QUEENS Park Rangers once again failed to pick up all three points as a disciplined Reading side frustrated the hosts.
Mark Hughes once again rocked up to Loftus Road beleaguered and bereft of any discernible game plan as former Rangers man Kaspars Gorkss handed the visitors a soft advantage.
Rangers struggled to get beyond a workman-like Reading side whose tremendous work ethic served to highlight the inconsistency and lack of general direction from the home side.
QPR put on the majority of pressure in the second half and reaped some reward when Djibril Cissé neat touch and turn yielded a confidence-boosting goal for the Frenchman.
Chances continued to go awry as pressure ebbed and flowed, but despite the words of continued support from Tony Fernandes, Hughes will be under great pressure to get wins quickly.
Mark Hughes made three changes from the team that lost out narrowly to Arsenal. Anton Ferdinand, Jamie Mackie and Djibril Cissé came in for the suspended Stephane M’Bia, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bobby Zamora.
Julio Cesar started behind a back four of Jose Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Ryan Nelsen and Armand Traoré. Junior Hoilett, Samba Diakité, Esteban Granero and Adel Taarabt started across midfield with Mackie playing off Cissé.
Brian McDermott made two changes from the team that dramatically slumped to a 7-5 defeat against Arsenal. Alex McCarthy and Jobi McAnuff recalled to the line-up at the expense of Adam Federici and Hal Robson-Kanu.
Reading started with McCarthy behind a defence of Chris Gunter, Kaspars Gorkss, Sean Morrison and Nicky Shorey. McAnuff, Mikele Leigertwood, Jay Tabb and Garath McLeary started across midfield with Noel Hunt and Jason Roberts the preferred strike force.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v READING
The first relegation six-pointer of the season – that was the media billing ahead of the meeting of the two teams that have failed to pick up a win thus far this season. Reading and QPR have had a well-documented poor start, but this would be the perfect stage to rectify the situation.
Hughes had once again elected to make changes, throwing in Cissé and Mackie on this occasion which surely cannot contribute to the continuity and consistency that chairman Tony Fernandes has championed in recent weeks.
The game started with Reading pressing with their normal vigour, as a team and with organisation at the forefront of their combative style. McDermott’s side had yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign but the hosts were struggled to build a period of concerted pressure.
Indeed the Royals were the stronger of the two sides in the opening exchange with Traoré doing well to keep a Jobi McAnuff effort at bay while Noel Hunt saw an effort deflected wide much to the chagrin of the home support.
Rangers responded with Sean Morrison blocking an Adel Taarabt effort before Junior Hoilett’s attempt flashed wide and Cissé eked out some space and snatched at a shot that flew past the right-hand upright.
It was almost like a dream at times, chances going awry with no real recollection on how the move as a piece came together. A combination of bouncing off backsides and defensive indecision is evidently not something elicited from a textbook game plan.
Indeed the malaise shifted to the other end where Rangers defence slumbered once more to their detriment. Quite how many warnings QPR can have from the same set-pieces without heeding them is open to debate as once more a soft goal had them chasing the game.
McAnuff’s corner found Morrison who dominated Anton Ferdinand to send his eventual header goal-bound. Bizarre indecision from Julio Cesar and Jose Bosingwa saw the ball drift onto the bar and out of the six-yard box.
Crisis averted? – not with a defence of this nature. KASPARS GORKSS was afforded the freedom of Loftus Road to send a soft shot beyond three QPR bodies and hand forlorn Reading the shot in the arm they required and furthermore the lead in W12.
It was almost a replay of any home game you would care to mention – West Ham United and Everton to name but two, as that man on the far post finds himself without the attention of a defender as dispatches with consummate ease.
It almost stands as the blueprint of success at Loftus Road, with little to no success in the attacking third from set-pieces, while bedlam ensues in the heart of the home penalty area at the mere suggestion of a cross.
The referee wasn’t helping matters as far as the hosts concerned when Garath McCleary’s wayward effort somehow constituted a pity corner – as mentioned above, this is something of great magnitude in light of previous evidence.
Cissé once again chanced his arm from distance to little effort, while Mikele Leigertwood returned the favour with a wayward effort from distance. He did however look a more confident player than when he plied his trade at Loftus Road.
