CARETAKER boss Gareth Ainsworth can take pride in his sides performance as QPR ended Reading`s 100% record at the Madejski Stadium.
Ainsworth`s men played with real drive and passion throughout the encounter, which is a hallmark of the winger`s personal game.
Nevertheless they were made to work hard for the point with the central defensive partnership of Fitz Hall and Damion Stewart an integral cog in the Rangers machine, while Radek Cerny continues to flourish between the sticks with a string of impressive saves.
Both sides had chances to win it, but in the end a point was possibly the fair result as the battle of the R`s yielded excitement but no goals.
Gareth Ainsworth, or if you will whomever you think picked the side, made three changes from the side who could only muster one shot on goal against Swansea City on Tuesday night.
Damien Delaney dropped to the bench in view of his suspension on Tuesday night, the alternative option at left back was Matthew Connolly. With no place in the 16 for Peter Ramage, Mikele Leigertwood filled the void at right back, with Daniel Parejo slotting into the centre of midfield.
Dexter Blackstock dropped to the bench to give Fiorentina loanee Samuel Di Carmine an opportunity to display his skills in his Rangers bow. 4-5-1, 4-4-1-1, call it what you will, but the line-up had been notably tinkered with to fit the system.
Reading lined-up with brothers Hunt, Noel and Stephen and the side, with the former forging a good partnership with strike partner Kevin Doyle.
Outlined by a Reading fan as a player to keep an eye on, Jimmy Kebe started on the right flank, with the colossal André Bikey marshalling the Reading rearguard.
Kick Off: Reading v Queens Park Rangers
Rangers started the game in a positive fashion, with a relatively attacking line-up they looked to get the ball down and play, much to the adulation of the excellent travelling support. Chants of “YOU RRR`S” could be heard around the ground making for an amusing atmosphere at times.
The possession football played by the R`s incorporated the attacking intent of full-back Mikele Leigertwood, something that has been lacking from that area in recent times. Daniel Parejo was industrious in his lone role behind the striker, and the combative Martin Rowlands was scuppering fledgling attacks from the home side.
Radek Cerny, beginning to grow into his role since the departure of Lee Camp, had a slight worry in the early stages. Stephen Hunt was continuing to fire flighted crosses from the left, and he was on hand to narrow the angle for Jimmy Kebe, who fired dismally wide from young Jem Karacan`s flick on.
Samuel Di Carmine was growing frustrated in his lone strikers role, and didn`t get much opportunity to get hold of the ball. In a flash he managed to break free of colossal defender André Bikey to fire a left footed drive which was well saved by Marcus Hahnemann at his near post. A rare warning for the Royals as Rangers proved potent on the counter-attack.
Stalwart defender Damion Stewart was proving a tough opponent for the Royals strike-force as he thwarted Jimmy Kebe once more from point blank range. The big Jamaican really is growing in confidence as himself and Hall continue to forge one of the best partnerships in the Championship at present.
Cerny then had a customary wobbly moment as Reading started to pepper the R`s box with crosses. The ball came across for a relatively easy claim, and the ball slipped from his grasp, with Stewart and Connolly grappling with Kebe for the loose ball, but the Czech dived onto the ball gratefully at the second attempt. There were fleeting appeals for a penalty from the home crowd, which were denied by referee Mr Foy.
Moments later Cerny reminded supporters why he is in the side, pulling off a string of excellent stops in his six yard box, thwarting summer signing Noel Hunt from close range, while Stephen Hunt`s free kick was held low by the R`s custodian. Cerny was worked to an extent, but nothing clear cut came his way.
Rangers started to assert their newly found confidence late on in the first period as Lee Cook was seeing a lot more of the ball, with Akos Buzsaky making several key passes and enterprising runs with a view to unlocking a stubborn defence. Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands were the engine room of the R`s side as they won the ball back on numerous occasions before giving it on to Rangers creative talent.
With that the half had drawn to a close, a cauldron of atmosphere emanating from the away end, while all but a section of the home crowd could barely muster a whimper for their side throughout the first period.
Half Time: Reading 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Both sides came out for the second half visibly motivated as the battle for possession became fierce, but it was Reading who looked the more likely to threaten in the early stages.
