Ipswich Town 1-2 Reading - Match Report
Saturday, 2nd Mar 2019 17:18
Town’s 62-year stay in the top two divisions looks to be over after a 2-1 defeat to Reading saw the gap to safety extend to 12 points plus goal difference with only 11 to play. Nelson Oliveira’s 19th-minute opener gave the Royals a half-time lead before sub Gwion Edwards gave the Blues hope on 83 but Modou Barrow claimed the visitors’ second away win of the season and their first since September in the final minute.
James Collins and Teddy Bishop returned to the Town line-up with Jonas Knudsen suspended and Will Keane injured.
Collins, who had been out for five games with a hamstring problem, returned to the Blues’ defence for Knudsen with manager Paul Lambert, who was serving the second game of his two-match touchline ban, sticking with a three-man backline.
Trevoh Chalobah and Jon Nolan were in deeper midfield roles with Alan Judge and Bishop, who missed the draw at Wigan last Saturday as he had been ill earlier in the week, starting ahead of them behind lone striker Collin Quaner.
Reading fielded the same team which drew 1-1 at home to fellow strugglers Rotherham a week ago.
There was a late change of referee with Geoff Eltringham from County Durham in charge rather than Darren England who was initially slated to cover the fixture.
On 12 Tyler Blackett was yellow-carded for handball then a minute later, much to the delight of the home fans, be-masked on-loan Norwich striker Oliveira joined him in the book for an obvious dive after Bartosz Bialkowski had pulled out of a challenge in the area on the byline as the ball went out of play.
In the 15th minute Jon Nolan sent Quaner away down the right after a Reading attack had broken down. The German was breaking towards goal when the linesman’s flag was raised.
Town, watched by a crowd of 23,009, looked to be getting up a head of steam but in the 19th minute they went behind. Garath McCleary was sent away behind the Blues’ backline on the left and cut the ball back to Oliveira, who had held his run, and the Portuguese frontman had little problem in finding the net.
Olivera, already booked, celebrated in front of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand and was subsequently spoken to by referee Eltringham but wasn’t shown a further card.
The Royals weren’t far from a second in the 26th minute when one-time Blues trialist John Swift curled a shot wide from distance on the left.
On 32 Swift hit a low shot from the edge of the box which gave Bialkowski no problem, then a minute later Meite’s overhead kick was too close to the Town keeper to trouble him.
Town were seeing a fair amount of the ball but without being able to create a serious chance. On 36 Judge volleyed wide from 25 yards, then a minute later Royals skipper Liam Moore was booked for pulling down Quaner as the striker broke away in the Reading half.
There was a lucky escape for the Blues in the 38th minute when McCleary was sent away down the left into the space behind wing-back James Bree and to the right of skipper Luke Chambers but rather fortunately shot across the face and wide.
The Blues, who had struggled to settle into their system at both ends of the field, were forced into a substitution a minute later when Collins, who had been out for five games prior to the match and who had suffered a heavy late challenge earlier in the match, was replaced by Toto Nsiala.
Reading keeper Emiliano Martinez saved low from Judge on 42, then two minutes later the Blues should have levelled with their best move of the game.
Quaner did well to take down Kenlock’s long ball forward after a Town freekick had been cleared, then burst into the area on the right before cutting across to Bishop, who moved it on to Nolan to his left, but the former Shrewsbury man’s shot was somehow kept out by Martinez.
Town just about bundled a Reading corner from the left wide seconds before referee Eltringham ended two minutes of additional time.
It had been a struttering first-half performance from the Blues who never hit the level of their display prior to the red card at Wigan, although while still having one or two decent moments.
Nolan’s late chance was the best of them and the midfielder will feel he really should have been celebrating his third goal of the season.
Reading had looked the more dangerous side having created the better chances with Town not always appearing comfortable with their system, particularly at the back.
Town, desperately needing to win the fixture with half-time scorelines elsewhere also going against them, made a double change at the break with Cole Skuse and Edwards replacing Chalobah and Bree as the Blues moved to a four-man backline with Pennington at right-back.
The formation change was little surprise given the problems Town had had with their first-half system.
