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Five Things: Reading v QPR

When QPR last visited the Mad Stad seven months ago, both sides were relegated after a laborious funeral parade display. Thankfully the full time whistle wasn’t so disheartening this time around. Now billed as a potential Championship prize fight, here are the five talking points following Saturday’s Blue Hooped derby.

Ben Hoskins

1. Responding to the howler at Hillsborough.

Before kick-off on Saturday, atoning for last week’s 5-2 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday was probably the foremost thought within Nigel Adkins’ side. The score line, defensive performances, topped with giving The Owls their first win undoubtedly added to the agony. With apologies offered, The Royals knew responding with a solid performance that garnered points would likely be seen as crucial towards directing this season. Putting a 1-1 draw against QPR, who’ll likely make the top six come May, against our last outing at Hillsborough, can we really complain? I think there’d be greater cause for concern had the sequence of results reversed with QPR inflicting the 5-2 defeat.

2. Results against the “Big Boys.”

Based against expectations put-upon our rivals and hype surrounding games like Saturday’s, it seems poignant to consider our standing against the Championship’s current top brass. Season after season, the teams that often get promoted reach the Championship’s summit early on. If Reading’s rise to the 2011-12 title seemed meteoric, results against the six teams that finished below them said otherwise, taking 20 from a possible 36 points. Although we’re someway off the halfway juncture and yet to play either Leicester or Forest, from the current top seven, we’ve taken just two out of a possible twelve points! Is it a case that perhaps we’re yet to find our top gear? Or more, we haven’t the gear to compete?

3. Impact of Injuries: How much is how much?

Leading on from the previous point, it’s therefore perhaps comforting (in some way) when you realise the RFC injury list would make a great subs-bench for any Championship team! Players like Bridge, Drenthe, Karacan, Roberts, Williams etc. were tipped by many as potential key figures in the battle to get back to the Premier League. With nearly half a team missing its incredible the Royals have climbed into the Play-off positions so early. But how long can we fend off the effects of the holes left in the side? Having mentioned substitutions, let’s assess Saturday’s 88th minute triple change. So late into the game, was it for tactical or fatigue purposes? My suspicions would say the latter.

4. The return of Kaspars Gorkss.

Following last season’s horror show in the Premier League, it was hard to imagine Gorkss wearing a Reading shirt again. Especially when shipped out on loan to Wolves, although his surprise inclusion in the final starting XI at West Ham did offer some hope. With the Royals having not kept a clean sheet since September, it seemed inevitable that Alex Pearce would likely get dropped over Season Morrison, who has put in the better shifts. At Hillsborough, Adkins’ defence looked pedestrian, lacked urgency and conceded five goals. Seven days on with Gorkss back in and against better opposition, they concede one from a well-placed set piece. I think the Latvian’s love affair with the Championship may be back on?

5. Who should play with the Pog?

With six goals to his name Adam Le Fondre is currently RFC’s top scorer. But takeaway goals from set pieces and that record doesn’t look so great. Pavel Pogrebnyak on the other hand has not only started scoring regularly but more importantly caused many to label him our best asset upfront. His performances matched by the frquency fans chant for him from the terraces. Against QPR Pog was played as the lone man with varying midfield-attack/wing options of McCleary, Obita and Robson-Kanu to play off. A kind of makeshift strike trio. Although this tactic served fairly well in a difficult game, it does beg the question as to how much was lost in Pog not being directly partnered with Le Fondre? I’d argue not much and therefore hope that with Billy Sharp finally fit; maybe we can convert Pog’s performances into goals.