QUEENS Park Rangers and Reading played out a 1-1 draw in another end of season damp squib at Loftus Road.
While it was fairly even as a contest, Reading`s profligacy in front of goal preserved parity for the most part with Rangers struggling to test Ali Al-Habsi.
They did take the lead when a deep corner found Grant Hall – the defender nodded back across goal before the Royals rearguard could only bury the ball into the roof of the net.
The visitors were level when Dennis Rakels made space to fire beyond home debutante Matt Ingram – the culmination of a sweeping move after Rangers failed to clear their lines.
The two sides couldn’t maintain the same level of changes in a lifeless second period, in which Rangers lacked quality and Reading lacked ambition.
A share of the spoils in a game that will not live long in the memory – the two sides will do battle next season in what will hopefully be a livelier clash.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink predictably made a glut of changes – five in total. Alex Smithies, Clint Hill, Karl Henry, Junior Hoilett and Conor Washington all dropped out with Matt Ingram, Cole Kpekawa, Ben Gladwin, Tjaronn Chery and Seb Polter coming in.
Ingram therefore started behind a defence of James Perch, Grant Hall, Nedum Onuoha and Kpekawa. Ale Faurlin partnered Massimo Luongo in the middle with Matt Phillips, Chery and Gladwin playing in behind Polter.
Reading made two changes from the side defeated at home by Hull City – George Evans and Yann Kermorgant coming in for Michael Hector and Matej Vydra. Ali Al-Habsi started behind an unchanged defence of Garath McCleary, Anton Ferdinand, Liam Cooper and Andrew Taylor.
Oliver Norwood played through the middle with the aforementioned Evans and Stephen Quinn, with Simon Cox playing off strike duo Kermorgant and Deniss Rakels.
PERCH – ONUOHA – HALL – KPEKAWA
PHILLIPS – LUONGO – FAURLIN – GLADWIN
McCLEARY – FERDINAND – COOPER – TAYLOR
EVANS – QUINN
KERMORGANT – RAKELS
Two sides that have dabbled in the Premier League in recent times, now entering a more conservative era and a rebuilding their jobs after their respective falls from grace. Reading had hit a poor run of form in the build up to the game, losing four on the bounce ahead of their trip to W12.
It was the hosts that created the first chance in a scrappy opening – first Cole Kpekawa, making his first home start for Rangers, surprised many with his long throw and Ben Gladwin could only engineer a weak header at Ali Al-Habsi. An early eye opener for the ‘keeper that handed Rangers the reverse fixture.
Reading came back and should have had the lead – Deniss Rakels found Stephen Quinn down the left and his deep centre saw Yan Kermorgant fend off his marker and slam an effort into the side netting. Rakels then chanced his arm from distance himself, the ball flying past the upright.
The Royals now had the bit between their teeth – only a manful block denied Simon Cox when Rakels once again carved out some space in the channel. Perch and Phillips struggling to cope with the Latvian`s movement in behind. Cox then tried from distance himself only for his effort to whistle wide.
Both teams then had good chances to open the scoring in close succession. First Seb Polter raised more than a few eyebrows when he got in behind down the left before firing a rasping effort that was well-fielded by Al-Habsi. Up the other end it was Rakels that set Kermorgant free only for the Frenchman to chip Ingram but clear the bar comfortably.
Norwood was cautioned for bringing down Chery on the edge of the area, and the Dutchman elected not to lift over a towering wall from the set-piece, instead striking back across the goal for Al-Habsi to claw away to his left. George Evans then fired a drive wide of the right-hand upright at the other end as the Royal threatened to counter.
Rangers did take the lead despite a relatively tepid showing early on. Ale Faurlin`s deep corner found GRANT HALL and the young central defender looped a header back across the target and into the back of the net despite the best intentions of Quinn. The defender`s first goal for QPR in a breakthrough season.
Cooper should have levelled for Reading when Quinn`s corner found the man-mountain defender – only for his header to clear the bar by some distance from inside the six-yard area. It was a warning that wasn’t heeded as the Royals levelled shortly before the break.
Kermorgant swept out to the left to full-back Taylor – his centre was well cushioned by the Frenchman to DENISS RAKELS who fired past Ingram instinctively from just inside the area. A blow for Rangers, but probably deserved on the balance of play.
It was all Reading as the half came to a close, firstly Rakels bamboozled Onuoha but fired high, wide and handsome when well-placed before Ingram saved from makeshift full-back McCleary on the stroke of half time.
Both sides had their moments but in truth the home side will have been happier to return to the dressing room level – Reading profligate with their ample opportunities, Rangers struggling to maintain any semblance of sustained pressure in a disjointed first half.
The second half started in much the same way the first ended, with the visitors having the better of the play. Norwood could have handed the Royals a lead when his fine set-piece forced Ingram into a fine save high to his left – the Rangers second choice keeper showcasing his skills in the absence of Alex Smithies.
Cooper could also have handed the Royals the advantage when he planed another header – his second chance of the game, straight at Ingram. Polter at the other end came in from the left before striking right-footed straight into Al-Habsi at his near post.
Al-Habsi had to deny the German again moments later when he carved out a far post header from a Luongo cross – both keepers doing their best to preserve parity. Chances came thick and fast with Cox firing over via a deflection before Kpekawa spurned a great opportunity to nod over from close range.
Perch also looped a harmless volley over Al-Habsi`s bar as both side started to ring the changes and continue to experiment in this end of season dead rubber. Chris Gunter, Michael Hector and latterly Matej Vydra were all thrown on for the Royals.
Rangers hauled off Matt Phillips and Ben Gladwin who did not have the best of games on their respective flanks. For some reason both were deployed on their weaker flanks and asked to cut in – something that failed to come to fruition throughout. Michael Petrasso and Nasser El-Khayati coming on in their stead.
Petrasso in particular was a vast improvement on Phillips, beating his man and putting a cross in within the first few moments of his introduction. Conor Washington was brought on but sadly once again played out of position on the left-flank with El-Khayati moving through the middle.
Washington purchased with a good goal-scoring record is without a goal after being played either in a isolated role away from home or played wide and given a few moments at the end of a fixture. Polter could and should have won it via another Al-Habsi howler in the latter stages.
Petrasso`s cross looped high into the air for Polter and Al-Habsi to stand face to face – inexplicably the Oman keeper left the German to it in the six-yard box only to head bizarrely wide from close-range.
Both sides settled for a share of the spoils in a game that had many opportunities but proved less than exciting for both sets of supporters.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Ingram, Perch, Onuoha, Hall, Kpekawa, Phillips (Petrasso 77), Faurlin, Luongo, Gladwin (El-Khayati 70), Chery (Washington 87).
Subs not used: Lumley, Hill, Hoilett, Diakite
READING: Al-Habsi, McCleary, Ferdinand, Cooper, Taylor (Gunter 77), Norwood, Evans, Quinn (Hector 71), Cox, Rakels, Kermorgant (Vydra 81)
Subs not used: Bond, Piazon, John, Barrett.
Referee: Mr S Atwell