He was the source of frustration for QPR fans in the first half when he he touched the ball beyond Granero and Diakité and eased past the pairing like they were non-existent – that lack of steely edge prompted Shaun Derry and Clint Hill to warm themselves up.
One might suggest that an over-reliance on Taarabt is one of Rangers’ primary concerns – but his play – both defensive and attacking – were a joy to behold at times and a rare glimmer of hope on an otherwise gloomy day.
He sent a rasping effort inches over McCarthy’s cross bar, while stinging the palms of the Royals stopper with a low shot moments later. Granero went a step closer from a set-piece, prompting a stunning save from McCarthy, tipping the ball onto the bar.
The inconsistency of officiating is a topic for constant debate one week to the next, but when the same official in Michael Oliver was electing to punish certain offences and not others it gave rise to two very frustrated set of supporters.
Indeed Noel Hunt will consider himself unlucky to have been booked when there were other more meaty challenges going in from both sets of players. It almost seemed that if you could run away quick enough, you wouldn’t be taken to task.
Nevertheless sections of the home support made their feelings known at half time – with Mark Hughes coming in for the bulk of the criticism as he once again failed to get his team performing or defending the most simple of set-pieces.
Once again Hughes’ charges gave themselves a mountain to climb from a first half bereft of ideas and impetus and moreover devoid of any desire to take the game by the scruff of the neck – to a very worrying extent.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-1 READING
One might think that Rangers would come out firing – indeed if Jamie Mackie’s intentions were anything to go by – coming out still caped in mud – then the expectancy would be that the hosts would take the game to the visitors.
If that was your expectancy then you will have been bitterly disappointed – Reading once again starting the brighter and making any tactical plan that Hughes had put together fall by the wayside once more.
Quite what the QPR training sessions entail are open to question as header after header rained in on Julio Cesar with Ferdinand cutting a frankly desperate figure in the heart of defence and Morrison casting a domineering presence – fortunately lacking the killer instinct required.
It was these kind of let offs that Rangers needed to capitalise on, their defensive inferiorities laid bare and Ryan Nelsen having to single-handedly hold together a crumbling rearguard. Bosingwa racing forward to join the attack, but not getting back, Ferdinand a nervous wreck and Traoré playing on one leg – these were desperate times.
Then a lifeline from nowhere – Diakité and Bosingwa linked up on the right flank for the latter to find his man in the area DJIBRIL CISSÉ. While many stood stunned that the former Chelsea full-back picked out a man from his centre – Cissé’s touch was sublime and his finish emphatic – firing beyond McCarthy and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Loftus Road sprung from its slumber and got behind their side – the tide seemed to be turning. The visiting defence was starting to show signs of crumbling – Taarabt afforded space to shoot powerfully – a shot well fielded by McCarthy.
Bobby Zamora was thrown on at the expense of Mackie – harsh on the withdrawn front-man who had worked tirelessly to put pressure on the Royals rearguard. Shortly after Traoré succumbed to his battle with injury to be replaced by Nedum Onuoha.
Rangers continued to press and started to find some consistency – Taarabt at the centre of all Rangers’ attacking endeavour. A neat exchange involving Cissé and the Moroccan saw the latter in on goal, he came inside his marker and elected to strike at the near post – a shot sublimely saved by McCarthy.
Zamora was struggling to adapt to the occasion and contrived to miss a guilt-edge opportunity in the latter stages. Cissé had performed impeccably to beat his man and stand up a fine cross only for Zamora to walk into the ball and guide it back to a grateful McCarthy – pitifully poor.
Many talented individuals each attempting to ply their trade and stamp their authority but really lacking the direction and guidance required to build a cohesive unit. It was not for the want of trying in most quarters, but the parts once again did not fit.
Zamora’s aforementioned effort along with the defensive shortcomings were the epitome of why QPR find themselves struggling thus far. Lacking that ruthless edge in front of goal while allowing the softest of goals at the other end.
Quite where QPR go from here remains to be seen as another golden opportunity to open their account goes awry. The prospect of travelling to Stoke is an ominous one and Southampton at home will surely test Mr Fernandes’ resolve should QPR maintain the status quo.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 READING