Reading spoil Joe's party

Ipswich 1 Reading 1THIS Royle occasion ended with the Royals from Reading still reigning over the rest in the Coca-Cola Championship.The match did not live up to its top-of-the-table billing on a night when Joe Royle celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager.

Ipswich 1 Reading 1

THIS Royle occasion ended with the Royals from Reading still reigning over the rest in the Coca-Cola Championship.

The match did not live up to its top-of-the-table billing on a night when Joe Royle celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager.

Ipswich Town lost their 100 per cent home record when the Berkshire side took advantage of Jason de Vos leaving the field for attention to a head wound.

Ten-man Town failed to cope as effectively with reduced numbers as they did in their 3-2 home win over Plymouth on Saturday.

There was a big hole in their defence when Dave Kitson ran through to equalise a fine opening effort from Shefki Kuqi.

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But what will haunt Town fans for some while, and what spoiled the party for Royle, was a blatant mistake by an assistant referee.

Although right in line, Mr Cann failed to spot that Kitson had begun his run a shade too early and was around two yards offside when the pass was made.

With referee Michael Jones being well out of his depth, particularly in the first period, it was a shame that the Football League could not appoint more suitable officials for such an occasion.

But at least the Tractor Boys did enough to maintain their third place position, and only a super optimist was predicting that the winning home run would continue for much longer.

What Ipswich can take from the game is that they are made of the right stuff to mix it with the best in this not particularly strong division.

Reading appeared to settle for a point, but showed enough to confirm why they are currently top of the tree and likely to stay the course.

Town had a shaky spell between their goal and the interval, and they needed the half-time break to re-group just as much last night at Portman Road as they did with ten men and trailing 2-1 to Plymouth.

Ipswich dominated the second period and with a bit of luck could have found a winning goal.

But with Teddy Sheringham's penalty flop in the draw at West Ham and David Friio's dreadful headed miss at the weekend for Plymouth, perhaps they have used up their good fortune for a while.

A succession of wayward passes and little in the way of considered forward play by Ipswich led to Reading taking the honours in the first 45 minutes.

With Fabian Wilnis sidelined for the first game of a three-match suspension, Ipswich's lack of strength in their squad became apparent.

And it is re-assuring news that chairman David Sheepshanks is talking positively about a fresh signing coming in before the home game with Burnley on October 16.

Matt Richards and Ian Westlake have shown enough to confirm that they have good futures in the game, but right now they are not at their best.

With larger numbers to choose from - Royle only has 15 players seriously in contention for ten outfield places - there is reason to believe that both Richards and Westlake would have benefited from rests.

Andy Hughes had bags of freedom down the right side in which to get at the Town rearguard, and it was just as well that Richard Naylor, in particular, and De Vos were two of the better Town performers.

Keeper Kelvin Davis suffered a recurrence of the back trouble that affects him from time to time, and he was able to take part for 45 minutes thanks to an injection.

But Davis was unable to carry on after the break and Lewis Price came in for his second league game having played for 90 minutes in the win at Gillingham last season.

Price did nothing wrong, which is just as well with Davis' condition likely to flair up at any time.

The fact that Royle did not utilise any of his other players on the bench speaks volumes. Tony Dinning looks likely to return to Wigan when his two-month loan period is up early next month, while Dean Bowditch was far from his best against Doncaster last Tuesday.

The manager appears to be running out of patience with Pablo Counago and it was no surprise when he did not come off the bench.

That leaves rookie Jerrome Sobers, with the young defender called up for use in an emergency.

Reading are now the only team in the division with a 100 per cent home league record, with Ipswich looking to gain victory at Coventry on Sunday to make up for their slight lapse last night.

There was a lot of kicking into touch by both sides, with the loss of De Vos for seven minutes for attention to his head wound a telling factor in the outcome.

He was missing after taking a knock when Stoke scored their winning goal through the heart of the Town defence a fortnight ago.

Royle made three changes with Richards, Westlake and Kuqi replacing Wilnis, Dinning and Counago.

It was Kuqi who caught the eye and the Finland striker converted a smart tenth minute opportunity.

Kuqi impressed in other parts of his game, but he volleyed over in the first period and his control let him down after the interval when Drissa Diallo put him through.

Ipswich would have gone top with three points and that would have been a fitting tribute to mark Royle's landmark.

But their midweek hoodoo continued. A victory over Wolves on Bank Holiday Monday remains Town's only win outside a weekend in the league this term.

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