A FIRST half goal from Jamie Mackie was enough for Queens Park Rangers to see off a patient, but ultimately ineffectual, Reading side.
The QPR front-man was on hand to place home following an excellent centre from young midfielder Ryan Manning for his first goal of the season.
The visiting side were good value for their victory as well, as despite holding onto the ball for the majority of the fixture, the Royals appeared toothless for the most part as QPR picked them off on the counter-attack.
Three league wins on the spin for Ian Holloway and QPR who have rediscovered some form in dramatic fashion after six successive defeats.
A convincing Thursday night win in front of the Sky cameras at what has become a happy hunting ground for Rangers in recent times; Rangers and Holloway are grinding their way back up the Championship table.
Jaap Stam made two changes from the Reading side crushed by Manchester United in the FA Cup at the weekend – out went Tyler Blackett and George Evans and in came John Swift and Jordan Obita for the Royals.
They lined up with Ali Al-Habsi behind a defence of Chris Gunter – making his 400th career apprearance – Liam Moore, Joey van den Berg and Obita. The midfield trio comprised of Swift, Danny Williams and Liam Kelly with Roy Beerens and top scorer Garath McCleary playing off Yann Kermorgant.
Rangers made four changes from their weekend cup defeat to Blackburn Rovers – out went Matt Ingram, James Perch, Ben Gladwin and Ebere Eze, being replaced by Alex Smithies, Darnell Furlong, Ryan Manning and Idrissa Sylla.
So it was 3-5-2 for QPR – Smithies behind Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Joel Lynch with Furlong and Jake Bidwell in wing-back berths. Massimo Luongo, Manning and Pawel Wszolek were the midfield trio behind Jamie Mackie and the aforementioned Sylla.
GUNTER – VAN DEN BERG – MOORE – OBITA
SWIFT – WILLIAMS – KELLY
McCLEARY – KERMORGANT – BEERENS
FURLONG – ONUOHA – HALL – LYNCH – BIDWELL
WSZOLEK – LUONGO – MANNING
MACKIE – SYLLA
Sky’s morbid obsession with this fixture continues as both sides saw this fixture hauled from its Saturday home to be played out in front of the viewing masses in the name of entertainment. It begs the question as to whether anyone at Sky has actually watched one of these games before.
We digress – the two sides took to the pitch, and relatively speaking for modern day football it was a bit of a mud bath, particularly in light of how Reading elect to play their brand of football.
The Royals fashioned the first half chance of the fixture – Yann Kermorgant’s knock-down to Garath McCleary saw the home side’s top marksman fire over the bar from distance. In truth Smithies appeared to have had things covered on that front.
Rangers started working their way into the game slowly – they created a good opening for Jamie Mackie when neat footwork from Pawel Wszolek set him free down the right. His shot on the spin was wayward however, guiding it over Ali Al-Habsi’s near post. Mackie was receiving the brunt of the grief from the home support which is surprising given his form was a contributing factor to their FA Cup run of 2015.
Rangers should have opened the scoring as they continued to create the lion’s share of openings – Mackie’s centre to Idrissa Sylla should have culminated in the first goal of the evening only for the Guinean to slice wide with his left foot.
The pressure paid dividends shortly before the half hour mark, with QPR taking the lead. Wszolek’s fine work down the right saw Ryan Manning pass the ball across goal with effortless composure and JAMIE MACKIE fired home from close range.
It brought about some noise from the home support for the first time in the evening as they seemed to object the opposition goal-scorer celebrating his first goal since his return from a long-term injury. Nevertheless it was advantage QPR.
Reading could offer little in riposte – John Swift firing wide for their first genuine opportunity of the game. Stam’s side seemed contented to retain possession and hope that something leaving McClearly’s boot would create the opening they needed – it was patient; but it was fruitless.
Mackie should have doubled Rangers lead when more build up play down the right dropped eventually to the Rs front-man, who could only steer his shot wide of the left-hand upright via a deflection. It was increasingly looking like chaos in the Royal’s back-line and Wszolek nearly took further advantage.
He broke away centrally following a fine through pass; he nicked the ball beyond Al-Habsi who made contact with the Polish winger, albeit attempting to pull away. Credit to Wszolek, who remained on his feet, but he couldn’t quite steer the ball back across goal with Joey van den Berg gratefully clearing his effort away.
The first half came to an end with Rangers firmly on top – they had successfully nullified anything that third-placed Reading had thrown at them and looking exceedingly more dangerous at the other end than they had done for many weeks – they were a couple of clinical finishes away from shutting the game down.
The two sides continued to trade blows after the break, but it was the visiting side that seemed to carry the greater attacking endeavour and threat, even without having much of the share of possession.
Sylla came close to latching onto another dangerous Wszolek cross while Kermorgant opted to square to Swift when a shot was on and the former Chelsea man inexplicably held his ground with the goal gaping in front of him.
Wszolek was in the thick of things once again when he set Mackie free down the left with a neat pass, but the front-man could only find a grateful Al-Habsi. By now it was all QPR – Wszolek squaring for Sylla, whose composed effort was hacked away by a combination of Moore and Al-Habsi.
Sylla then latched onto a pull-back from Jake Bidwell only to see a fine effort deflected wide – Rangers were not attacking with any real pace but looked deadly to the point of engineering a shot on goal. The resultant corner saw a shot from Lynch cannon off an unaware Moore and drift inches wide of the upright.
A rare Reading attack nearly yielded what would have been a leveller against the run of play – McCleary’s cross was met by Kermorgant but he saw his header clip the top of the bar and out for a goal kick. The Frenchman missing what was a gilt-edged chance.
Idrissa Sylla looked bemused to be withdrawn with just over 15 minutes left on the clock – his replacement was debutante Kazenga LuaLua; he was made to feel welcome by the visiting 1000 that chanted his name from the outset.
He nearly scored with his first touch – guiding an effort from the edge of the area on target, but ultimately straight at the over-worked Al-Habsi. Reading responded by throwing on Yakou Meite for the ineffectual John Swift.
The home supporters had something to cheer when Mackie cut in from the left and fired the ball into the stands – they seemed to get far more joy getting behind any potential Mackie mistake than their own team’s performance, indeed with good reason.
They did create a chance of note but once again the profligate Kermorgant spurned the opening. A fine, deep cross from Beerens saw the striker get on the end of the effort but loop his header wide of Alex Smithies’s right hand upright.
Holloway had thrown on Michael Doughty for the first game since his return from Swindon Town and he was joined by Brandon Comley moments later following his respective loan spell at Grimsby Town.
It enabled Rangers to see matters out with little trouble as Ian Holloway most certainly had the tactical edge over a manager in Jaap Stam who stuck to the principles that gave Reading their lofty position, but was unwilling to relent on those in a game Reading chased but ultimately failed to trouble Smithies.
A result perhaps not reflective of both side’s performances, with Rangers enjoying far more of the chances and but for a seasoned centre forward the score could have had a deserving gloss on it from the visitors point of view.
Reading: Al-Habsi; Gunter, Moore, van der Berg, Obita; Swift (Meite 73), Williams, Kelly; McCleary, Kermorgant, Beerens.
Subs not used: Cooper, Evans, Samuel, Wieser, Watson, Moore.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies; Onuoha, Hall, Lynch; Furlong, Wszolek, Luongo, Manning (Doughty 86); Mackie (Comley 90+2), Sylla (LuaLua 73).
Subs not used: Ingram, El-Khayati, Ngbakoto, Shodipo.
Referee: Mr O Langford