For a long time it looked like the only team likely to come away with the full 3 points would have Ipswich - but some goalkeeping heroics from Steve Mautone and a fantastic late strike from Archie Lovell gave the Royals another important home win.
Reading went into the game suffering with a 'defensive crisis'. You wouldn't have thought so. With Bodin, Wdowczyk, and Hunter all out injured Hopkins and Holsgrove stepped in the centre of defence - and did brilliantly. We constantly looked weak in midfield and up front but at the back things looked very tight. McPherson and Holsgrove took out everything in the air, probably given confidence by the man behind them - the very capable Steve Mautone on loan from West Ham for the rest of the season. For the majority of the first half Ipswich failed to threaten but looked more dangerous than the Royals.
Probably against the run of play it looked like Macca had given the Royals the lead midway through the first half. A corner came in from the right and Macca inside the area on the left connected with a good header that flew against the inside of the right post. With the keeper beaten the ball bounced over the line behind the keeper and into the net. The home fans began to celebrate and then the referee gave a free kick to Ipswich somewhere around where McPherson had made contact with the ball. It couldn't have been offside but there wasn't much of a protest, so it must have been a push or something. Apart from that Bernal tried a weak long shot and the best chance of the half probably fell to Trevor Morley.
Morley found himself with the defence beaten and just the keeper to put it past. In the centre of the Ipswich area you would have put money on Trev putting that one away. Unfortunately his shot wasn't up to much and ran low directly into the keepers arms. At the other end Mautone did well to push a dipping cross over the bar. Moments later Mautone got down well to foil a Town striker. However the ball ran on goalbound for Macca to clear up the danger.
And that was pretty much it for the rest half. Caskey kept getting the ball and hoofing it no where which stopped the move before it had started. It was hard to see where a goal could come from. 0-0 at half time.
The second half saw Ipswich really start to get on top. With twenty minutes of the game remaining it looked like they would at last grab the points. On the right side of the area Ipswich fired a cross towards Gilkes' head. Gilkes' hands went up to prevent his head being removed from his shoulders and the referee gave a penalty for deliberate hand ball. Thankfully there was to be justice. For a moment it looked like Morley was going to take the penalty before he realized it was awared to the away team. The kick was a good one heading to the left side of the net - but at that half way height goalkeepers like. But then Mautone was there to pull off a completely blinding save, launching himself off his line to push the ball away.
Moments later a dipping shot appeared to have Mautone beaten but as he ran backwards it dropped harmlessly onto the roof of the net. Ipswich continued to put the pressure on forcing Mautone to come asnd hold a cross in the area and then to pull off a fantastic reflex save to tip the ball over the crossbar and keep the scores level. With the game coming to a close Ipswich seemed to have settled for a point. Reading looked unlikely to produce anything either. Williams, on for off-form James Lambert, summed up the afternoon with an dreadful pass across the pitch, under no pressure at all, to an Ipswich forward - right out of the Caskey textbook.
With everyone making their way out of the ground and the game deep into injury time Reading found one of very few shooting chances. I think it was Morley who first tried a shot from the edge of the area. With a group of Reading forwards and Ipswich defenders we kept battling at it and Nogan managed to touch the ball forward. Archie was the first to react and took the ball a pace forward inside the box, right of centre, and, with the defence looking on, let loose with a shot soaring into the left side roof of the net to give Reading all the points. Yes! A complete relief and another win to add to our excellent home record.
At half time I'd already settled for a 0-0 draw. The game was all too similar to the Bradford episode of the week before. However at least we battled hard at it for the second half when it looked like we were going to lose it. Mautone was brilliant and deserved the chants of 'give him a contract' - and he loved it - bowing down to the South Bank at the end of the game. The defence was excellent. Bernal and Gooding had good games but Macca, Hopkins and Holsgrove particually stood out for some really solid defending. Lambert was quiet. Caskey was crap. Morley tried too many long range efforts and seemed over confident. Archie was quiet but then got it right just at the right time to fire home a sexy winner to put Reading 14 points away from the relegation positions.
And heres another quick report....
Stuart Lovell grabbed the glory with an injury time winner after Steve Mautone had broken Ipswich hearts with a second-half penalty save. It was Reading's sixth win in nine games but only the second time promotion-chasing Ipswich had lost since the turn of the year. The first-half was a fairly tepid affair with James Lambert missing two chances for the home side and Neil Gregory, a hat-trick hero in midweek, foiled my Mautone after 29 minutes. Icelander Niklas Gudmundsson popped up 13 minutes after the break and his almost casual flick at a cross sent the ball looping onto the roof of the net as Mautone back-peddled desperately. And Ipswich went even closer five minutes later when Gus Uhlenbeek burst 40 yards down the right before hitting a low cross to the near post which Gregory met first time, only to see Mautone make another blinding save.
But it looked as if fortune had finally turned Ipswich's way after 74 minutes when Uhlenbeek tried to hook the ball into the middle and Michael Gilkes was harshly adjudged to have handled deliberately as he blocked. Steve Sedgley, with four successful spot kicks to his credit already this season, hit this one too close to Mautone and the Australian was able to beat the ball aside. And two minutes into injury time, a run across the face of the area by Reading sub Lee Nogan was cut short, but the ball broke kindly for Lovell who struck a rising drive into the roof of the net from 18 yards.