MYSTIC MICK SEES MACKIE SEAL WINNER
MICK McCarthy was spot on when he predicted pre-match that the race for Premier League promotion would go to the wire.
His Ipswich team were one of four that started yesterday in the top six but who stuttered to a surprise defeat.
Reading were the deserved victors at Portman Road, manager Steve Clarke getting the required response after describing his side’s home midweek defeat against Wigan as ‘rubbish’.
The Royals should now be safe to look ahead to an FA Cup quarter-final before plotting improved league fortunes next season.
But Ipswich remain very much in the here and now, still with real chances of both automatic promotion or slipping out of the top six altogether.
Jamie Mackie’s 14th-minute goal proved the difference, though Town left-back Tyrone Mings and goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski might both look at their own involvement in the game’s crucial moment.
This fact was not lost on McCarthy, who said: “Jamie Mackie is a good striker but I don’t think we should have conceded the goal we did – he shouldn’t have got the shot away and we could have done better to save it.
“It was one of those days. We took the game to them but we were not able to score. They got the goal and then sat back in what was a good away performance.
“We watched Middlesbrough lose to Leeds beforehand and that’s the Championship. When you put that Reading squad of players up, they should be competing for the play-offs - there is nothing between us at all.
“Our points and position might be different, but in terms of quality and strength of squad, there is nothing in it.”
Reading survived an early storm from Ipswich – and Championship top-scorer Daryl Murphy in particular who went close to scoring his best goal yet after taking advantage of a kind rebound to burst past two Reading defenders but not keeper Adam Federici.
But on 14 minutes the visitors gained a surprise lead with a goal out of nothing. Mackie took the ball on down the right wing and surprised both Mings and Bialkowski with a quick-fire shot that rested in the far corner.
Visibly shaken, Ipswich offered little by way of response during a largely flat first-half.
They fared little better for chunks of the second period, though Jay Tabb could have changed all that when his low shot evaded both the far post and the onrushing Murphy on 56 minutes.
Reading always looked a threat on the counter attack, though it was a from a set piece where they went closest, Nathan Chalobah’s 20-yard free-kick producing a fine flying save from Bialkowski. Ipswich finally came to life in injury time when Murphy headed a free-kick just wide and then produced a fierce drive that could only sting the palms of the well-positioned Federici.
Though his side’s home form remains patchy at best, Clarke was delighted with another win on the road, paying particular tribute to returning centre-back Michael Hector who put in a man- of-the match performance to shackle 21-goal Murphy.
Clarke said: “It was a tough game and I can’t imagine it was very pretty to watch.
“But you could see we have quality in the group and good character and resilience. If you don’t show character when you come to places like Ipswich, you won’t win.
“We let ourselves down on Tuesday, but we bounced back well here. I got the response I was expecting.
“We are disappointed we are where we are.We are nine points clear of the bottom three, but it is not enough.
“It is frustrating that we can’t find a level of consistency and the home form is puzzling.”
MASK THE PAIN: Ipswich Town’s Daryl Murphy. Inset: Adam Federici is warned about time wasting