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Ipswich 2-1 Reading
Ipswich 2-1 Reading
Saturday, 3rd Apr 2010 17:06

First half goals from Gareth McAuley and Jon Walters saw the Blues to a 2-1 victory over 10-man Reading at Portman Road. Town quickly took advantage of Royals skipper Matt Mills’s straight red card for a two-footed tackle on David Norris but couldn’t add to the goals in a second half in which Gylfi Sigurdsson hit a last minute consolation for the visitors.

Boss Roy Keane made one change to the side which drew 0-0 at Swansea last week, David Healy taking over from Shane O’Connor, who dropped out of the 18 with the Blues reverting to 4-4-2. Jaime Peters continued at left-back.

The game started scrappily with Reading largely on top but with neither side particularly threatening until the 13th minute when Jimmy Kebe forced Brian Murphy into a good save but with referee Keith Stroud having already spotted that he had fouled Gareth McAuley to get to the ball.

Mr Stroud got his cards out for the first time in the 15th minute when Brynjar Gunnarsson went in high on Jon Walters, the Icelander picking up the game’s first caution.

David Healy hit a shot on the turn a minute later which Adam Federici did well to save but was unable to hold on to, a defender successfully clearing his lines.

On 17 David Norris took the ball into the Reading area where he appeared to be tripped by Matthew Mills only for referee Stroud to decide the Town midfielder had dived and show the afternoon’s second yellow card.

Healy, looking sharper than in his earlier games for the Blues, forced Federici into another save in the 20th minute with an overhead kick from 12 yards out.

For Reading, Jobi McAnuff hit a shot from the left side of the area which Murphy saved well, after Damien Delaney and David Norris had collided as they sought to clear a bouncing ball.

But it was Federici who was the busier of the two keepers and just before the half hour mark the Australian again did well, this time managing to hold on as Healy struck a curling effort from the edge of the area.

The Royals were reduced to 10 men moments later when Mills arrived late and two-footed after Norris had beaten him to the ball. It looked a poor challenge and Mr Stroud was quick to wave his red card despite Reading protests. Mills will already have less than pleasant memories of facing Town, having scored a last ditch own goal winner for the Blues when on loan at Coventry in 2004.

Reading immediately brought on former Norwich loanee Alex Pearce to shore up their depleted backline, but the Blues almost went in front with David Healy teeing up Daryl Murphy on the edge of the area but the Irish international shot wide.

Murphy had a header saved, then at the other end McAnuff screwed a shot into the Sir Bobby Robson Stand when in a promising position on the left.

Reading had retreated to the edge of the area en masse since the red card and the Blues were having trouble finding a way through. On 40 Grant Leadbitter unleashed a terrific 25-yard shot which Federici again pushed behind.

From the resultant corner, Town went in front. Leadbitter whipped in a corner from the right and McAuley powered a header into the net off the keeper for his fourth goal of the season.

Reading looked to get back on terms quickly, Kebe and then McAnuff both having shots blocked inside the Town area, but on 43 the Blues increased their lead. Wright sent in a deep cross from the right which Daryl Murphy headed back across goal for Jon Walters, who nodded home for his seventh goal of the campaign, the ball also catching Zurab Khizanishvili before crossing the line.

There was just time for Sigurdsson to get his name in the book for a foul on Leadbitter before referee Stroud brought an eventful half to an end.

Town had made the most of Reading’s reduction in numbers, but even prior to that the Blues had created most of the game’s opportunities, although Reading played the more composed football at times. The visiting fans were clearly unhappy with the red card and made their feelings known to referee Mr Stroud as he made his way from the field, but it had appeared to be the type of crude challenge which routinely warrants a sending off in this era.

Connor Wickham, fresh from signing his contract, entered the fray at the break, facing the side from whom he joined the Blues as an academy schoolboy after his father was posted to Colchester. David Healy made way after a bright if goalless half.

Kebe missed a good chance to pull a goal back on 50 when he shot high and wide when in space on the right of the area after the Blues had failed to clear after a freekick.

Town had clearly gone into the second half to sit back and soak up any early Reading pressure and catch the Royals on the break. Despite their numerical advantage, the visitors kept the ball well and created one or two half-chances. First Shane Long headed wide, then Sigurdsson and soon after Brian Howard shot just over from 25 yards, although Murphy may well have got to the ball had their efforts been on target.

Just before the hour, Walters was booked for a foul on McAnuff, then Daryl Murphy shot over after a quick break by the Blues.

Town, who by now were looking the more dangerous of the two sides, had the ball in the net on 65 when Wickham headed in Leadbitter’s freekick from the right but having strayed offside.

David Wright, who was regularly getting forward down the Blues’ right, forced Federici into a save a minute later, while at the other end Kebe skipped past a number of Town defenders on the edge of the box and hit a shot which was deflected wide.

On 70 Brian Murphy’s throw sent Wickham away down the left and the 17-year-old took the ball forward to the edge of the box before scuffing his shot wide.

Leadbitter hit a 71st minute shot straight at Federici before Pablo Couñago replaced Daryl Murphy in the Town attack.

Couñago and Colback played a neat one-two inside the area on 75, the loanee from Sunderland taking the ball past a couple of defenders before hitting a shot across the keeper which Federici again saved. The move deserved a goal.

Town were by now threatening to score almost every time they went forward with the Royals still committing men forward in a vain attempt to get back into the match. On 81 Wickham played through Leadbitter in space but the midfielder dawdled and Alex Pearce got back to dispossess him.

Reading sub Hal Robson-Kanu shot wide from the edge of the box, then David Wright lashed over from 35 yards. Lee Martin took over from David Norris for the final four minutes.

David Wright was booked for a foul on the edge of the box with two minutes remaining and from the freekick the Royals pulled a goal back. Sigurdsson’s shot was too well struck for Murphy to stop and the keeper could only push the ball into the roof of the net.

Injury time wasn’t too nervy for Town fans, Couñago almost adding a third but volleying Walters’s cross from the right straight at Federici. Kebe, who had got so little out of the excellent Jaime Peters that he had long ago been switched to the left flank, picked up the game’s final yellow card for a foul on the Spaniard after the Town striker had dispossessed him on halfway and was breaking towards the area.

While the red card inevitably changed the balance of the game, the Blues did what they had to do and deserved the points. Town ought to have scored a third goal in the second half and again allowed the opposition to net late on but for once with little serious harm done.

Even before the sending off the Blues had the better of the opportunities and keeper Adam Federici was probably the Royals’ outstanding performer throughout, making a number of important saves in each half.

The three points takes the Blues to 51 points and the dizzy heights of 14th position, eight points away from the bottom three and surely now absolutely safe from relegation.

Town: B Murphy, D Wright, Peters, Delaney, McAuley, Leadbitter, Norris (Martin 86), Colback, Walters, Healy (Wickham 46), D Murphy (Couñago 72). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Rosenior, Edwards, Smith. Att: 21,403.

Photo: Action Images

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