MATCH REPORT: 2008/2009 Season

Reading: -
Ipswich: Stead (47 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 20,592

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 Wolves 39 74 +23
2 Birmingham 39 71 +14
3 READING 37 64 +29
4 Sheff Utd 38 63 +18
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior (Matejovsky 74), Pearce, Duberry, Armstrong, Little, Gunnarsson, Harper, Stephen Hunt (Kebe 64), Kitson, Long (Doyle 68). Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.
Ipswich: Richard Wright, David Wright, McAuley, Balkestein, Thatcher, Miller, Norris, Quinn (Garvan 80), Civelli, Lisbie (Counago 90), Stead (Giovani 71). Subs Not Used: Supple, Campo.
Reading: -
Ipswich: Thatcher, Garvan.
Ref: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
Things went from bad to worse for Reading this afternoon as their appalling run of form at home continued. It was a worrying sign that so many puzzling changes were made for this game, and although Steve Coppell is not prone to panicking, he does now appear to be clutching at straws. The introduction of Kitson and Little this week should have given the squad lift but by the end of today's game morale looked to have plummeted to a new low. We now seem to have a squad of players low on confidence from being dropped and reshuffled. Nobody, including Steve Coppell seems to know what is the strongest starting line up or even who should be on the bench. Ipswich looked very ordinary but at least they were organised, and having weathered the initial surge of Reading attacks, won comfortably.

In the early stages of the game Glen Little was causing Town real problems with his direct play and tight control and it was his free kick that was headed onto the bar by Kitson after four minutes. Harper managed to get a shot on target after some neat passing and Long also forced a save when he turned and ran across the edge of the box. The visitors defence had to resort to some hefty challenges from behind to discourage both Long and KItson. For twenty minutes it looked as if Reading had rediscovered their form. It was a false impression. As the half time approached Ipswich gradually established a foothold in the game and by half time the home fans had gone very quiet indeed. There was nothing for them to cheer about.

The gloom descended immediately after half time when once again Duberry failed to deal with a ball to the far post. Stead, who he should of been marking was able to score with a spectacular overhead kick which gave Hahnemann, who had no right to be on the field, no chance. Coppell claimed the change of 'keeper was to enable the team to benefit from his experience at a tense time of the season. I think with hindsight it might have been better to keep someone who can catch crosses. The big American did pull of one outstanding save from Lisbie's header but he looked shaky on crosses and his distribution is nowhere near as good as Federici's. Ipswich should have made it two immediately after their goal when they wasted a three on one advantage as Reading's defence degenerated into a complete shambles.

Little continued to show an appetite for the game but ended up coming inside to compensate for a lack of authority in the centre of midfield which meant the attack was lacking in width. Stephen Hunt and Rosenior were replaced by Matejovsky and Kebe. Even a tired Gunnarsson at right back looked better than Rosenior who concedes possession far too often and far too easily. (He sliced the ball into touch at least twice when under no pressure at all.) Hunt has always had a tendency to give the ball away but has now even lost the spark that used to unsettle defences. Reading might have equalised with a header from Duberry which was hooked off the line with the 'keeper beaten but apart from that Wright didn't have a save to make in the second half.

Long was replaced by Doyle after he too had begun to look very poor as his touch deserted him and confidence ebbed away. Kitson was far from impressive. He hardly won a ball in the air and spent a lot time complaining about the treatment he was receiving from the Ipswich back four who contained him with ease. Kebe came on and was asked to play on the left where he looked out of place. By the end even Matejovsky had begun to misplace simple passes. In his post match interview Steve Coppell admitted he 'didn't have a clue' what his next team will be. I think that has been the problem since Christmas because nobody has shown any consistency over that period. When he does decide I hope he sticks with it for the next ten games because the constant chopping and changing is not working either. The team is crying out for Bikey's return to give the team some authority at the back. Cisse's strength will be needed in midfield and Doyle and Noel Hunt are the liveliest pairing up front. Tabb and Little out wide would ensure more possession and a few decent crosses. Armstrong and Pearce are solid enough, but I would certainly hope to see Federici return. Stephen Hunt and Long can make a real difference when they come on for last fifteen or twenty minutes but are not worth a place in the starting eleven. As for motivation, a glance at the league table should be enough. A few wins and we could be in the Premiership.
John Wells

The day the dream died. Even if we win our games in hand and that's a big if, it's no longer in our hands - sound familiar? Yes I too remember thinking Pompey beating Fulham was unlikely with a Cup Final to prepare for. This is about lack of investment, millions from sold players but little inward investment and diminishing returns as a result. This is football, sadly it doesn't comply to normal business rules, in essence what you spend to put on the pitch brings you results and that means deep pockets with little personal return. I go back to January 2008 when the rot set in and nothing was done to arrest it. What we have as a result is what we saw today. Inept. The season will end, we won't go up, the team will break up, the manager move on and a big re-build begin. This isn't what Sir JM had in mind, it won't make this club an asset that will sell in the short term and that's because the strategy has been flawed. We had a chance this January to do something about it, but once again failed. Steve Coppell said after the Charlton game that we lack a noisy midfield leader - durr - nothing new there but we've done what exactly to put that right? Nothing. The pity is that this group of players and coaches will not have fulfilled their potential. As for today, where do you start? Well talking of starting, Bikey must. the defence has been poor but little change other than the keeper. Some details - I don't particularly rate Kebe as a footballer but if you're going to bring him on when defenders legs are tiring then at least give him the ball. Pearce will be more effective when he learns to pass with his head rather than aimless clearances up in the air. Revert to 5 across midfield - we need to tighten up and at least be difficult to beat. But overall, today was an embarrassment and I'm left feeling like the players i.e. they don't seem to be bothered either. Final joke is next year's season ticket prices. We're close to deflation in this country i.e. prices are dropping and if we stay down, that's what should happen to the prices, they too should go down. And finally, Mr Coppell, don't come on the radio sounding clueless about what to do next, that's your job.
Nick Tilehurst

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Reading manager Steve Coppell: "It's painful. I feel for the fans and I feel for the players because they are trying. From February onwards we have been less than average at home. We have nine games to go, six are away and at this stage of the season it is harder for home teams. But that is no excuse. We know we are not performing to our potential at the moment. We are not playing well enough to win games."
BBC Sport