Report: Ipswich Town 2-1 Bristol City
Posted: Friday, December 30th 2016
Monday, January 2nd 2017
Bristol City’s losing run was extended to six matches in heartbreaking fashion as Reading staged a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down at Ashton Gate.
A disciplined display saw the hosts adopt an uncharacteristically conservative approach to frustrate the Royals, who sat third in the Sky Bet Championship at the start of play.
Tammy Abraham scored twice, the second from the penalty spot, to leave Lee Johnson’s men sitting pretty with only 18 minutes left.
But Liam Kelly pulled one back before Yann Kermogant’s brace – the second in stoppage time – condemned City to an agonising defeat.
Adam Matthews’ return from injury saw him partner Aden Flint at the heart of the defence in the absence of Hordur Magnusson, himself missing with the hamstring problem that forced him off against Ipswich Town on Friday night.
Elsewhere, Korey Smith returned from illness to captain the side, while Joe Bryan and Callum O’Dowda came into a five-man midfield.
Marlon Pack, Lee Tomlin and Aaron Wilbraham were the men sacrificed along with the sidelined Magnusson.
City started brightly enough. Leading scorer Abraham was only denied a clear one-on-one chance by a tight offside call before Bryan galloped into space and thundered a shot into the Atyeo Stand.
But when Scott Golbourne was dispossessed in his own half, Reading broke quickly and Frank Fielding spilled John Swift’s shot to give the visitors some encouragement.
The Royals are a team who like to dominate possession and had their way by the midpoint in the first half.
City, using Smith as a protector between two banks of four, had ten men behind the ball but still carried the obvious threat of Abraham on the counter-attack.
Of all the runners from midfield, Bryan looked the most likely to break forward and make something happen.
When goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi made a hash of his clearance, Paul McShane was unable to control the skimming ball but Bryan did so instantly.
With only Abraham in support, the Bristolian made up his mind to go alone and let fly with a low drive from 25 yards that forced a diving save from Al Habsi, who could only parry it for the onrushing Abraham to slide home the loose ball.
If the game plan was to remain compact and restrict the opposition, it was working.
Bryan headed over from a Josh Brownhill free kick ten minutes before the interval, but chances were few and far between.
From a rare Reading foray, Roy Beerens delivered to the far post but Danny Williams mistimed his volley, which bounced harmlessly wide.
City were carrying the greater threat. When Luke Freeman clipped a cross up to the far post, Brownhill and O’Dowda rose together but only succeeded in getting in each other’s way.
When the ball dropped, Brownhill’s clever backheel acted as a kind lay-off for Abraham, whose first-time shot was well blocked by former City loanee Liam Moore.
Crosses and long shots were the most likely routes to goal at both ends and Johnson’s men survived a scare just as the fourth official raised his board to signal two additional minutes.
Again Beerens worked himself a yard of space to cross from the left, this time picking out the imposing figure of Kermogant eight yards out.
Once the striker connected with a powerful header the net looked destined to ripple, but for once Lady Luck was smiling on City as Kermogant’s effort crashed against the crossbar and back into play.
In hindsight it would prove a big moment. Instead of being on level terms, City had a golden chance to double their lead within a minute of the restart.
Again Bryan was at the heart of it, racing away from Joey Van Den Berg in midfield and surging towards the box.
If anything, O’Dowda was sold short by the forthcoming pass, which tempted Tyler Blackett to try and win it.
When the Irishman got there first, he was clattered by the defender and referee Roger East did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Abraham, who moved on to 17 goals for the season as Al Habsi dived to his left only to see the ball calmly rolled to the other side.
Blackett was soon substituted by unimpressed Reading boss Jaap Stam, but his team did not learn their lesson when Van Den Berg was again caught napping and Brownhill stole in, but his shot that skipped up in front of Al Habsi was well held.
Johnson’s first change saw Bobby Reid introduced for the tiring O’Dowda, making his first home league start for three months, just after the hour.
Having broken away from its earlier pattern, the game reverted to heavy Reading possession with City sitting deep.
But the visitors had not created a notable chance since the break until substitute Kelly fired them back into the contest 18 minutes from time.
Williams’ slide-rule pass down the side of the defence released overlapping right-back Chris Gunter, whose cutback was controlled by Kelly and dispatched with a low angled shot across Fielding from 14 yards.
Suddenly there was tension inside Ashton Gate. Johnson called on the valuable experience of Wilbraham, switching to an orthodox 4-4-2 with Reid and the outstanding Bryan out wide.
But Reading kept coming and were rewarded with four minutes left, as Kelly turned provider with a clever reverse pass to set up Kermogant, who gleefully lashed home the equaliser.
A point at that stage may have felt like a defeat but still would have stopped the rot.
However, the drama still was not over as Kermogant’s speculative low drive from distance ran through a crowded penalty area and nestled just inside the far post in the third of five added minutes.
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