The Royals penned Rangers back in their own half with a succession of corners that Damion Stewart and company did well to deal with, sometimes more by luck than judgement. Stephen Hunt who had been floating in some hanging corner kicks with relatively little pace, drove a fierce corner in culminating in a scramble in the box. Jem Karacan was almost the beneficiary, but the Royals youth product could only blast wide from a good position.
Rangers were battling their way back into the game after a period on the back foot and Real Madrid loanee Daniel Parejo was the first to produce a save from American Marcus Hahnemann. His vicious dipping free-kick stung the palms of the Reading keeper, that wasn`t the last time he`d be called into action however.
Damion Stewart was working hard to bolt the door that Reading threatened to break, his vital block foiled Noel Hunt who was inches to getting in behind the big Jamaican. It was Stewart who epitomised the newly found confidence in the Rangers side as they continued to flourished being buoyed on by a noisy away following.
Another catalyst was the introduction of Dexter Blackstock for Samuel Di Carmine, the Italian forward had found the going touch, and the rested Blackstock had a chance to have at some weary defensive legs. A dipping volley from Akos Buzsaky forced Hahnemann to parry the ball in front of Blackstock who threw himself whole-heartedly into a challenge with the American stopper, conceding a free kick.
A cracking through ball found Blackstock in behind the defenders, he pulled wide of the target before digging out a well-placed cross to Parejo, whose technique in turn was incredible but the power was lacking as he fired his shot straight at a grateful goalkeeper.
Lee Cook was next to sting the palms of the American keeper as his powerful left-footed drive from distance was parried once more. Rangers were looking red-hot, making the keeper work at every opportunity, one can only wonder if Iain Dowie`s side had done the same Tuesday night, if he would still have had a job.
Dexter Blackstock was up next as the home crowd grew nervous, the ones that hadn`t already left. An excellent cross from Mikele Leigertwood from the right saw the confident Blackstock glance his header beautifully across goal, only for Hahnemann to gratefully claim.
The Royals were reduced to shooting from distance as Stephen Hunt`s free kick drifted wide of Radek Cerny`s despairing dive. In truth the Irishman`s effort started wide of the post and kept going wider as Rangers fans had an excellent view of the effort.
It was clear however that Rangers were happy with a point as the half wore on into the latter stages as Reading began to take proceedings into their own hands. A similar disposition has won them several games, most notably against Doncaster Rovers last time out.
Stephen Hunt`s set-pieces were becoming all the more frequent as a succession of corners were keeping Rangers penned into their six yard box. This culminated in a decent header by Andre Bikey which flew narrowly wide of the right hand post. Bikey who had not been at his best throughout was being charged down for some wayward touches at the back which put his side under constant pressure.
Rangers had a decent penalty appeal when Daniel Parejo was brought down by Bikey. The tricky Spaniard worked his way round the Cameroon defender with some silky skill, before being brought down. Chris Foy gave himself some thinking time before probably coming to the right conclusion of a goal tick – take note Mr Styles.
Record signing Kalifa Cisse forced Radek Cerny into an incredible save as he threw his arms out to thwart the late substitute. The incident drew the plaudits of the travelling supporters, every one of them remaining in their seat to cheer on the players who had played their hearts out.
A dogged defensive display with brief forays into counter attacking football led Rangers to a valuable point at the Madejski Stadium. What Rangers fans will undoubtedly have been impressed with was the amount of the ball that the R`s saw, and some neat passing football showing that you don`t have to go into any game with a negative attitude.
In an exciting, pulsating affair at the Madejski it ended in stalemate between two sides, one playing good attacking football, the other playing effective organised football. It remains to be seen however as to whether this is a short-term motivation or whether Ainsworth is the man with the plan.
Final Whistle: Reading 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Reading: Hahnemann, Armstrong, Gunnarsson (Harper 73), Doyle, S.Hunt, N.Hunt, Kebe (Long 80), Ingimarsson, Karacan (Cisse 73), Rosenior, Bikey.
QPR: Radek Cerny, Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon, Fitz Hall, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo (Angelo Balanta 86), Akos Buzsaky, Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook, Samuel Di Carmine (Dexter Blackstock 60).