The Blues began to look more of a threat, Quaner made a strong run across the edge of the box but failed to find Judge with his pass, then on 55 the Irishman was sent away on the left by a superb Nsiala ball and struck a shot which Martinez saved.
The rebound bounced out to the former Brentford man who appeared to be manhandled out of the way as he looked to get in a second shot but referee Eltringham waved away Town’s protests.
Pantomime villain Oliveira departed in the 58th minute having pulled a hamstring, Nsiala having picked up an unfortunate yellow card with the linesman seeing him as the cause of the Reading striker’s fall rather than his injury. Oliveira was replaced by Modou Barrow.
Town continued to press, Skuse shooting just over on the hour mark, then Judge just getting crowded out as he chased a ball down the middle. On 65 Nolan was booked for a late challenge on Matt Miazga.
In the 68th minute, soon after Bishop had unsuccessfully claimed a penalty as he broke into the area on the left, the Blues went close to a fortunate equaliser when Andy Yiadom inadvertently diverted an Edwards cross from the right towards his own goal but Martinez clawed it away from his line. Kenlock sought to get on to the rebound but the ball was bundled behind.
On 74 Judge whipped over a freekick from the right which Bishop flicked on and Martinez saved ahead of Nsiala, who was breaking in at the far post.
The Blues had found openings harder to come by as the game entered its final 10 minutes but on 83 they levelled. After a ball into the box had been half-cleared to the edge of the box, Skuse looped it back in, Quaner flicked wide and Edwards slammed home from close range.
The Welshman’s fifth goal of the season gave the Blues, both on the field and off it, renewed hope going into the final minutes.
However, any momentum from the goal was temporarily nullified as Reading won a number of freekicks with players going down requiring treatment, Edwards picking up a yellow card for one of the transgressions.
Quaner won a freekick to the left of goal after he was felled following a strong break forward on 88 but Judge’s curling effort flew over.
But in the final minute of scheduled time, just prior to the fourth official showing a board indicating six additional minutes, Reading regained the lead.
Meite got the better of Nsiala just inside the Town half and fed Barrow, who beat Chambers as he broke into the area on the left and slipped the ball past the advancing Bialkowski. The Reading players celebrated wildly with their fans, a number of them leaping the hoarding to join them in the stand.
Town looked for what was now an unlikely comeback in injury time with Nsiala pressed forward as an additional frontman and they went close to levelling again twice in quick succession.
First Martinez, who made a number of crucial saves during the game, brilliantly tipped over Edwards’s strike from the edge of the box, then Chambers headed wide from a few feet out after Nsiala had flicked on when the skipper will feel he should have scored.
Deep in injury time Quaner nodded wide at the near post but referee Eltringham’s whistle brought the game to a close moments later with Town having lost another of their must-win home games, something which has been all too common this season.
After manager Lambert made a bold double change at half-time and switched his system, the Blues were on the front foot for much of the half but with the final ball lacking quality all too often, while Martinez in the Reading goal made a number of vital saves when chances did come.
Edwards’s equaliser gave the Blues hope of grabbing a late win but in the end Reading caught them with a sucker punch - the second time in two games Town had to claim three points which was harsh on Town who probably deserved a point from the match.
But even that wouldn’t have been enough for the Blues with Rotherham beating Blackburn 3-2 at the New York Stadium.
The gap to safety - and indeed to third bottom - is now 12 points plus goal difference with 11 matches left to play and is surely insurmountable, particularly with the Blues having a tough run-in, starting with next week’s visits to West Brom and Bristol City.
Town: Bialkowski, Pennington, Collins (Nsiala 40), Chambers (c), Bree (Edwards 46), Chalobah (Skuse 46), Kenlock, Nolan, Judge, Bishop, Quaner. Unused: Gerken, Jackson, Downes, Dozzell.
Reading: Martinez, Yiadom, Miazga, Moore, Blackett, Ejaria (Loader 89), Baker, Meite, Swift, McCleary (Harriott 80), Oliveira (Barrow 58). Unused: Walker, Gunter, O’Shea, McShane. Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham). Att: 23,009 (Reading 1,495).
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