Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Ipswich: M Waghorn (71), J Spence (79), F Sears (90), C Connolly (90).

If Reading manage to hang on to their Championship status next week they can count themselves very lucky indeed after today’s inept performance. All the shortcomings of the current Reading squad surfaced in the final twenty minutes of the most important game of an extremely poor season. Individual errors and a lack of character contributed to an unbelievable capitulation to a fairly average Ipswich side. The lack of application and commitment was inexcusable from a group of professional footballers. The result puts Reading at greater risk of taking a drop in to League One and yet remarkably they still may survive even if they get thrashed away to a Cardiff City side playing for an automatic promotion spot next week.

Alarm bells should have been ringing as early as the second minute as Caroyal waded through Reading’s fragile defence in the second minute and unleashed a shot which Mannone had to be alert to keep out. Caroyal threatened to open the scoring again after twenty-four minutes but was denied by Mannone at full stretch in keeping out his long range effort. Barrow as always looked to be the Reading’s most likely player to unlock the opposing defence. Having got past his marker early in the game his wayward cross was disappointing. Not so with his next incisive break. Kermorgant slid a perfect ball to him and his cross presented Bodvarsson with a golden chance to put Reading ahead but he failed to make any significant contact with the ball. Both sides might have made more of good situations but it was a fairly uneventful half.

Reading started the second half with a spring in their step and put Ipswich under pressure. Richards had looked uncomfortable and lasted a mere four minutes of the second half before being forced off with an injury. Elphick came on at centre back in a reshuffle which saw Gunter switch to left back and Ilori move out to left back. For short period it appeared to work as Elphick began to organise and communicate with the authority of an experienced defender. Swift went on a run into the heart of the Town defence but his shot was deflected or a corner. Aluko missed a good chance when Barrow’s deep cross found him unmarked at the back post. His attempt was disappointing to say the least for such an expensive signing, as sadly, has been his contribution overall this season. Swift’s lack of pace prevented him from pulling his weight defensively but his passing deteriorated to an alarmingly poor standard as the half progressed. Elphick was clearly concerned about the lack of cover from midfield as Ipswich began to probe. The turning point came with a little under twenty minutes left to play. A sweeping Reading break ended with a great ball from Bodvarsson to Swift in the box. All Swift needed to do was keep the ball down and finish but he lashed high and straight at Bailkowski who palmed it over the bar for a corner. On the break Ipswich worked the ball out wide. Swift unaccountably backed away from Spence allowing him to play a ball into Waghorn standing in an offside position on the edge of the six yard box. With Reading justifiably appealing for offside Waghorn slammed the ball past an unprotected Mannone from close range to give the visitors the lead. From there things went from bad to appalling.

Barrow switched off allowing Spence to run off him to race away unchallenged to drill the ball through Mannone’s legs from a tight angle. Reading heads had dropped after the first goal but after the second they threw the towel in. The third goal in stoppage time was another shocker. As Reading pushed up they set about inflicting damage to their goal difference. A clearance to the half way line was headed weakly back towards his own goal by Gunter. Although Mannone did his best to compensate by coming to meet the ball he had been sold short by his left back and his clearance was charged down by Sears who ran on to nod the ball into an empty net. Elphick’s heavy touch in the final minute of stoppage time presented Waghorn with possession who gratefully slipped the ball to Connolly racing through a static Reading defence to add a fourth nail to Reading’s coffin.

There were few fans interested in staying for the delayed and innappropriatley named ‘lap of appreciation’. Bemused home fans dispersed into the chaos of the car park shaking their heads in disbelief at what they had just witnessed. It was a shocking result – and yet I somehow not entirely surprising. There are many things to unpick in terms of where things have gone wrong this season but we have run out of excuses. The bottom line is that this Reading squad are just not good enough.

The final day of the season could well see Reading survive, mainly because the three teams which could overhaul them next Saturday are all playing against teams with a realistic shot at either automatic promotion or a place in the play-offs. I find it hard to believe Reading can avoid defeat at Cardiff but neither can I see Burton, Birmingham and Barnsley all winning either. Paul Clement sounded shell shocked in his post-match interview. His only consolation might be that he surely now has licence to dismantle this squad and start again. It should not be too hard to identify who he wants to keep and who he wants to release. Where the replacements are to found as people are shipped out might present more of a challenge.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 444 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.