A MEMORABLE Wayne Routledge goal capped off a momentous evening at the Madejski Stadium as ten-man QPR went eight points clear at the top of the npower Championship.
The fleet-footed wide-man saw the rampant visitors home with a well-executed break-away goal despite the R’s being a man down for the majority of the game.
In typical fashion against Reading, Rangers were down to ten men in the first period – this time Hogan Ephraim’s challenge was deemed over-zealous by official Mr Booth.
In truth though the numbers did not show as the visitors defended valiantly and broke away for the crucial winner laid on in style by the exemplary Alejandro Faurlín.
For many this is the night that the band-wagon started rolling and with the table-toppers winning in style to secure their advantage belief is now coursing through the vein of every R’s fan.
A memorable evening, a first win at the Madejski and QPR laying down a marker for the chasing pack tomorrow – football has a wonderful way of rewarding the brave.
Neil Warnock opted to make one change from the midweek win over Portsmouth – Ishmael Miller dropping out for Rob Hulse to rejoin the starting eleven.
Paddy Kenny therefore started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill, Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry were once again the men in the middle of the park.
Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim started wide of Wayne Routledge, who enjoyed a free role in behind the aforementioned Hulse.
Reading started with Adam Federici in goal behind a back-line of Andy Griffin, Matthew Mills, Ivar Ingimarsson and former Leeds United veteran Ian Harte.
The midfield quartet consisted of Jimmy Kebe, Jay Tabb, Jem Karacan and Jobi McAnuff with Simon Church supporting returning forward Shane Long.
Kick Off: Reading v Queens Park Rangers
A chilly evening in the Royal county of Berkshire greeted the players as they took to the field at the Madejski Stadium. Previous encounters had not been so kind to QPR but Neil Warnock’s Rangers are a very different animal than the Rangers of past years.
They displayed this from the off, attempting to force an advantage on proceedings with defenders pushing a high line and the likes of Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlín putting Reading under a great deal of pressure in the early offing.
‘The Battle of the Hoops’ as this encounter is often dubbed was certainly living up to its billing, with the challenges coming in thick and fast. Indeed Clint Hill’s fearsome challenge on Jimmy Kebe earned him the first booking of the day.
The away support was certainly creditable for an evening televised game, with approaching 3,000 populating the away end at the Madejski – they were certainly playing their part in getting Rangers firing on the field and a chance was fashioned moments later.
Some neat interplay saw the visitors play the ball wide to Bradley Orr in space, the R’s full-back swung in a testing cross for Rob Hulse but the profligate forward could only glance wide of the left-hand upright. Disappointing considering his excellent positioning and subsequent cross.
Reading were becoming frustrated by the limited amount of opportunities being created. The vast difference in styles of play was also in evidence as long-diagonal passes searched for the runs of Kebe and Jobi McAnuff from the head of Shane Long.
While this has remained the mantra since Steve Coppell’s reign, ignoring Brendan Rodgers ill-fated spell, it was more substance over style. One too many last year sparked a bizarre altercation between Matthew Mills and his own supporters, a similar feeling was in the air today.
Reading continued to seek out their target-men, while QPR were using some intricate distribution to try and carve open what was proving a stubborn rearguard. Routledge was roaming and Taarabt was teasing but they were finding the going tough against the battling back-line.
Despite their useful interplay, Rangers had their best chance to date through a direct pass from Paddy Kenny. His ball was taken down well by Rob Hulse before laying off for Taarabt. The Moroccan rarely needs a second invitation but his effort curled wide of the right hand upright.
The game was tight but the entertainment value was good with both sides threatening to break the deadlock on occasions, lacking that killer instinct to truly punish the other side. Simon Church nearly netted from nothing in a rare home clear-cut opportunity.
Harte’s long ball down the left-flank was delightfully chested down by Long into the path of the Welsh international. His thunderous right-footed strike was palmed away by Kenny to great effort. The R’s stopper once again pulling off an important save.
The Royals had built up a head of steam, but it was Rangers who let their temper boil over as Hogan Ephraim went in for a stern challenge with Kebe. Ephraim was hacked down moments earlier by Mills when attempting to bear down on goal, but this time out he was the one that would receive punishment.
