QUEENS Park Rangers were held by Reading in the SkyBet Championship early kick off.
The game – albeit frenetic – was bereft of quality in the final third until Garath McCleary shattered the monotony with a fine effort off the post from distance.
The two relegated sides displayed plenty of endeavour and the capacity away crowd erupted when Joey Barton levelled matters with a venomous free-kick.
The midfield talisman then ran to the touch line and held up Ale Faurlin’s shirt in tribute to the injured Argentinean central midfielder.
Both sides pressed for the late winner with Junior Hoilett having to play on for purely nuisance value following an injury. Both sides came short to earn a share of the spoils.
Harry Redknapp made one enforced change from the side that defeated Derby County last time out. The injured Ale Faurlin was replaced by Gary O’Neil in midfield while Nedum Onuoha and Niko Kranjcar returned from injury on the bench.
Rob Green started behind an unchanged defence of Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Clint Hill and Benoit Assou Ekotto. Joey Barton and Jermaine Jenas started through the middle while O’Neil, Matt Phillips and Junior Hoilett featured behind Charlie Austin.
Reading started with Alex McCarthy started behind a back four of Chris Gunter, Sean Morrison, Kaspars Gorkss and Stephen Kelly. The midfield quartet consisted of Garath McCleary, Chris Baird, Danny Guthrie and Jordan Obita with Hal Robson Kanu playing of Pavel Pogrebnyak.
KICK OFF: READING v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Memories still fresh of the dour, lifeless display last season that ultimately saw both sides relegated, the two sides took to the field with their freshened line-ups, albeit the visitors faring the far better of the sides in the first portion of the campaign.
Reading have shown glimpses of capability but the thrashing at the hands of perennial relegation strugglers Sheffield Wednesday will have been fresh in the memory as QPR carved out the majority of early opportunity.
Two minutes into the fixture and Junior Hoilett’s enterprising run nearly yielded some end product of note, when the right-footed rasping drive clattered back off the cross bar with Alex McCarthy well beaten between the posts.
Charlie Austin spurned two glorious chances to have the Rs in front when Matt Phillips’ scything and incisive run saw a cross deflect into his path, he could only find McCarthy with his effort, before having another shot moments later ably fielded by the Reading stopper.
Jordan Obita had rather made a rod for his own back in not earning a penalty for his side on the 20-minute mark. His Ashley Young impression moments earlier must have cast a shadow of doubt with Mr Taylor when the wide-man again tumbled easily under a challenge from Danny Simpson.
A marginal call found in favour of the visiting side with Obita paying the price for his failed attempt to convince the official just minutes earlier.
The two sides traded blows with Matt Phillips beating Kelly all ends up down the right flank before driving an effort into the near post – rippling the side netting. O’Neil couldn’t get his shot away when well fed by the industrious Hoilett down the left.
Reading carved out their first chance of note when McCleary’s speculative drive flew into the grateful away travelling contingent – albeit a chance gifted to the former Nottingham Forest wide-man by some tentative defending.
Man mountain Pavel Pogrebnyak was by and large ineffective. He did find some space midway through the first half to skew a shot wide before looping a mistimed header over the bar from a Chris Gunter cross.
The Royals continued to press with Chris Baird – man who QPR would not be held to ransom by – sent a header straight at Rob Green in the Rangers goal. Jermaine Jenas was forced to withdraw with Niko Kranjcar coming on in his stead.
Benoit Assou Ekotto was booked for his tackle in the game when Obita’s Swan Lake audition had its encore, while a deep free kick from Barton once again found McCarthy in good form, claiming the ball ably.
HALF TIME: READING 0-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers made a change the break with Richard Dunne withdrawn with an injury and Nedum Onuoha made his return to the first team set-up. Assou Ekotto saw a shot blocked before Barton fired wide from distance.
The game experienced a lull whereby the two teams could engineer opportunity. This was shattered by a thunderbolt from GARATH MCCLEARY. He received the ball from Baird on the left before coming inside and unleashing a powerful right-footed drive.
The ball flew two inches from the floor before creeping beyond Green and rippling the netting in off the upright. The home supporters were now clearly audible after a relatively tepid atmosphere in an uninspired Madejski Stadium.
Reading pressed home their advantage with Pogrebnyak and Guthrie going close and Redknapp responded by throwing on Andy Johnson at the expense of Gary O’Neil – the midfielder once again failing to complete 90 minutes.
His impact was nearly immediate. Johnson’s knock down for Austin saw the starved front-man send his low drive straight down the throat of McCarthy. It was a well-timed effort if a tad misdirected from the Rs striker.
Obita fired straight at Green from distance before Sean Morrison inexplicably placed his shot wide in the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy. That was the let-off the away side needed as they carved out a swift counter-attack.
Austin found himself on the edge of the area before feeding Phillips. A poor challenge upended the forward before Phillips’ shot deflected wide – referee Taylor crucially called the play back for the set-piece.
Kranjcar was sent away from the free kick by JOEY BARTON and after the referee walked out a bizarrely counted eight yards, the midfielder rifled a powerful right footed shot back across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner.
An intelligent free-kick from the midfield talisman who sprinted over to the touch line to hold up a shirt to the QPR fans – it was Ale Faurlin’s shirt – a midfielder that will now once more be missing long-term due to injury.
While this was happening Hoilett was visibly hurt on the floor – a hamstring complaint that had seen him move inside more for nuisance value than anything else. Rangers were now peppering the hosts’ target.
Assou Ekotto put his shot wide before Andy Johnson cut inside from the left before curling an effort close to McCarthy’s left-hand upright. Phillips was then played through by Johnson before the wide-man cut inside, then out, and rifled a shot into the stands.
Nigel Adkins played his hand very late indeed. With five minutes added up time on the clock, Reading threw on Billy Sharp, Hope Akpan and Jobi McAnuff in a bid to nick the late win, but with Rangers doing the lion’s share of attacking the hosts were being pinned back.
The game came to its conclusion with both sides relatively pleased with a point, but with Rangers first half dominance in terms of chances, it could have been a very different story at the Madejski Stadium.
FULL TIME: READING 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS