The end of the calendar year provides a natural opportunity for clubs across the country to take stock of the progress, or lack of, that they have made over the past 12 months.
For both Reading and Ipswich, however, consistency rather than improvement has characterised their respective years in the Championship.
Ipswich entered 2011 hovering above the relegation zone on 27 points, just as they are now, and Reading similarly started the year in the sixth place that they currently occupy.
For the latter, though, reaching the play-off final last May represented real improvement and following a fine run of five wins in their last six games, there is a sense at the Madejski Stadium that Reading are once again on the up.
Their odds of 31/50 to win at the weekend against Paul Jewell’s struggling Tractor Boys are cretainly indicative of their current strength.
Reading have the second-worst first-half home record in the Championship, drawing eight of their 12 matches this season at half-time and scoring just three goals in the process.
But while the Royals may have the third-best defensive record in the league, Ipswich are unlikely to regard this match simply as a damage-limitation affair.
They, too, have recently enjoyed a positive run which has seen them remain unbeaten in their last three games, and they will be keen to extend the gap between them and the relegation zone beyond the current six points. As such, their odds of 4/1 to win should be taken seriously.
Indeed, punters should not be too surprised to see Ipswich put up a good fight in the first half in Berkshire. Reading have the second-worst first-half home record in the Championship, drawing eight of their 12 matches this season at half-time and scoring just three goals in the process.
Brian McDermott’s men do, however, tend to improve in the second half at home; they have won five and drawn six of their post-interval periods at the Madejski.
Moreover, an astonishing 50 per cent of their goals have been scored in the final 15 minutes of games, including two injury-time goals in the reverse fixture of this clash last month.
Taking all this into account, punters should look at the half-time/full-time market for an inspired bet, with odds of 18/5 on offer for Reading to win the game following a draw at half-time.
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Plenty of goals should also be expected in this match. Indeed, four or more goals have been scored in 10 of Ipswich’s 22 games this season, including 55% of their away matches – the highest rate in the Championship.
What’s more, the past two meetings between these two teams have seen at least four goals scored in total. Backing over 3.5 goals being registered this weekend at 7/4 therefore seems a sensible bet.
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