While the challenge was not good by any stretch of the imagination, gamesmanship had a large role to play in the referee’s judgement as Mills then shoved the R’s winger to the floor. Mr Booth wasted little time in flashing a red and reducing Rangers to ten men.
From then on until half time it would prove to be one way traffic. Mills went close with a set piece on the far post before a glaring opportunity for Long went amiss. Kenny spilled a long cross into the path of the Irish international who rounded the ‘keeper before fortunately placing into the side netting.
These were tense moments for the visiting supporters, who watched their side battle bravely against some difficult odds. Thankfully they saw their team through to half time and a chance to re-group for the ten men.
Half Time: Reading 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
As one would expect, both sides remained unchanged going into the second period with Reading looking to press home their numerical advantage while the leaders would hope to re-group and keep matters tight in the early offing.
Battling for every ball the R’s weren’t found wanting as far as grit and determination were concerned. The extra man was not all too evident as Ephraim’s forward play was compensated by the excellent movement of the front three.
Reading had to wait until the hour mark for their first glimpse at goal with Andy Griffin cutting in from the right flank to fire wide of the right-hand post with his left-foot. Far from carving Rangers open the hosts were growing frustrated with their side’s lack of penetration.
At times though Rangers were their own worst enemy with an inability to hold the ball upfront being coupled with some naïve defending at times. A booked Hill was having to be on his best behaviour, while the Gorkss/Connolly partnership continues to fray the nerves.
On 67 minutes a change ensued that would adapt the mentality of Rangers’ game. The ineffectual Hulse was replaced by Ishmael Miller, the live-wire forward looking to make a similar impact as he did on his debut a fortnight or so ago.
He didn’t take long to have an impact on the action, the former Manchester City man showing tremendous strength to hold off his defender before turning and firing a powerful snap-shot over the front-post. A warning shot across the bows for the Royals rearguard.
It was a warning they failed to heed and despite being a man to the good the Royals were a goal down, a goal carved in Argentina and finished with the Premier League precision R’s fans have come to expect from their returning winger.
Faurlín’s excellently executed first time through ball saw Wayne Routledge race clear of the Reading defence. Just Federici to beat, Wayne Wonder fired a right-footed effort that proved too hot to handle for the Australian before nestling into the bottom left-hand corner.
GOAL: Reading 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
The goal sent the visiting supporters into raptures, their belief and support had been rewarded with a goal of genuine quality but also sheer simplicity. By contrast it saw Royals supporters start to lose faith in their 11 men.
Substitute Mattieu Manset was proving the Royals’ solitary saviour and his run and shot flew wide of the right hand post. A player that seems to create a great deal of excitement, the composure eluded the front-man at the crucial time.
This fixture could put pay to the nonsensical one-man team tag that Rangers have been brushed with, Adel Taarabt had played his part despite being relatively quiet by his standards and was replaced by Norwegian international Petter Vaagan Moen.
Vaagan Moen came on in a similar situation against Bristol City but would this time look to make amends and help see Rangers through. It was tense as you would expect as penalty appeals came and went while the pressure on the visiting goal was unrelenting.
The fact that Royals fans will relent would be the lack of composure and killer instinct where it mattered most and Routledge had truly taken the wind from their sales. Fitz Hall’s introduction in the closing stages signalled Rangers’ intentions as Jamie Mackie watched on from the Sky studio.
The final whistle produced carnage in the visiting support as they had done the double over Reading for the fist time since the early 1960s, both victories coming without a full compliment of players – how is that to round off a momentous victory.
Rangers can now watch on and relax as their closest competitors do battle this weekend, while they sit pretty at the top of the Championship following one of the toughest battles they will have all campaign. Could this be QPR’s year?
Final Whistle: Reading 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Adam Federici, Andy Griffin, Matthew Mills, Ivar Ingimarsson, Ian Harte, Jimmy Kebe, Jay Tabb (Hal Robson-Kanu 77), Jem Karacan, Jobi McAnuff, Simon Church (Mattieu Manset 68), Shane Long.
Queens Park Rangers
Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Shaun Derry, Adel Taarabt (Petter Vaagan Moen 86), Wayne Routledge (Fitz Hall 90), Hogan Ephraim (Sent Off 42), Rob Hulse (Ishmael Miller 67)