Ten-man QPR broke their duck at the Madejski Stadium with a hard fought win. Wayne Routledge scored the winner, but there were heroes in every position on Friday night. The similarities with last season’s game at the same ground were uncanny. Six players remained from our team that lost to an eccentric refereeing performance last year and this time the referee took centre stage once again. Steve Russell, JJ, Finney and I turned up at steveqpr881’s local like last season, but found it rather quicker than last time. We parked in the same alleyway as well ! We then drove to the same car park near the Deep Blue chippy and lo and behold there were also two coppers in front of us in the queue. As I had to wait for my cod roe to cook, I was left on my lonesome for the 10 minute trek to the ground, thanks lads ! As I took my seat, dead centre behind the goal and about 12 rows back, we kicked off wearing the green and white hoops.
I have a confession to make, I’ve had an irrational disliking for Reading Football Club, its owner and it’s fans for 22 years. I first visited Elm Park in the 88/89 season when a mate asked if I fancied going to see Fulham on a Bank Holiday. Seeing as we had no game that day, I went along. My first impression of the ground was that it was rotting to pieces and anything metallic had more rust on it than the Titanic. Fulham had a large following that day among the 5,000 crowd for the Third Division clash and I stood by the corner flag in the away end with the Reading fans immediately to my left behind a rusting fence. Among their hardcore were two divs who proceeded to abuse Fulham’s young No.9 every time he came near the corner flag. The only reason they abused him was because of the colour of his skin. For some reason when Justin Skinner scored the only goal, even I joined in with the Fulham fans who were pointing to the two Neanderthals and laughing. You may suggest that tarring all Reading fans with the same brush is wrong, and you’d be right of course. It was also noted that Reading played in an all blue kit with not a hoop in sight, in fact the only hoops on view were probably from my QPR LSA badge.
Their fans further enraged me when we played them last game of the season when they went up to the Premiership and the home fans sang ‘You’ll Never Play Us Again’ and ‘You’re Not Fit To Wear The Hoops’. Now that first song has come back to bite them on the arse as we all know and as the old adage goes, ‘always be nice to the people on the way up as you’ll no doubt meet again on your way down’. And the second song could be applied to the current Reading team. On their last two visits to Loftus Road, we have had a player sent off, but still went on to rip them apart. And on our last visit to the Mr Ego Stadium (anyone who names a ground after themselves isn’t exactly humble is he ?) we again had ten men and they had to rely on a dodgy as hell penalty in the last couple of minutes to steal the 3 points. I think the ref’s name was Robin Hood that night. And to take the piss even more, their fans now sing ‘Come On You R’s’, the cheeky gits !
And so it came to be that QPR came to Reading with a 5 point gap between themselves and second placed Norwich for yet another game in front of the Sky cameras. Reading were the in-form team with four wins and two draws from their last six games although we’re not doing bad ourselves are we ! Following our ugly win against Pompey on Tuesday, Rob Hulse was restored to the starting line-up in place of Ishmael Miller who was on the bench. The rest of the side was as you were with Ephraim retaining his place while Tommy Smith is injured.
We started brightly with our midfield seeing a lot of the ball, but on 3 minutes Clint Hill scythed down Karacan on the half-way line as Reading broke away. Playing the advantage, the ref then booked Hill once the attack had come to nothing. About 15 minutes later, Hill nearly repeated it, but thankfully he missed the player. We wouldn’t want to play with 10 men now would we ? WOULD WE ? I mean, we’ve done so in the last 3 meetings haven’t we ?
On 5 minutes (here comes that line again) our centre forward should have done better when he met Bradley Orr’s excellent cross. With the whole goal to aim at from six yards and with a free header, he put it aimlessly wide. To not put it at least on target is criminal. Each game this seems to happen whether Helguson or Hulse are playing, but I digress. Faurlin was getting in amongst their midfield and on 7 minutes he found some space and hit a 20-yard shot, but it went wide. Five minutes later, Hulse linked up with Faurlin who set up Adel Taarabt to try his luck with a 20-yard lob, but the ball cleared the bar with the keeper not overly concerned. We were looking comfortable, but had yet to have a shot on target, in fact both keepers were nigh on redundant.
