It’s a sign of how far this Reading team have fallen, how poor it’s been over the last few months and years, that salvaging a draw with the bottom-of-the-Championship side can see a smattering of applause at full-time. Make no mistake, this is a team that needs a serious shake-up if it’s to avoid relegation with room to spare.
Ipswich Town are still in the honeymoon phase under Paul Lambert, that new manager bounce clearly in effect. Reading, meanwhile, turned up as if they were going to turn over the Tractorboys without breaking sweat. Tyler Blackett and Leandro Bacuna had already had lackadaisical moments before the away side opened the scoring - Gwion Edwards firing from 20 yards through a crowd and into Anssi Jaakkola’s net after the Royals failed to deal with a long throw.
The away side had barely had time to settle on their lead before Reading fashioned an equalizer out of nowhere. Sam Baldock chasing a lost cause, delivering a hopeful cross into the box, which Yakou Meite connected with brilliantly, hooking the ball over his head and beating Bartosz Bialkowski at his near post. Time to reset, time to re-assess and realise we were in for a battle?
Not a chance. Just three minutes later, the very epitome of ‘route one’ football gave Ipswich the lead in shambolic fashion. John O’Shea was outmuscled on the first occasion, Andy Yiadom and Liam Moore left the ball to each other in the second phase, leaving Freddie Sears one-on-one. From a goal kick. He scored.
I’d like to tell you that was the moment that Reading realised they were in for a battle. It wasn’t. Instead, Ipswich looked more likely to extend their lead in the first half, completely outplaying the Royals and creating numerous chances - Luke Chambers nodding wide from a corner, Jonas Knudsen delivering a low cross which just eluded three players, Jordan Roberts curling an effort towards Jaakkola’s goal which the ‘keeper palmed away.
Meanwhile, no more chances to speak of for the Royals in the first 45.
Garath McCleary was introduced at the break for Andy Rinomhota, and finally the siege began. A goalmouth scramble eventually led to Mo Barrow firing straight at Bialkowski from barely six yards. Then a good counter-attack saw Barrow find Meite on the penalty spot - the Ivorian not shooting, but not passing either - a potentially costly hesitation.
Especially when at the other end, Reading seemed to want to shoot themselves in the foot yet again. O’Shea’s header back to Jaakkola didn’t quite have enough power, allowing Roberts a sniff at nicking the ball in the box. Fortunately, the Finn recovered just in time to pounce on the loose ball.
By now though, battle lines were drawn, and it would take one ball over the top to finally make the breakthrough with five minutes to go. Bacuna fizzed a delightful diagonal into the box, where Meite leapt to head past Bialkowski to restore parity. Baldock twice had chances to secure all three points late in the day, but twice blazed over. A match lacking in quality (Meite aside) summed up in the final few seconds.
It’s always tough to look back at a match like today and argue that we didn’t deserve a point. After all, it was pretty much just Reading pressure for the last half hour. But Ipswich were happy to defend their box, sitting pretty on a 2-1 lead until they finally caved in with five minutes to go. All because of complacency, errors, and downright ineptitude.
A draw against the bottom-of-the-table side, losing for the vast majority of the match - this is a team which seems to have little fight and no tactical or situational nous. There might be three teams worse than us, but if we make the worst team in the division look competent - classy, even - then that ain’t a good sign.
This is who we are now. We aren’t too good for this division. We’re in a battle against relegation, but from top to bottom, it seems like we’re sleepwalking towards the trapdoor.
Reading: Jaakkola; Yiadom, O’Shea (Swift 77), Moore, Blackett; Rinomhota (McCleary 45), Kelly (McNulty 83), Bacuna; Barrow, Meite, Baldock