Radek Cerny – 8/10
Best performance yet from the Czech, a couple of quality saves more than made up for a poor error in the first half. He kept Rangers in the game for vast periods and deserved great praise for his performance. Well done Radek.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
Mikele may have found himself a useful role in a right back berth as he moved forward comfortably in possession while snuffing out a lot of attacks posed by tricky winger Stephen Hunt. Leigertwood seemed happy on the ball and there was some good interplay with the backline and midfield.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
Performed very admirably in an unfamiliar role, and deserved to start ahead of Delaney on this display. He was able to use his left foot quite effectively and didn`t look out of place at any stage during a tough encounter. Marshalled a tough customer in Jimmy Kebe very well.
Damion Stewart – 9/10
Absolutely immense once again, Damion is proving himself to be not only the best in the Rangers side, but one of the foremost defenders in the Championship. His aerial prowess in both boxes proved potent, not to mention his tackling in front of goal as he saved Rangers on numerous occasions.
Fitz Hall – 8/10
Looked good alongside Stewart and was capable of brining the ball out of defence without hesitation. Once again he was useful in the air in both boxes, and was a rock at time as Rangers managed a second clean sheet in succession.
Akos Buzsaky – 7/10
Looked useful throughout down the right flank, but there was a tendency to drift inside showing little support for Leigertwood down the right flank. There was an air of predictability about his movement but nevertheless he worked for position well and found a lot space at times to engineer a chance.
Lee Cook – 7/10
Cook looked good again today, but was crowded out by four of five players on occasions as Reading saw him as an evident threat. His trickery won him a couple of free-kicks while bamboozling Liam Roseinor in an effort to carve out crosses.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
Certainly very combative, and looked to get stuck in on his opponents. Some might say he was the Gareth Ainsworth of the side as he put his all into every pass and every tackle. He signed around a similar period to Ainsworth in 2003 and he epitomised the man standing on the touchline. A solid display.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
Yet more unsung work from Mahon in the middle, no real fan fare about his role, he won a lot of key balls in the middle before moving the ball wide, his job being simple by highly effective. In a tough battle with several tough players, Mahon proved a worthy opponent, and was more than a match for his Reading counterparts.
Daniel Parejo – 6/10
He really played well in spells, and looked as if he could be that missing link between the midfield and forward line as he managed to find enough time to pick out some telling passes. The unfortunate thing being that he didn`t do it consistently enough, shirking out of many headers late on that saw him taken off.
Samuel Di Carmine – 6/10
Samuel really did not get enough of chance up front and was isolated for vast periods. Blackstock`s introduction showed him how to play a lone role effectively. He should be given a chance in a two, rather than be forced to ply his trade alone.
SUB: Dexter Blackstock – 7/10
Replaced Samuel Di Carmine
Blackstock actually changed the face of the game with his introduction as the R`s produced wave after wave of chances. Dexter was a fantastic link between midfield and attack and produced many chances for the R`s.
SUB: Angelo Balanta
Replaced Daniel Parejo
Barely got a touch of the ball, but was the right man at the right time to replace Parejo. The young Colombian still lies on the periphery of the squad and Ainsworth showed faith in the young forward towards the end of a crucial game.
Gareth Ainsworth: 8/10 – He came into the game labelling it “A baptism of fire” but he has certainly come out with flying colours, as Rangers looked transformed from the de-motivated Iain Dowie outfit that drew a blank against keeperless Swansea. A fantastic start from Gareth who will be looking to build on that performance on Tuesday night.
Steve Coppell: 6/10 – Coppell`s side looked effective in their style of football but like Rangers couldn`t produce the cutting edge to finish their opponents off. Coppell`s brand of nippy wingers and long ball football hasn`t changed since he joined the management scene, and on this display will win him games through gritted teeth.
Chris Foy: 7/10 – A very good display from Foy who performed admirably over the course of the 90 minutes. The referee gave himself time to make decisions and appeared to explain himself fully to the players, and communicate well throughout. His linesmen by contrast were poor and didn`t give the man in the middle enough support.
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