|Reading 2 v 2 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 10th November 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Reading 2-2 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 10th Nov 2018 17:19
Yakou Meite’s header six minutes from time prevented the Blues from claiming the first win of the Paul Lambert era as Town and Reading drew 2-2 at the Madejski Stadium. Gwion Edwards volleyed the Blues in front on five as the game got off to a frenetic start, Meite levelled with his first of the afternoon for the home side two minutes later before Sears restored Town’s lead on 11. Reading improved after the break with Meite sealing a share of the spoils on 84 with his second of the game.
Lambert named an unchanged XI and bench with the Blues lining up in the 4-3-3 system they employed in the 1-1 draw with Preston last week.
Reading made one change with Sam Walker dropping to the bench, Anssi Jaakkola, back after injury, having been preferred in goal to the one-time Town season ticket holder.
Following the Last Post and a minute’s silence, with the game the Royals’ Remembrance Day fixture, the Blues, wearing their all orange away strip, started on the front foot as heavy rain poured down.
And in the fifth minute they went in front. Jonas Knudsen’s long throw from the left was half-cleared to the edge of the box from where Edwards volleyed home his fourth goal of the season.
But the lead lasted only two minutes. With the rain by now falling even more heavily, Sam Baldock chased a ball down the left, just reaching it at the touchline. The ex-MK Dons man did well to get it back into the box where Meite hooked from behind him past Bartosz Bialkowski at the near post.
However, parity was similarly short-lived with the Blues restoring their lead in the 11th minute.
From a goalkick Bialkowski punted the ball down the middle and Sears profited from some woeful defending before taking it into the area and confidently beating Jaakkola for his second goal of the season and of the two-game Lambert era.
Two minutes later Mo Barrow was shown the game’s first yellow card for a dive as Cole Skuse pulled out of a challenge on the edge of the Town box with the game continuing at its early frantic pace, although with the rain having subsided slightly.
Town remained in control as the game passed the 20-minute mark, confidently keeping possession of the ball while on occasion also looking to get it forward quickly for central striker Jordan Roberts or Sears to chase.
They started to carve out further chances as the home crowd started to make their frustrations known, particularly with keeper Jaakkola for regularly finding touch with his kicks.
Skuse twice had efforts blocked following a corner, then in the 22nd minute Roberts came very close to his first Town goal after flicking Flynn Downes’s cross from the right across goal towards the corner of the net but Jaakkola somehow got down to it to paw it past the post.
On 28 Downes sent over a corner from the left which skipper Luke Chambers headed wide with the similarly unmarked Roberts behind him in a better position to nod home.
Meite headed straight at Bialkowski on the half-hour mark while claiming rather hopefully he had been fouled, much to the annoyance of Chambers who hauled him up off the floor.
But Town were still on top, controlling the game in a manner they rarely have this season. On 38 a Roberts shot was blocked by Jaakkola after Skuse had played him into the right of the area.
As the half entered its final few minutes Barrow was in danger of picking up his second yellow card for fouls on Jordan Spence and general stroppiness towards referee Darren Bond.
But it was Blues skipper Chambers next to be shown a card as the half entered three minutes of injury time for a foul on Meite on halfway with the Reading man fortunate to avoid a card himself for his reaction.
Neither side threatened again before the break with the whistle met by boos from the home fans and cheers from the 1,887 Town following delighted by their team’s first-half display.
The Blues were well worth their lead after putting in what’s probably their best 45 minutes of the season. Having got on top early on they got their noses in front following a very positive start, they then seemed seemed unruffled by Reading’s quick equaliser before swiftly grabbing their second of the game.
From there they had chances to make it 3-1 and a second Blues goal might well have been enough to end the hopes of a Royals side looking frustrated and low on confidence.
Reading manager Paul Clement swapped Andy Rinomhota for Garath McCleary ahead of the second half and after an evenly balanced early spell Reading came close to an equaliser.
Town were unable to clear a corner and the ball eventually fell to Barrow at the back of the six-yard box but Bialkowski reacted superbly to thwart the former Swansea man at close range.
At the other end, Roberts seized on some hesitancy between John O’Shea and Jaakkola and for a brief moment looked to have won the ball until the keeper pounced on it.
But Reading had been in control since the break with the Blues only occasionally able to get forward. Presumably with that in mind, Roberts was switched for Kayden Jackson in the 60th minute, the ex-Crawley man given a warm ovation by his supporters as he left the field.
Town began to make more of an impact going forward, Sears hitting a shot which was deflected behind before the ex-West Ham man sent Jackson away on the left. However, the summer signing from Accrington chose to cut back and was unable to find a team-mate when a shot was probably a better option.
As the game moved towards its final quarter of an hour the Blues began get back on top, showing more control in their play than earlier in the half and with Jackson causing a few early problems to the Royals’ defence, which had hardly looked a well-drilled outfit throughout.
On 75 Spence did well to bring the ball into the area from the right before hitting a shot which Jaakkola blocked.
After Chambers had made an important challenge on Barrow on the right of the Blues’ box, Reading replaced O’Shea with one-time Town trialist John Swift.
With Reading increasingly pushing men forward, Edwards sent Jackson away into space running in on goal in the 78th minute but Tyler Blackett did well to get across to take the ball away from the pacy frontman.
Sears, back to being a key man under Lambert, was replaced by Danny Rowe with eight minutes remaining and was warmly applauded off by the Town support. Soon after Reading swapped Liam Kelly for Marc McNulty.
With six minutes remaining the Royals equalised for the second time. Leandro Bacuna sent over a deep cross from the left and Meite, who hadn’t been tracked, headed past Bialkowski at the far post.
Spence was booked for a foul on Barrow with the home side now having momentum and their fans behind them.
The Blues were were forced to defend resolutely to see out four minutes of injury time, although the Royals might have won it when the ball was cut back to Baldock but his shot from the edge of the box arced deep into the stand behind the goal.
Moments later, referee Bond’s whistle ended an entertaining contest which Town will feel should have been the first victory of the Lambert era.
They were made to rue failing to take their chances in the first half with the Royals unlikely to have come back had it been 3-1 at the break. As it was, Reading were the better team in the second half even if they didn’t create too many chances.
Manager Lambert will be unhappy with the Reading equaliser with Knudsen appearing to have lost his man leaving Matthew Pennington, who may also feel he should have dealt with the cross, with two players at the far post, the second of whom was able to nod home.
While the result was ultimately disappointing, Town played as well as they have for a while in the first half and the two displays and draws under Lambert have shown an improvement and will have given fans some hope that their side can climb out of the relegation zone despite their current parlous position.
The Blues, who remain bottom still five points behind the four sides above them, are next in action against West Brom in a live Sky game on Friday 23rd November.
Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, O’Shea (Swift 77), Moore (c), Blackett, Rinomhota (McCleary 46), Bacuna, Kelly (McNulty 83), Barrow, Meite, Baldock. Unused: Gunter, Aluko, Ilori, Walker.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), Pennington, Knudsen, Skuse, Downes, Chalobah, Edwards, Sears (Rowe 82), Roberts (Jackson 60). Unused: Gerken, Donacien, Dozzell, Edun, Lankester. Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire). Att: 14,952 (Town: 1,887).
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