Insult erased in injury time

Reading 1 - Ipswich Town 1
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The Independent Football

For 90 minutes at the Madejski Stadium yesterday neither hard-working but wasteful Reading nor chance-spurning Ipswich could turn this into the top-of-the-table match as advertised. Then came all of the relevant action. Two goals in the last minute.

For 90 minutes at the Madejski Stadium yesterday neither hard-working but wasteful Reading nor chance-spurning Ipswich could turn this into the top-of-the-table match as advertised. Then came all of the relevant action. Two goals in the last minute.

In the worryingly important climb to reach the profitable heights of the Premiership, these are the occasions when one slip can prove costly. Steve Coppell, Reading's manager, thought that had occurred when Darren Bent struck a goal as the referee prepared to close the game, but even he admitted that a moment later he had not noticed his own Ivar Ingimarsson storm straight up the field to equalise. Ipswich's Joe Royle said: "I was devastated. It was quite a blow.''

The underlying theme of yesterday's game was the match between the wisdom and motivating powers of these two widely experienced managers. But there are many things for which a manager, however well journeyed, cannot account. Late goals, for one, but also outrageously impudent attempts on his goal. Coppell's side almost fell for that after only two minutes when Shefki Kuqi tried a dipping shot from 30 yards that dropped on to the crossbar.

Reading took 15 minutes to recover from the shock. At that point Nicky Forster and Lloyd Owusu led them on several hopeful attacks, but the player always most likely to take advantage was Glen Little, who at one point made a mockery of Ipswich's marking only to drive his shot into the hands of Kelvin Davis.

Little's frustration continued. His rasping cross-shot was deflected away by Davis as Reading piled on a series of unfulfilled attacks, including one in which Andy Hughes struck a shot against Davis and the ball was somehow scrambled away. At least Reading held possession moderately well, but the finishing from both sides was far below the standard you would expect of promotion prospects.

Owusu was particularly negligent and was replaced on the hour by Dean Morgan who joined Forster up front. It was around that time that the game swung to the other end where, at last, there was a shot of real power and accuracy. Bent made ground through midfield and fired a low drive that Marcus Hahnemann was relieved to feel bounce off his outstretched arm. Ipswich kept pressing: Ian Westlake clouted a shot into a clutch of defenders; Hahnemann pounced superbly to save Kuqi's header and Darren Currie chipped a speculative shot against the post.

The effort that Ipswich put in to all of this took its toll when Reading counter-attacked quickly. Little remained their most productive player and was fully involved in this surge. It resulted in Nicky Shorey heading powerfully but disappointingly close enough to Davis, who pushed it away.

But there was plenty left in this game. The 90th minute had come when Currie centred. The ball deflected to Bent, who cracked in what seemed like the winner. Not so. Reading tore up field. Appropriately it was Little who crossed and Reading's central defender Ingimarsson was there at the far post to whack in an equaliser that even took his manager by surprise.

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