman’s clever glancing header, following Fraser’s chip in the box, looping over the keeper and bouncing back off the crossbar. It was a reminder that, with some of the best front men in the division, Ipswich will always feel they not out of matches.
However, defend as appallingly as the Blues did and you can have all the firepower in the world and it will matter not one jot.
Reading’s fourth goal, which arrived in the 66th minute, came after another series of errors. This time Pitman gave the ball away cheaply just as a promising attack was building, Chris Gunter provided a long ball up the line and, after Blackman muscled his way past Berra too easily to cut back, an unmarked Sa was left with a simple tap-in for his hat-trick.
The fifth only served to rub salt in the wounds. Town’s defence backed off and Norwood, with time and space, rifled a breathtaking shot into the top corner from a full 30 yards.
READING (4-4-2): Bond; Gunter, McShane (cpt), Ferdinand, Obita; Blackman (John 77), Norwood, Tshibola, Quinn; Sa (Robson-Kanu 81), Vydra (Piazon 75).
Unused subs: Al-Habsi, Hector, Williams, McCleary.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Sears, Skuse, Douglas, Fraser (Maitland-Niles 65); McGoldrick, Pitman (Murphy 65).
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Parr, Malarczyk, Coke, Toure.
Booked: Chambers (32), Skuse (36), Fraser (40), Knudsen (90)
Attendance: 16,809 (1,602 away)
Referee: Roger East