November ushered in several firsts at Loftus Road; the appearance of the yellow ball, the first truly ‘taters’ day at hoops headquarters, and the first game that by common consensus QPR had to win.
The changes to the R’s line-up were generally approved by the fans. Ferdinand replaced the banned Mbia and Djibril Cisse came in for Zamora who was carrying a hip injury. Shaun Wright-Phillips was nowhere to be seen in the match day 18, with Mackie coming in as the replacement.
The R’s faithful shivered as the real hoops kicked off. The tone for the game was set early as the ball was immediately pumped forward into the arms of the Reading keeper Alex McCarthy. Moments later the ball was crossed in to the Rangers box, meeting the unchallenged head of former player Kaspars Gorkss, who prodded wide.
In a game which was to flowing football what Genghis Khan was to international diplomacy, Rangers made heavy weather from the off. Early chances for Cisse and Hoilett disguised a stuttering Rangers performance. A flexible formation for QPR unfortunately did not aid fluidity of movement. Mackie had an unusually quiet game supporting Cisse upfront, while Hoilett and Taarabt patrolled the wings with frequent switching.
The Reading midfield pairing consisted of another former R, Mikele Leigertwood and former Brentford and Coventry man Jay Tabb. Tabb, who like many of the Reading line-up, must consider himself fortunate to be playing in a Premier League outfit, was a combative presence for the away team. The central two time after time won the second ball in the middle of the park, enabling Reading to get more possession down the left with their adventurous Jobi McAnuff.
On the quarter-of-an-hour mark, McAnuff won a corner from one of his numerous forays forward. The resulting ball in was headed towards goal. Cesar managed to get a palm to it, only for it to fall to the once again unmarked Gorkss, who bundled the ball to the right of the stricken R’s keeper. Classily, Gorkss for the second time this season refrained from celebrating a goal in front of the Loft.
As at West Brom and on countless other occasions this season, most R’s players’ heads dropped after conceding the early goal. But not all, Taarabt took it upon himself to fight for the cause and showed why he is now an automatic pick. On 25 minutes he dispossessed Tabb 30 yards out and surged forward to unleash a venomous shot which flew just over the bar.
Bar flashes of inspiration from our mercurial talent, only Diakite showed any flair with some of his trademark drifting runs. Elsewhere on the pitch it was huff and puff with little end product. Once again Rangers were frequently profligate with possession, with Bosingwa being the worst offender. Maddeningly, we often reverted to hoofball tactics, with Cisse and Mackie mostly getting nowhere near.
QPR’s best chance of the half came when Mackie was fouled on the left edge of the box by Sean Morrison. The strangely subdued Granero stepped up to fire on target, only for McCarthy to brilliantly push the ball onto the bar and away to safety.
The second-half was typified by long periods of scrappy play where neither side could truly assert dominance. Ironically it was the wasteful Bosingwa who turned provider of the cross on 66 minutes which Cisse poked home for the equaliser. Taarabt shortly afterwards tested McCarthy again with a low shot to the keeper’s right. Really Taarabt should have done enough to slot it home, but a brilliant save from the excellent Reading stopper kept it out.
Reading had chances to win the game and truly sour the afternoon for the Rangers support, notably through the substitutes Kebe. In truth however, this was a stalemate which was a fair result. The ambitions of the Rangers Board are flying sky-high of the realities of capability on the field when we fail to capitalise at home against a workmanlike Reading side.
This was a game of Championship quality against a Championship side. Little wonder then that the R’s message boards and Twitter were awash with calls for Hughes’s head, and derision at the Chairman’s latest excuse – that a number of our players are still coming to terms with Premier League football, Oh, that’s all right then…..
Team: Cesar 7, Traore 6 (Onuoha 6), Ferdinand 6, Nelsen 7, Bosingwa 5, Diakite 7, Taarabt 7, Granero 6, Cisse 6, Mackie 6 (Zamora 6), Hoilett 6,
Subs Not Used: Green, Hill, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Faurlin
QPR MOM – Adel Taarabt. Adel’s drive and class shone on a day when it wasn’t hard to set yourself apart from the pack.
Reading MOM – Kaspars Gorkss. A rock at the back and a real threat upfront.
Attendance: 16,797 (including 964 Reading fans)