Our third shot at goal came on about 30 minutes when Taarabt had a 25 yarder go well wide and he was jeered by the locals. Although the game had been quite uneventful so far, on 38 minutes it livened up no end. Hogan Ephraim went on a run and as he approached Reading’s box, he was cynically taken out by Reading’s captain, Mills, for his ubiquitous yellow card against us. Some QPR fans were calling for a red, but it was hard to say whether he was the last man and it was a long way from goal so I think the ref got it right. From the resultant free kick, Taarabt opted to shoot and although he managed to hit it powerfully, it cleared the bar. The ball then went up the other end and following some good work by Shane Long, he laid the ball into the path of Simon Church who hit a screamer, but Kenny brilliantly parried it away. From the corner, Mills had a header blocked and from the follow-up scramble, Hill somehow managed to head the ball wide to save the day.
On 42 minutes, Ephraim again went on a run into Reading’s half. Following a heavy touch he almost gave the ball away and as he lunged in he caught Reading’s Jimmy Kebe with a late challenge. Even Reading’s website said that they weren’t sure if it was a red, but red it was as Hogan joined Ben Watson, Damion Stewart and Bradley Orr in getting their marching orders against Reading in the past four games. A minute later and we almost conceded a goal. Paddy Kenny dropped a bouncing ball somehow and Long was onto it very quickly and with a wide open goal to aim at he somehow managed to hit the side netting with the QPR fans looking on nervously behind the goal. Although we had started brightly and had our fair share of the possession we had failed to trouble Federici so far. Added to that, Long had started to trouble Gorkss in the last 15 minutes and with Hill on a yellow already, the signs were looking ominous and maybe last season’s match was going to repeat itself. Half-time: 0-0.
Unlike last season, Warnock made no changes and in fact Taarabt and Routledge were encouraged to play further up-field. Faurlin and Derry were running their socks off in midfield and we seemed to adopt a siege mentality and our team spirit was evident in every player. We were still sharing the possession and were taking the game to Reading. On the hour, Taarabt went on a run in Reading’s half and was scythed down from behind by Jay Tabb. On seeing the ref’s decision, Tabb then picked up the ball and threw it down angrily in an obvious show of dissent. It was obvious to everyone in the 18,982 crowd and those watching on Sky TV except the man that mattered, the referee Mr Booth. Nothing. Nada. Nil. Warnock was incensed and apparently he threw a water bottle on the floor in disgust.
Six minutes later, Connolly went into the book for a blatant trip when Reading were breaking away. Double standards ? And no I’m not wearing blue tinted glasses as when Derry committed a foul later on easily as cynical as those by Hill and Connolly, he got away with it. On 66 minutes, Warnock brought on Miller in place of Hulse which at the time was inevitable as Hulse wasn’t getting much of the ball and when he did he was struggling. On 70 minutes, Mills met Harte’s corner, but headed wide when he should’ve done better. Five minutes later, receiving a throw-in from Hill on the edge of the box, Miller powered his way into the box and then hit a powerful left-footed shot from the angle of the six-yard box that just cleared the bar.
Then with eight minutes remaining, Faurlin, receiving a pass from Taarabt and in space, threaded a beautiful pass through Reading’s back-four. Miller brilliantly dummied it and Routledge was on to the ball as he carried it to the edge of the box, he hit it first time from 18 yards and it went like an arrow into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner with the keeper at full stretch. With our first and only shot on target, we had beaten Reading with ten men to complete our second double of the season and win at the Madejski for the first time ever. And as 2,437 exited the away end at the final whistle the feeling that maybe, just maybe, was palpable. The fact that we never started to feel sorry for ourselves after the red card and took the game to Reading, this win was absolutely immense. And for Paddy Kenny to keep his 17th clean sheet out of 30 games should not go un-noticed, even by Steve Claridge !
This ‘never say die’ attitude has been evident from the time we found ourselves two-down at Pride Park back in August. And who wonders what ground we will be playing at this August ?
Team: Kenny 8, Orr 7, Hill 7, Connolly 8, Gorkss 8, Faurlin 9, Derry 9, Ephraim 5, Taarabt 7 (Vaagan Moen 7), Hulse 4 (Miller 7), Routledge 8 (Hall on for last minute only).
MOTM: Faurlin, just, although both Derry and Faurlin were immense all game. I give it to Faurlin for the one piece of skill that guaranteed another 3 points.
Referee: R.Booth 6.
Btw: In the interest of scientific research, I tried the chocolate orange beer on sale in Steve’s local. I will be ringing the Berkshire Trading Standards Office as it did not taste of (a) chocolate, (b) orange, or (c) beer. It was rotten. It’s supposed to taste of two liqueurs whose name I forgot so did the brewers as it tasted of nothing. There was more chocolate orange in my cod row and chips !!! The scrumpy was scrummy though.
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)