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Reading 2-2 Ipswich Town: Tactical Analysis

Tom examines Reading’s second-round League Cup clash with Ipswich.

Reading v Stevenage - Sky Bet League One - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

A young Reading team exited their first cup competition of the season on Tuesday, falling to a valiant yet heartbreaking defeat on penalties to Ipswich Town after a hard-fought 90 minutes at the SCL.

Reading yet again demonstrated the incredible level they can compete at and had many bright moments despite Ipswich dominating possession and chances, as they should for a visibly superior and more experienced side. Standout performances from players such as Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Michael Craig pushed them to pens, but the Royals crumbled from 12 yards - more in style of the Biscuitmen - putting an end to our League Cup campaign.

Let’s dissect another gutsy but disappointing match.


For an Ipswich team that have averaged under 50% possession so far this season, allowing them to have 65% of the ball on Tuesday was slightly disappointing. That’s not to say Ruben Selles’ pressing wasn’t effective, as is shown in the screenshot below.

In the build-up to the opening goal, short as it was, the ball was initially won back by some fantastic pressing by the attack. Caylan Vickers came over to double up on the Town centre-back, Ben Elliott drifting from the left wing to cover the centre and Jay Senga cutting passing options through the middle. Scrappy but effective at winning the ball back.

One defining characteristic of the opposition manager, Kieran McKenna, is using the goalkeeper as an 11th outfielder when building, as well as George Edmundson, the middle centre-half of their back three, moving over to make a four. However, when Ipswich became more advanced up the field and the ‘keeper could no longer venture as far out, a large gap was left, and Reading now had both Basil Tuma and Vickers to press Edmundson, as seen here.

Sure, it’s great having a free attacker to press, but when the two are so close together and effectively doing the same job, for me it’s not worth leaving the massive gap on the right wing which Ipswich could, and did, exploit next. Luckily for us, Brandon Williams was getting absolutely bullied by Tivonge Rushesha when he did have the ball though, or it could have been much worse for the Royals.


In the first half especially, Ipswich loved a ball down the channel to ex-Reading transfer target Omari Hutchinson, who got in behind more than I’d like to admit, and he had a fantastic cross on him too. Imagine him swinging them in onto Andy Carroll’s head for the Royals... oh wait. Nevermind.

Andy Yiadom for Matty Carson was a smart half-time sub by Selles to give a little more maturity on the left. For me, Carson’s very promising start as a Reading player has been somewhat damaged by his performances in the past two matches, therefore I’d be surprised if he starts against Cambridge United.

Part of the reason why Craig had such a fantastic performance on Tuesday with his tackling statistics is covering for Carson, and many of those tackles were lunging slides, which are effective at winning the ball, but hint at desperation and a last-ditch attempt to gain possession after an exploitation of the defensive position.

Yiadom definitely isn’t the answer in terms of a fullback to start week in week out, but he was good to come on and win the headers, give stability and command the back line after a demoralising injury-time equaliser on the brink of the break.


This was something I was heavy on in my previous match analysis against Stevenage, and sure, in that game the game was all but won by the time subs came on, but they were still largely unremarkable with some good moments from Elliott and Paul Mukairu.

Femi Azeez never came on against Ipswich, which for me shows a slight lack of trust in him - that Selles would rather remain with a less experienced and more fatigued Elliott than him, and that’s totally justified after Azeez’s Exeter City performance. Anyone who read my article on the Stevenage match knows my opinion on him - and this could be a sign he’s falling out of favour after so many failed chances to really break into the first XI.

However, introducing Ehibhatiomhan late on was a brilliant decision. The Ipswich centre-backs had already been harassed by the unrelenting pace of Tuma and Vickers for 75 minutes, then comes in Kelvin to capitalise on a lazy mistake by a tired Edmundson and slot it away with a beautiful finish.

He caught the defence and ‘keeper out of position and scored tidily. Sure, both Reading goals in this game stemmed from sloppy Ipswich mistakes, and we were lucky to be playing an opponent which made those errors, but as the late, great Eamonn Dolan said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” and these boys definitely worked hard on Tuesday.

A promising performance, but lots to be worked on. The thing I’m puzzled about after this match though is how on earth senior pros such as Yiadom and McIntyre can let youngsters like Vickers, Charlie Savage and Elliott step up before them for penalties. I know they’re defenders, and possibly technically worse, but a lot of logic and reasoning goes out the window in a shootout, so for their sake I sure hope it was Selles’ call for who should take spotkicks.

The only way is up for this team, and the future - for once - is looking bright. Cambridge United next Monday should be a good test.

Up the Spanish Royals!