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18:37 3th April 2010

Ten-man Royals edged out by Ipswich

Ipswich Town 2 (McAuley 41, Walters 44)
Reading 1 (Sigurdsson 90)

Ten-man Reading went down 2-1 away to Ipswich Town this Saturday afternoon; ending our seven-game unbeaten run in the Coca-Cola Championship.

It was a disappointing afternoon in so far as we started and ended the game very much on top of our hosts, only to allow Roy Keane's side a way into the match, aided by a very questionable decision to show Matt Mills a straight red card for what looked to be no more than a 50/50 challenge.

Just after going down to ten men Jobi McAnuff had a very good chance from the angle, but he skewed wide and that was an important miss as we soon found ourselves 2-0 down. We conceded two in quick succession before half time, one from a corner and the other a close-range header, both efforts one would describe as uncharacteristically disappointing from a defensive point of view.

We pushed for a way back into the game in the second half, and if Jimmy Kebe had done better with his angled shot just after the restart it could have given us a real lift at a key time.

After such a fantastic run of results our expectations have been lifted somewhat, and it is impossible to be too harsh on our boys following such a fantastic sequence, and another team performance that showed good spirit.

The red card was highly questionable and undoubtedly had a huge bearing on the game, just one example being that it naturally pushed Gylfi Sigurdsson into a much deeper role and restricted his ability to test the Ipswich backline.

We kept going right until the death, and Sigurdsson got our rewards with a superb late free kick. Sadly it was just a few minutes too late, and we can count ourselves a touch unfortunate not to have taken something from the game. We did not play fantasically well, but at 11 against 11 one would have very much fancied our chances.

Ipswich (4-4-2): B Murphy; Wright, Peters, Delaney, McAuley; Leadbitter, Norris (Martin 87), Walters, Colback; Healy (Wickham HT), D Murphy (Counago 73)
Subs: Lee-Barrett, Rosenior, Smith, Edwards
Booked; Norris (simulation 18), Walters (foul 60), Wright (foul 89)

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Bertrand, Khizanishvili, Mills; Gunnarsson (Pearce 31), Howard; McAnuff (Robson-Kanu 78), Kebe, Sigurdsson; Long (Church 73)
Subs: Hamer, Karacan, Tabb, Rasiak
Booked: Gunnarsson (foul 16), Sigurdsson (foul 45), Bertrand (foul 90)
Sent off: Mills (foul 30)

Attendance: 21,403

Ref: K Stroud

Team news
The Royals named an unchanged starting XI from their previous encounter at home to West Brom. Jay Tabb recovered from an ankle problem to take a place among our subs. Liam Rosenior, on loan at Ipswich from Madejski Stadium, was named on the bench. The hosts made one change, David Healy in for Shane O'Connor.

First half
Reading had the game's first shot on four minutes, and although Brian Howard's effort was probably going just wide, stand-in Town defender Jaime Peters was fortunate not to deflect it in, but instead his loose touch fell right under his own feet and he was able to clear.

We started the game very comfortable in possession, and Jobi McAnuff may have been awarded a penalty for a ninth minute challenge by David Wright - the defender certainly had his arm on our winger's shoulder, and it would have been a foul outside the box but perhaps a soft spot kick.

With 13 on the clock we again fell foul of a decision inside the Town box, Jimmy Kebe very harshly punished for an apparent contact with a defender as he prepared to unleash a shot when clean through. In any event, Brian Murphy stopped the Malian's strike after the whistle blew.

For the first time Town then created a moment's pressure, winning possession inside the area as Reading dawdled in defence momentarily. David Healy tried to shoot from seven yards but he was crowded out.

Roy Keane's side momentarily had their tails up, and there was a heart-stopping moment as David Norris burst into the box and went to ground after a sliding challenge from Zurab Khizanishvili. As the referee blew his whistle the home crowd were expecting a penalty - but referee Keith Stroud instead booked Norris for simulation. Even with the benefit of a replay it was difficult to tell exactly what had transpired, but it's fair to say most observers were expecting a spot kick.

