Home comforts, Huws blow, Royals on rise – key talking points ahead of Ipswich Town v Reading
PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 December 2017
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town host Jaap Stam’s Reading in a Championship match at Portman Road tomorrow (3pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
Five of the next seven games are at Portman Road.
It’s nice that rivals are making the long trip to Suffolk over the festive period given six of Town’s last nine games have been away. In total, 2,323 miles were travelled during that gruelling 43-day period.
There’s been a familiar feel about some of the away defeats. Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough followed the same narrative as the defeats at Aston Villa (2-0) and Cardiff (3-1) – not outplayed, but conceding soft goals and then rarely looking like getting back into the game.
Those sort of tough trips must always be viewed as bonus situations though – as the gritty 1-0 win at Derby was. It’s generally on home soil where promotion pushes are made or lost.
Town proved that in 2014/15, winning 15 times at Portman Road (a record bettered by no-one in the division) to finish sixth. And they’ll need a similar record this time around if another play-off place is to be secured against the odds.
Already, the Blues have six home wins from 10 under their belts, scoring 20 goals in the process. It should really be seven victories on Suffolk soil given the performance in the 2-2 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
Fulham (0-2), Bristol City (1-3) and, most gallingly, Norwich (0-1) are the only blots on the copybook.
The front foot, fluid, entertaining footballing fare is so much better than the dull as ditchwater product previously served up and has some of the fans who gave up their season tickets returning.
Replicate the performance levels seen in the recent home games against Preston (3-0), Sheffield Wednesday (2-2) and Nottingham Forest (4-2) and some feelgood factor could really build.
After Reading tomorrow, Town head to table-topping Wolves, then it’s home games against QPR and Derby, a trip to Fulham, followed by the visits of Sheffield United (FA Cup) and Leeds.
Such was his impact on loan from Cardiff last season, Town made Emyr Huws their first £1m signing in five years.
The Welsh international, 24, missed the first four months of the campaign with an Achilles injury though and, having looked good in three recent return starts, has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season following surgery on a knee surgery he sustained at Middlesbrough last weekend.
“Emyr has a complex tear of his lateral meniscus,” Town physio Matt Byard told the club website.
“It has been repaired and the average recovery period is around six months which means he will obviously miss the rest of the season.”
Town do have Joe Garner and, hopefully, David McGoldrick fit again though. Garner was on the bench last weekend, having missed two games with a foot injury, while McGoldrick has missed four matches after suffering a horror injury to his groin against Sheffield Wednesday.
Royals on the rise
Reading finished third last season, beat hotly-tipped Fulham in the play-off semi-finals, then lost to Huddersfield at Wembley.
The Berkshire side endured a hangover and haven’t been out of the bottom half for months, but summer signings are beginning to gel and execute Jaap Stam’s non-negotiable possession philosophy and an unbeaten five-game run has elevated them to 14th in the table.
The return to fitness of veteran striker Yann Kermorgant has also provided a much-need focal point to the attack.
They did let a two-goal lead slip in the final seven minutes to draw with Cardiff at the Madejski Stadium on Monday night though – a game Blues boss Mick McCarthy watched in person.
Tribute to Parker
The death of much-loved club stalwart Dick Parker at the age of 67 has prompted a huge outpouring of heartfelt messages from Town players and staff, both past and present, since the weekend.
He worked for the club for 20 years, most recently as academy kitman and caretaker at Playford Road, and kitman James Pullen has called upon Town fans to pay tribute with a minute’s applause in the 67th minute tomorrow.
“So there should be – that’s the least that he deserves,” said midfielder Cole Skuse. “You can’t replace a person like Dick. He was the nicest, softest guy you could ever meet. He was always the first in and the last out and would look after the pros exactly the same as he would look after an Under-8 or Under-9. He was a real gentleman.
“We could sit and talk all day about Dick Parker and you would never run out of compliments.”