After being lucky to go in at the break level, the Royals were then unlucky to leave Loftus Road with nothing in this Friday night encounter. QPR were arguably the better team overall on the night, but Reading stood firm defensively in the first half, and were then more than a match for a tiring QPR side in the second half.
Despite QPR’s first-half dominance, Reading had the best of a slow start from both sides when they had three chances to shoot from a corner. Unfortunately though, Andy Yiadom and then Tom McIntyre couldn’t place the ball through the crowd of legs in the six-yard box.
QPR then had two good chances before the 15 minute mark, drawing frantic defending and calm goalkeeping from Joe Lumley. Dykes put the first chance just wide, before a great save from Lumley prevented Roberts from converting minutes later.
The match then settled into a rhythm with QPR dominating possession in much of the early stages: a pattern Reading seem to fall into often this season. As the half reached the midway point, Joao signalled his intent to have increased involvement tonight, clearing the ball away from a dangerous free kick.
QPR looked dangerous throughout the first half and their wide players often found space and time to find crosses into the box. Laird and Pall were both able to catch Yiadom and Nesta Guiness-Walker out with smart running in the first half hour.
Hutchinson then put Reading hearts in mouths as he “assisted” a ball in finding its way out with what could be argued was his shoulder… possibly. Luckily (this time) Reading play in the Championship with Championship referees.
After their opening scramble from a corner, it was becoming hard to remember a chance Reading had had in the first half, until Joao began doing “Joao things” for the first time in a few appearances.
Twisting and turning, Joao found himself caught as he entered the box and had his toe dragged away at the last moment. QPR’s players and fans protested vociferously, but on replay Joao’s quick feet had clearly finally won him something this season.
Carroll slotted the ball away with ease despite Dieng getting involved in the arm-waving antics of the entire stand behind. Carroll hardly looked at anything other than the spot on the goal he’d picked out and yet two goalkeepers couldn’t have kept out his powerful penalty.
30 minutes in, Reading had been dominated up and down the pitch, but now were on top in the game, and on top of the league!
The dizzying heights proved too much though and the lead would last all of four minutes.
Stretched wide again, QPR produced a wicked early cross into the box. Holmes was caught flat footed by the lung-busting run of Lyndon Dykes behind who threw himself to waist height to connect with the cross and produce a slicing header that beat Lumley. A great goal featuring two lovely pieces of skill. Preventable from a Reading standpoint but an example of QPR’s energetic and intelligent attacking performance in the first half.
35 minutes in, Hutchinson was down and couldn’t continue. Reading will hope his withdrawal was only precautionary as the situation with CBs is getting a little dire as exampled by Yiadom slotting into defence when Hoilett replaced Hutchinson.
After the half, Reading came out of the tunnel brightly, potentially recent recipients of a tongue lashing from Paul Ince. Guinness-Walker and Hoilett both got down the wings early and found themselves in QPR’s penalty box with chances to cross. Guinness-Walker in particular caused Rangers all kinds of issues in the opening minutes of the second half, drawing a yellow card from a slick move to beat two defenders.
The Royals earned set pieces, from which Joao header over and Carroll came close to connecting but QPR would eventually calm things down. Clearly though, Reading had come to play in the second half.
Just after the hour though, Lumley would be required twice to keep Reading in the game and proved equal to the task. First, as Reading’s defence was picked apart with a searching cross, Lumley made a fantastic save low to his left from Roberts who found himself far too open header in the box.
A minute later Lumley then made another fantastic save from Chair who smashed the ball high into the corner, but Lumley’s huge frame proved equal in the air.
Just after the hour mark the QPR fans started becoming really incensed by the referee. The penalty decisions in the first half had certainly gone the Royals way, so you can understand their frustration there (you don’t have to sympathise, don’t worry). Still, in the second half, what was really going on was Reading beginning to get into the game and cause QPR more problems with their physicality.
While the first half was mostly a one-sided affair, once Reading got a hold of things in the first half this matured into an excellent game of football. Both sides had chances to win the game as the ball careened up and down the pitch.
Paul Ince was finally able to name a strong bench tonight, and he used it. Earlier than usual, we saw Ejaria and Ince introduced for Fornah and Joao. Neither player had particularly let his side down, and yet both were justified replacements given the quality available.
The subs almost immediately paid off as Ovie Ejaria so almost connected with Hoilett to twinkle-toe his way into the QPR box. Just one touch away, he couldn’t quite round the last man to be one on one with the keeper. A chance missed, but not by much.
QPR then came into the game again, put their foot on the ball in the 75th minute, and limited Reading’s opportunities to attack. Reading stood firm in defence. Allowing QPR to go wide, but stifling their targetmen in the box.
Kakay’s wild shot wide in the 80th minute when QPR did find some space in Reading’s defensive third showed the building frustration.
Unfortunately though, Reading let QPR creep just a little too close to their penalty box for too long, and eventually some smart running into the box produced a knock from Loum that gave the referee a chance to make up for his earlier mistake with Hutchinson’s handball.
Reading tried to rally after the goal. Ince won his own free kick and then smashed it close to the near post, requiring a good save from Senny Dieng. They threw a few more balls into the box after that chance, but couldn’t quite find the killer touch. Slowly, a smart QPR side were able to see the game out and Reading couldn’t quite find the energy to rally.
Given their first-half performance, Reading did well to show up after the break and make QPR work for their points. It may have been the right result when the game is considered in its entirety, but Reading did more than enough to earn a point here and could have come away with it on another night.
Nobody in Berkshire really expects to finish as high as we are now this season, that much is clear, but if Reading keep putting in performances like this, even when they lose, then they should finish far outside of the relegation zone.