The game had opened up, and both 'keepers had fairly routine saves to make in the space of a minute - Adam Federici palming away Healy's scuffed volley and then Brian Murphy keeping out a low McAnuff drive.

After a slow start Ipswich began to show a few more signs of life, and Healy tested Federici from outside the box but our 'keeper saved well.

On the half hour Reading were reduced to ten men after what looked to be a very harsh red card for Matt Mills. Our defender's touch let him down midway inside his own half, and he slid in for the loose ball with Norris. Mills did not appear to leave the ground in making the challenge, and it also did not appear two-footed, so it was hard to tell exactly why he had been dismissed. Ipswich captain Jon Walters ran some distance to lead the protests and our players were not overly pleased with the official's decision.

Brian McDermott immediately made a change, bringing on Alex Pearce for Brynjar Gunnarsson; the Icelander an unfortunate victim of the referee's decision to send Mills off. David Murphy then shot not too far wide on the angle as Town were given a lift by the prospect of facing ten men.

Six minutes before the interval McAnuff had a good sight of goal inside the area following a neat one-two, but skewed wide of the near post, unable to take advantage of the 'keeper's unorthodox positioning; a good chance not taken.

Then two goals in quick succession put Ipswich in the ascendancy. Grant Leadbitter's long-range drive was tipped wide by Federici, and Leadbitter took the corner himself, finding Gareth McAuley in the middle; the defender powering home a header that was too quick for Federici. Ironically, Nothern Ireland international McAuley would have been Mills' man if our captain had not been dismissed.

Within a couple of minutes it was 2-0, David Wright's cross headed across goal by David Murphy for Walters to nod home from just a couple of yards out - a disappointingly soft goal from a defensive point of view.

As the half time whistle came the Royals had plenty to think about - they had started as by far the better team, but then allowed Ipswich back into it and the red card certainly gave the home side a welcome boost as they capitalised on some uncharacteristic defending to take the lead.

Second half
We came out after the restart in search of a way back into the game - and Kebe really should have done better than to shoot wildly off target on the angle from eight yards out. He made the right decision in going for goal - but the execution was very disappointing from the in-form Malian.

We were doing our utmost, and with 55 minutes gone Gylfi Sigurdsson powered in a drive that was not too far over; the Ipswich 'keeper at full stretch. Then Howard also shot from distance and Town were happy to see it go over.

Against our ten men Town were always liable to find space, and Wright shot straight at Federici after a decent run.

The game was ebbing away from us as the clock ticked onwards, but Kebe went on an excellent run on 70 minutes, only for an Ipswich boot to divert his shot wide for a corner. Roy Keane's side then constructed a nice move to allow Leadbitter a shot from distance, but Federici saved comfortably from the former Sunderland man.

Simon Church came on with a little more than 15 minutes to go as we looked to bolster our attacking threat, and he was nearly involved in a goal for Sigurdsson but he couldn't get a shot off after a neat move on the edge of the box.

Jack Colback then went on a cracking run inside our half, but Federici saved his first attempt and his rebound was miles over - it would have been an excellent goal if the on-loan Sunderland youngster had found a finish.

We kept going, and although we were not truly pummelling the Town goal, Ryan Bertrand, Hal Robson-Kanu and Simon Church all had decent efforts late in the day.

With normal time almost up, Sigurdsson curled home a superb free kick from right on the edge of the box, a brilliant goal from the Championship's player of the month.

Town sub Pablo Counago then tested Federici with a decent volley, and we had one lost chance with a wide free kick, but Howard overhit it and it was game over.

We started and ended the game on top of our hosts, only to allow Roy Keane's side a way into the match, aided by a questionable decision to show Mills a straight red.

We kept going right until the very end - and if it had been 11 against 11 for the full game then surely any betting man would have placed their money on the Royals.

    Data provided by Press Association