Blues are brushed aside

ON this evidence Ipswich Town have been flattering to deceive. Recent talk of them mounting a promotion challenge looked far off the mark as they were taken to the cleaners by Reading at Portman Road last night.

By Elvin King

ON this evidence Ipswich Town have been flattering to deceive. Recent talk of them mounting a promotion challenge looked far off the mark as they were taken to the cleaners by Reading at Portman Road last night.

Four unbeaten Championship matches had lifted hopes of a march up the table for manager Joe Royle's side.

But they came crashing down to earth in a match that was a test of their credentials to mix it with the best.

And they failed miserably. While Reading look talented enough to hit the big time in 2006/07, Town may have to wait somewhat longer to bring the good times back to Portman Road.

It was men against boys in most departments as Reading stretched their unbeaten run to 22 matches without having to break into a sweat.

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Town may have a surfeit of midfield players right now, but the six who were on show last night failed to achieve collectively what Steve Sidwell, James Harper and company did individually.

Ipswich never got a foothold on the game and managed just one shot on goal - a gentle lob from Gavin Williams that a park keeper would have saved in his stride.

This shot was one better than they achieved against Watford in an equally depressing performance last month.

Since then three away draws and a home win over Plymouth have given cause for some degree of optimism.

At least there was no mini protest after the final whistle - the first time in four home games - but it was a solemn journey back to their loved ones for Blues supporters.

They briefly came to life when Richard Naylor was pushed up front in desperation after 33 minutes, but the game ended in almost total silence with jeers signalling the announcement that the agony would be prolonged into three minutes of stoppage time.

The fact that Naylor - virtually a fringe player when a Royle first arrived - is now recognised as a player who can change a game is a reflection on how the quality has been diluted over the last three years.

This is no reflection on the excellent progress made by Naylor or the efforts of Royle who has had to build three different sides with dwindling financial resources.

After making an initial impact as partner to Nicky Forster, Naylor soon retreated to the same levels as his team mates.

Royle had sprung a surprise with his team selection. He opted to play just one player up front - and selected Sam Parkin ahead of Forster.

Parkin has yet to score a goal at Portman Road, while Forster's former club was in town, which always gives players a little extra edge.

It all changed after 17 minutes when Parkin limped off after turning over his ankle - to be replaced by Forster.

With Dean Bowditch not on the bench, without the versatility of Naylor it would have meant Town playing with just one up front all game - a ploy that was patently obvious from the word go would not work.

Contrived to snuff out the powerful running of the visiting midfield, it did no such thing with Sidwell and company a class above.

And up front Reading had Kevin Doyle signed from Cork City in the summer leading Town's defence a merry dance.

He won the ball off Jay McEveley for the first goal, crossed for Leroy Lita to side foot the second and he then tapped in the third after Town's defence was carved apart yet again.

More goals could have been added, and it was only a matter of time before the first goal arrived with Ipswich all at sea from the first whistle.

They had no shape to their play - even after reverting to 4-4-2 - and no one able to put his foot on the ball and make things happen.

Lewis Price celebrated signing a new contract with a capable display, and skipper Jason De Vos rolled his sleeves up at the heart of the defence.

But otherwise if was pretty pitiful to be honest even taking into account the pedigree of a Reading side surely heading for the Premiership.

McEveley made some crucial blocks in his own penalty area, but made errors going forward, while the midfield was much of a much ness.

Williams had his moments, but for Jimmy Juan and Matt Richards it was a disappointing evening.

Both had done well to improve their standing in the last few matches, but they were shown up by the talents of those opposing them last night.

And the enigma that is Darren Currie had one of those matches that tell the story of why he spent so long in the lower reaches of the Football League.

A match winner on his day, Currie was able to do little to upset Reading - and he joined his team mates in giving the ball away far too easily.

The pitch was not covered from the recent frosts and was a tad slippery at times.

But this did not interfere with Reading who comfortably collected a double having won at the Madejski Stadium last month.

They have conceded just 11 league goals and never looked like adding to that tally as they went to the top of the table with Sheffield United drawing.

Town fans in the North Stand decided to take it out on the band that piped up rather embarrassingly a few times during one of the most one sided games.

If we want music at Portman Road then the likes of Neil Diamond and REM can supply it. Get rid of them, while Ipswich Town may have to face the music with many more displays like this.

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