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Ipswich Town 2-1 Reading FC: Denied At The Death

Reading went home empty-handed last night after a late winner from Brett Pitman. Here's Matt's take on the midweek trip to Portman Road.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

The Royals broadly kept the side who convincingly beat Walsall at the weekend, only slotting in the previously cup-tied Yann Kermorgant in place of the injured Aaron Tshibola, with the team taking on the more familiar 4-4-2 shape.

There was no recall for George Evans, who missed this one with a bout of flu, and with Simon Cox out of favour Lucas Piazon was the closest thing we had to a striker on the bench for the trip to Suffolk. Whilst that's a sign of the lack of balance in our squad, you'd hope that Rakels (when we finally get international clearance) will bring a little more depth in up front.

The first half

To tell the truth, the first half was hardly a classic. Both sides made some tentative moves forward, with Hal Robson-Kanu providing our main creative outlet and Jake Cooper clearing all threats in defence. Ipswich were generally restricted to long shots and lofted balls in, and whilst Hal looked dangerous on the right flank too often there was nobody in the box to capitalise on the chances he was creating.

Perhaps more worryingly, on the rare occasion that the Royals did manage to infiltrate the opposition's box, they tried to overplay it and ended up generally overhitting passes, giving the Ipswich defenders a pretty easy night.

As half-time grew nearer, Ipswich became more dominant and the final few minutes before the break were spent defending the home side's attacks. Ali Al-Habsi had already made a number of decent saves, but he was called into action again after Ryan Fraser had a good chance from a tough angle, before Ipswich once again struggled with the subsequent corner. On balance, Ipswich were marginally the better side before the break, but it was a poor display of football all round with neither side looking particularly likely to score.

The second half

With the game goalless at the interval, Mick McCarthy decided to shake things up and sent Kevin Bru on for the hosts in place of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had struggled to make a mark in the first half. The decision looked wise, with Ipswich starting the second half with a higher tempo and causing problems for the Royals, as Cooper was forced to concede a corner within minutes of the restart. However, Reading were still able to exert some pressure, and soon after Kermorgant played in a neat cross which Matej Vydra just couldn't quite convert.

Just two minutes later Reading were made to pay for that miss, as some sloppy defending allowed Ryan Fraser space to receive the ball in the box, turn and slot home what was a simple finish to put the hosts ahead. It was the eighth time in the last 11 games that Reading have conceded the first goal, and with a lack of cutting edge up front it looked like that was going to be an eleventh consecutive away game without a win.

Brian McDermott responded by bringing on Garath McCleary for Stephen Quinn, reverting to having two traditional wingers on the pitch, and the Jamaica international nearly made an immediate impact when a great long throw by Al-Habsi put him and Vydra through on goal with just one Ipswich defender in the way. However, despite the defender going towards McCleary and Vydra having space, the winger decided to take the shot for himself, hitting the defender and going out for a corner.

Luckily, the poor decision making didn't cost us too badly, as just two minutes after that Robson-Kanu went down in the box and won a penalty, which McCleary duly converted to draw the two sides level.

With the Ipswich fans silenced, the home side tried to push forward to restore their lead, but found the Reading defence once again difficult to break down, and for a while it looked like the Royals would soak up the pressure and see the game out. Just like the first half, Ipswich were restricted to long range shots and crosses, neither of which seemed particularly effective, and Mick McCarthy ended up bringing Brett Pitman on to counter that problem.

With little attempt to relieve the pressure (Matej Vydra struggled to hold the ball up front) and another attacking Ipswich substitution with Varney replacing the ineffective Daryl Murphy, Reading started to flag a little. Ali Al-Habsi made some more solid saves, but ultimately it wouldn't be enough.

With just one minute remaining, the ball was pumped down Ipswich's left wing, and with it looking like it would run out every Reading player left it, leaving Varney a clear chance to cross the ball in for Pitman to fire home from close range and send Reading fans home disappointed.

Closing thoughts

It was a real killer to concede such a silly goal right at the end, especially as the game was generally a poor one with neither side looking good enough to deserve all three points. I certainly didn't think they looked much better than when they came down to the Madejski earlier in the season to suffer a 5-1 thrashing at any rate.

On the plus side, there were more good performances from Robson-Kanu, Cooper and Al-Habsi, who all seem to be growing to become key players in the side at the moment. However, that defeat continues a poor run of form away from home, and whilst it's clear that McDermott has sorted out our home performances, there is still a lot of work to do.