Ipswich Town were made to pay for slack defending on a number of occasions as Orlando Sa's hat-trick helped Reading to a thumping 5-1 home victory at the Madejski Stadium on Friday night.
Sa scored twice in the first 15 minutes either side of Freddie Sears' consolatory tap-in, with a deserved goal from the superb Nick Blackman and a late Goal of the Season contender from Oliver Norwood seeing Reading romp up the table and temporarily into the top six.
Three goals in under 15 minutes
The match roared into life in the opening quarter of an hour, with Reading making the most of a lively start to the game as they took the lead with just eight minutes on the clock.
The Royals hadn't scored at home since April, but the home fans were rewarded for their persistence with a great header from Sa. New signing Matej Vydra made an instant impact by winning the ball following a poor clearance, and finding Blackman on the right wing. Blackman wasn't closed down and his delivery was met by the Portuguese forward, who thudded a powerful header into the bottom corner.
However, the lead turned out to be short-lived as the visitors hit back just three minutes later. Ryan Fraser was unfortunate to see his effort saved after deftly forging a shooting effort despite the attentions of two defenders, but Jonathan Bond could only parry his shot to the feet of the in-form Sears, who bundled the loose ball into the empty net.
It seemed a matter of 'anything you can do' in a blistering start to the match at the Madejski, though, with Sa giving the hosts the lead for the second time with only a further three minutes played.
This time, he arrowed in an incisive finish from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner, his shot bending across and away from the keeper and nestling inside the post.
Reading looked dangerous every time they moved the ball forwards with new man Vydra showing no signs of needing time to adapt to his new surroundings.
As a result of the Royals' swashbuckling attacking play, Ipswich saw three men go into the book in the remainder of the first half as the hosts looked to press home their advantage, though David McGoldrick nodded wide at the other end just before the interval.
Reading add gloss to the scoreline with a polished performance
Given the breathless beginning to the game in the first half, it came as no surprise that the second period took little more than a quarter of an hour to yield another goal. Sa should have had his and Reading's third as he looked to capitalise on uncertain defending but while his shot was blocked, it was only half cleared and fell to Blackman, who slammed into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Ipswich's best chances seemed to be coming through Sears, though Mick McCarthy's men never truly looked like reducing the deficit until Brett Pitman headed against the crossbar. With the home support jubilant and the momentum behind Reading, Sa eventually completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark.
It was the Portuguese player who took the plaudits and the match ball, but Reading's fourth was created by the hard work and trickery of the electric Blackman. He led the charge on the counter and carried the ball to the byline before cutting back for Sa to stab in from close range.
A pair of new faces were introduced in the second half, with Lucas Piazon and Ola John brought on alongside Hal Robson-Kanu as Reading's superb front three of Sa, Blackman and Vydra were withdrawn to much applause from the home fans.
However, Ipswich's substitute duo of Daryl Murphy, last season's top scorer, and Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles, were unable to turn the tide of the game as the Royals maintained their control over proceedings.
And, with the match coming to a close, Norwood took some of the headlines from the departed Sa with a stunning late goal to claim the best strike of the night. Receiving the ball in space towards the right of the pitch some 30 yards from goal, he unleashed a fearsome, swerving right-footed effort which seared into the top-left corner with goalkeeper Dean Gerken's role reduced to that of spectator.
Contrasting emotions after a Royal beating
The result left Reading just inside the play-off places temporarily with the rest of the league still to play their games of the weekend, though the dominant nature of their victory will be cause for optimism as recent signings begin to gel with their new teammates.
For Ipswich, however, it will be a damaging result after a fortnight off, and it may even leave some fans questioning their ability to target the play-off positions for a second year in a row. Despite this, however, they remain ahead of Steve Clarke's side on a more than respectable 10 points from their opening six league fixtures.