For the second time running, this fixture produced arguing points by the shed load, mostly about the ref’s performance or lack of it, plenty of goals and a master class by Messrs Faurlin and Taarabt. Warnock was forced into replacing the injured Clint Hill with Bradley Orr returning to take up his right-back berth while Walker moved across to cover the left-back position. Warnock also handed Tommy Smith his first start as he replaced Hogan Ephraim in midfield. Rob Hulse continued up-front with ample back-up from Mackie, Smith and Taarabt, who were playing just behind him. Reading were unchanged from the side that came back from 3-1 down against Doncaster last week to grab all 3 points. In fact, they’d just recorded back-to-back wins, scoring 4 in both matches and were lying in 6th position. QPR had drawn their previous 4 and scored only twice.
In the first 20 minutes, there were numerous strong challenges going in from both sides and the referee seemed to let it go on without having a word to either team. So much so that Adel Taarabt was subjected to three meaty challenges, two by Matt Mills and the other one by Brian Howard, in those first 20 minutes. Mills must’ve thought he had a licence to foul at will, just like last season. There was also another occasion when he lunged in on Adel but the fleet-footed Moroccan left him trailing in his wake. Had Mills connected, I believe Adel would’ve been injured. For some reason, the Reading players were in the ref’s face at nearly every challenge, ever since Shane Long went down clutching his face on the edge of the box in the 5th minute.
Both Brian McDermott and his assistant Nigel Gibbs thought it was an elbow, as did Matt Mills. When Shane Long came back on following treatment, he was sporting a very large black bump under his eye. Reading’s argument was with the ref and not our team and especially Taarabt who wasn’t even near Long when he went down. The referee didn’t even award Reading a free kick. On 6 minutes, Hulse met a cross from the left but his effort went tamely wide from close range. Two minutes later, we nearly took the lead when some great play by Taarabt and Faurlin saw the Argentinian bamboozle two Reading players 25 yards out and then hit a left foot curler which hit the bar, bounced down and out to Rob Hulse who somehow managed to kick more of the ground than he did of the ball and it was cleared to safety.
Then 4 minutes later, Mackie found some space in the box at a tight angle, but his effort sailed over the bar. On 22 minutes, Federici made an excellent save, diving to his right, to keep out a Hulse header from about 10 yards out. Faurlin and Tarrabt were pulling all the strings by now and there were good performances in every position including Walker who was excelling at left-back as he does at right-back. On 26 minutes, we got the breakthrough when Taarabt this time, bamboozled two Reading players inside the box, but when he got to the third, Howard tripped him as he left him in his wake. The referee had no option but to point to the spot. He did have the option to book Howard as the law states but chose not to. Adel himself strolled up and chipped it cheekily into the net, almost down the middle as the keeper dived to his left.
On 30 minutes, Taarabt, Mills and the ref took centre stage once again. Taarabt went on a run and was upended crudely for the third time so far by Mills 30 yards from goal. The ref played the advantage as we were attacking down the left with Faurlin. The ball was crossed and Hulse won his duel in the air with Howard but his header went over the bar. The referee then immediately went to Mills and booked him for the previous challenge. Mills then went mad and ran 20 yards to Adel, who was still prostrate on the floor remember. As he got near, Derry intervened by stepping in Mills’s way. Derry did both Adel and Mills a favour by doing so. He kept Mills away from Adel and by pushing Mills away, kept him on the pitch. Why he bothered I don’t know as the lino flagged to the ref and following a chat, Derry was yellow carded !!!
What most riled QPR fans, was that a Reading player had shoved Derry twice as hard, yet all the officials missed it. Then to compound things, right on half-time, Bradley Orr went into a crunching tackle with Hal Robson-Akanu in front of the dugouts. Once again all the Reading backroom staff and subs jumped over the wall to remonstrate about the challenge. I’m not saying it influenced the ref but having seen the incident about a dozen times, I’m not convinced it merited a straight red, yellow definitely. At the time I thought it was another meaty challenge as I’d mentioned before. Even the most die hard Reading fans were probably surprised at the decision. Some home fans were feeling sorry for themselves, but I wasn’t too concerned seeing as Reading had gone long ball the first 45 minutes, so I wasn’t too worried about the next 45 either. Half-time: 1-0.
