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The Oppo: Ipswich Town

Back from the international break and raring to go, The Royals have an interesting history against the Tractor Boys.

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So after two weeks off having just gotten into the Saturday/Tuesday rhythm, at least supporters of Reading and Ipswich Town won’t have to wait quite as long as the remainder of the Championship for the resumption of league football thanks to Sky Sports who have chosen to broadcast this specific fixture for the second year in a row.

Head to Head

League matches between the Royals and Tractor Boys date back to just 1938, the year when Ipswich Town gained election to the Football League, and the clubs have met a further 52 times since.

The record between the two clubs is remarkable due to the record swinging this way and that after two significant watershed moments. The overall record reads very evenly between 1938 and 1954, with a W9 D1 L8 record, 29 scored and 25 conceded from the first 18 matches, but then in August 1955 the Ipswich board took a decision that completely changed not just the direction of Suffolk football, but English football – they appointed Alf Ramsay as manager. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since 1955, and to the end of the Elm Park era, Reading were a club that Ipswich looked forward to playing as they won on nine of 14 occasions, losing just twice, all the while scoring 38 goals in the process (nearly three a game), however since the move to the Madejski we have witnessed a complete reversal of fortunes as Ipswich have won just five matches in 22 since 2002, in contrast to Reading’s 11 victories. At the Madejski the record is impressive, with seven victories and just one defeat in March 2009.


Played

RFC Wins

Draws

ITFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

ITFC Goals Scored

Portman Road

27

8

4

15

36

48

Elm Park

16

7

2

7

25

31

Madejski Stadium

11

7

3

1

18

7

Reading Overall

27

14

5

8

43

38

Overall

54

22

9

23

79

86

Memorable Match

January 2005, and the bolts were seriously loosening on the wheels of the Reading promotion charge after a run of just one win in six, however a match against the league leaders gave Reading an opportunity to show that they still had it within them to live with the best the division had to offer, despite being without two of the most influential players, Steve Sidwell and Dave Kitson.

Ipswich started the quicker, and Shefki Kuqi hit the bar with an audacious lob after just a minute and Hahnemann was called into action by Darren Bent in the next five minutes, but as the opening salvos wore on Reading grew into the game and went on to dominate the rest of the first half. Glen Little was desperately unlucky not to score after a typically bamboozling run and curling a left footed effort, and we also hit the post when a Nicky Shorey free kick missed every despairing lunge for the ball. Many promising scenarios were squandered as crosses flew across goal and shots were blocked, but after the opening five minutes Ipswich barely had an attack of note during the remainder of the first half and it was undoubtedly with some relief that it was goalless when Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for half time.

As quality sides tend to do when they have a poor half of football, Ipswich upped the ante in the second half and in truth the Reading goal led a charmed life throughout. Darren Currie, who had an excellent game for the Tractor Boys, hit the post with a cross/shot from the left and Hahnemann was called into action to make further excellent saves from a powerful Darren Bent effort and an imperious Shefki Kuqi header, but despite valiant efforts to hold out against what was a constant barrage of attack, it looked like the Royals had lost the match in the 90th minute. Graeme Murty, under pressure from Darren Currie, attempted and failed to loft the ball over the Londoner’s head. With a clean run in behind the defence, Currie ran on to the loose ball and quickly passed inside to the lethal feet of Darren Bent. Bent, first time, shot low to Hahnemann’s left into the corner sending the 3.5k contingent from Suffolk into delirium. They thought they had a significant victory.

However, it was this match that we perhaps saw the beginnings of a steeliness that was to become ever so apparent over the next 18 months, as Reading simply dusted themselves down and promptly equalised. James Harper picked the ball up out of the net and ran it back to the centre spot, and Ipswich didn’t touch the ball after kick off. Ingimarsson and Sonko both gambled by storming forward in the hope of getting on the end of something, and within 30 seconds of the restart Glen Little drifted a far post cross from the right. Sonko missed the ball, but Ingimarsson didn’t, sneaking in between two Ipswich defenders and sending a first time volley high into Kelvin Davis’s net. More delirium, this time in the home ends (from those that hadn’t walked out), and a deserved draw was the result.

Both sides would suffer between this match and the end of the season, Reading missing out on the playoffs on the final day after defeat at Wigan, while Ipswich missed out on automatic promotion by virtue of the same result at the JJB Stadium, before losing 4-2 on aggregate to West Ham in the playoff semi finals.

They Played For Both Teams

The career of Andy Bernal kicked off as a youngster in Australia, when playing for the Australian Joeys he was spotted playing in a pre season tournament in 1985 by Sporting Gijon. Sporting, who were one of the top clubs in Spain at the time, offered him a trial and the eager Bernal snapped up the opportunity. Sporting offered him a contract, and signed the first of just five Australians to play in Spain as a result. A regrettable lack of opportunities arose for Bernal at Los Rojiblancos as, despite holding a Spanish passport, he fell victim to the law restricting Spanish clubs to just two foreigners in their matchday team, but despite that he still made nearly 100 appearances in Spanish football mainly during loan spells to both Xerez and Albacete during his time in Asturias.

After his time in Spain, Bernal found himself at Nottingham Forest, managed by Brian Clough no less, but after just one season he pitched up at Portman Road. Due to work permit issues Bernal made just nine appearances in his four years at both Forest and Ipswich, and in 1990 he found himself on a plane home to Sydney Olympic and it was here that Mark McGhee agreed a transfer fee of £30k to bring him back to England four years later. 224 appearances, four goals and a club record number of red cards later, Andy Bernal was suitably embedded in the history of Reading FC, a highly respected player whose contract had expired and he was released at perhaps the right time by Alan Pardew in the summer of 2000.

Bernal has since turned his hand to managing sporting personalities with notable success, and he is currently Director of Athlete Representation of Route 1 Management.

Grudge Moment

Ipswich Town always conjures up imagines of some horrific scorelines in the mid 90’s, despite playing reasonably well on occasion. The 4-1 defeat at Elm Park in October 1995 when they ripped us to shreds. Less than a year later, my first visit to Portman Road, and a 5-2 defeat.

And then a year later, just three days after beating a highly regarded Leeds United, Ipswich rock up to Berkshire and stroll away with another 4-0 win. I don’t like being heavily beaten, much less so three matches in relatively quick succession, and those three matches came at a time when the teenage me struggled to cope with losing so every subsequent victory against Ipswich since has been intensely satisfying!

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

The Ipswich Town badge has changed on a variety of occasions over the years, eventually settling on the current unique badge based around a depiction of a Suffolk Punch. The badge was designed by supporter John Gammage who entered it into a competition to replace the old badge, something that perhaps Reading could have looked to do when replacing the distinctive Elm Trees, and latterly the rather plain looking blue, yellow and white striped effort. The current Reading badge, while functional and unique insofar as it features a depiction of the crown and the Maiwand Lion, lacks real ingenuity and exceptionalism in my opinion. It is distinctive enough to be instantly recognisable, but personally I would much prefer a badge that truly represents the town.

Having said that, I’d challenge anyone to incorporate a digestive biscuit, pint of Simonds ale and a flower bulb into a respectable club badge! Anyone fancy giving it ago?!