Reading took to the pitch a good 2 minutes before the QPR players and the four officials. We started the 2nd half with Jamie Mackie playing at right-back, otherwise we were 4-4-1. Almost immediately from the re-start, Mackie fed Smith in the inside-right channel. Smith took the ball to the bye-line and put a perfect cross to Hulse, who headed straight at the keeper from about 10 yards. This seemed to galvanise the home support who then found their voice and would keep it for the rest of the game. Reading had now seemed to have ditched the long ball and were now playing to feet with some intricate one-touch passing moves with our back-four having to be very alert.
But it was QPR who scored next. Taarabt, 30 yards out, fed an exquisite pass beyond Reading’s back-four for Mackie to run on to. He looked up and passed to Hulse who was lurking with intent some 10 yards out. As he was about to shoot, Mills made a legal challenge for once, but could only divert the ball into the path of Faurlin. Faurlin then hit a venomous shot which appeared to deflect off a Reading player but such was the power, it didn’t make much difference. The Reading players then started arguing amongst themselves, well they couldn’t blame the ref anymore could they ?
A minute later it could have been three. While the Reading players continued to argue, a mix up between McAnuff and Griffin saw Mackie burst into the box but Federici came off his line to block Mackie’s effort. And still Reading players continued to argue amongst themselves. But within 5 minutes all the arguing disappeared as Shane Long picked up a loose ball 25 yards out, beat a player and hit an unstoppable curling shot into Kenny’s top left-hand corner to awaken the away fans behind that goal. The goal could’ve done two things, galvanise Reading or us. Four minutes later we found out that it was the latter. On 70 minutes, Adel was fouled for about the tenth time and this time about 30 yards out. He took the free-kick himself and smashed it over the wall and to the keeper’s left. Federici could only parry the ball out, and as Reading players stood still to a man, Smith was the first to react and smashed the ball low and hard to the other side of the goal. Game over.
On 87 minutes, Brian Howard expertly chested a high ball down and hit a volley goal wards. Paddy Kenny made his only save of the game when he somehow dived to his right to palm the ball around the post for a corner. Had it gone in, it would’ve given an unflattering look to the score line as we were superior in so many departments. On Reading’s website, Brian McDermott spoke of the Reading team in gushing terms and reckoned, ‘We have the best spirit.’ On the evidence at Loftus Road, I think Neil Warnock would disagree with you. For the*- second season running, we had gone down to 10 men and then proceeded to give Reading a lesson in how to play football properly. Last season it was 4-2, this season it could have been more.
Kenny: 7 – Another key performance from our No.1, a quiet afternoon all in all, but his save at the death was superb.
Orr: 6 – Could’ve cost us, but this squad is made of steel in every position.
Walker: 9 – Superb, I bet he was the kid at school that everyone hated as he is brilliant at everything he does !
Gorkss: 7 – Made defending look easy, as he does most games.
Connolly: 7 – Him and Gorkss could go on to become legends at this club.
Derry: 8 – Considering he was walking a tightrope with the ref for the last hour, it was an immaculate performance as usual.
Faurlin: 8 – Scored his first goal of the season to cap an excellent performance.
Smith: 8 – Like Derry, a wise old head to help out the younger players when you’re backs are against the wall. Deserved his first goal.
Mackie: 8 – Mr. Duracell doesn’t know when to stop does he ? Even at full-back he was getting into scoring positions.
Taarabt: 10 – How does anyone top this performance ? Who cares !!!
Hulse: 7 - Led the line well, winning most balls in the air. The only thing missing is his first goal, won’t be long no doubt.
MOM: Taarabt. To paraphrase the Beautiful South’s Paul Heaton: “He’s a perfect 10, but he wears a 7.” Sublime performance from our captain. He was totally unplayable, hence Matt Mills deciding to take the law into his own hands on more than one occasion and was left to do impersonations of Hercules, Steptoe and Sons’ horse. On any other day, Faurlin or Walker could’ve won MOM but there was no disputing why Warnock chased him all summer. He was involved in creating all 3 goals and never got involved in anything other than good things for once. It was a privilege to watch this performance.
Referee: S.J. Tanner: 5 – The only good thing I’d say in his defence is that he wasn’t as bad as last week’s against Burnley !!!
Attendance: 15, 692 (including 2,461 Reading fans)
This team never know when its beaten. To take apart, and I really mean take apart, a team who had scored 8 goals in two games, whilst playing with 10 men for 50 minutes was the most satisfying aspect of the performance. We’ve played well recently and drawn, we’ve also played badly and yet still haven’t lost in 16 league games. The scoreline certainly flattered the visitors, just like last season. But unlike last season, my season ticket is definitely value for money.