Ten man Rangers secure famous Reading win – full match report
Sunday, 6th Feb 2011 13:43 by Clive Whittingham
For the second time this season QPR recovered from the blow of having a man sent off before half time to defeat Reading and extend their lead at the top of the table.
As an actress once said to a Bishop: “Goodness, that felt like a big one.”
On Thursday night I sat here at this laptop and wrote that QPR are not an outstanding league leader liable to run away and bag 100 points and 100 goals as a few teams, Reading for one, have done in the past. On Friday night, live on television, QPR showed exactly why they are in fact top of the league by overcoming a series of trying circumstances to register a famous first win at the Madejski Stadium.
We’re unfortunately into that thoroughly irritating time of the year where everybody in the country suddenly becomes a Rugby Union fan having shown no inclination or interest towards the sport at all for the previous ten months. Landlords, desperate for the trade of football fans the rest of the year, indulge them by ignoring the national sport and showing the ugly form of monkey wrestling instead.
Those who chose to watch a load of fat, posh English lads diving on top of a load of fat, posh Welsh lads interrupted every 45 seconds by one decision after another from the referee that even the aficionados of the “sport” didn’t understand missed a trick. QPR fans, minus the 2,000 noisy sods who braved the M4 and went to Reading on a Friday night, scrabbled around for any screen they could find and were rewarded with a committed performance and never say die attitude by a team of skilful footballers who stood firm in the face of adversity and registered what felt like a season defining win. And, sadly, one decision from the referee after another that even the aficionados of the sport didn’t understand.
I also wrote on Thursday night that it has been interesting seeing how teams have set themselves up against us second time around this season. Reading, annihilated at Loftus Road earlier in the campaign despite playing for more than half the game with a man more, looked like a team that had spent the entire week leading up to the game thinking about how they were going to stop the likes of Taarabt and Routledge but, for whatever reason, never quite made it on to planning how they were going to harm us themselves.
For the final ten minutes of the first half Reading got Jobi McAnuff on the ball and suddenly Rangers were struggling. Only two fine saves from Paddy Kenny and a glaring miss from Simon Church denied the hosts an opening goal during a period of extreme pressure that culminated in a red card for Hogan Ephraim. But it had taken Reading more than half an hour to realise that McAnuff always plays well against QPR and needed the ball more and despite seeing the damage he could do and having an extra man in the second half they never utilised him properly for the rest of the match.
Rangers made a change to their line up before the start of the game. Ishmael Miller was always going to struggle to play three games in six days and looked heavy legged against Portsmouth on Tuesday so he dropped down to the bench and Rob Hulse started as the lone attacker. Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim and Wayne Routledge provided the supporting cast with Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin the holding midfielders as usual. Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly sporting a newly shaven head and Clint Hill made up the back four in front of Paddy Kenny in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Reading had big doubts all week about striker Shane Long who scored a cracking goal in defeat at Loftus Road before Christmas and came into this game with nine goals in his last ten games. He suffered a badly bruised hip in a 2-2 draw at Cardiff on Tuesday night but Reading jabbed him up and sent him out there anyway – a big mistake as it turned out as Long never looked fit to play all night long. Mathieu Manset, who scored against the Welsh club in the week, was left on the bench which again seemed strange as he caused QPR more problems when he came on than the anonymous Simon Church had done for the previous 80 minutes. Reading were also forced to do without Mikele Leigertwood who is on loan there, and playing well, from QPR and would have been forbidden from facing us anyway even before he picked up a three match ban for violent conduct on Tuesday evening. Former Brentford man Jay Tabb replaced him at the heart of the midfield.
There was plenty of bad blood sloshing around between these two sides following the game at Loftus Road. Adel Taarabt’s propensity to hit the deck in theatrical fashion whenever he comes under meagre contact, and Reading’s policy of immediately sending three men to get in the face of the referee ad scream at him about every decision had wound both teams up to such a point that Jem Karacan, one of the three man refereeing committee in the Reading team that also includes the loathsome Matt Mills, told the local press that Reading “couldn’t wait” to get QPR back to the Madejski Stadium and resume the dark arts of the game.
It took just two minutes for referee Russell Booth, who would go on to have one of those nights that leave you wondering just where the dredge these useless tossers up from, to produce a card. It was Karacan on the receiving end – his poor first touch meant Clint Hill saw an opportunity to pinch the ball but the Turk recovered and sent a pass down the line by which time Hill was already committed and although play was waved on as Reading attacked Booth returned to show Hill a yellow card as soon as the ball went dead. It was the right decision, Hill was late and reckless.
When Reading aren’t playing at the Madjeski Stadium London Irish use it for kick and rush in front of three men in Barbour jackets and their terribly well groomed dog. The result of this is a pitch suitable only for grazing livestock or growing rice. Hill’s challenge and booking was as a result of the mistaken belief he could reach the ball after the bobbly pitch had carried it away from Karacan. It was a scenario played out time and again on the evening, and one that would soon lead to QPR being reduced to ten men.
Reading seem to deal with this by playing very direct, certainly a lot more direct than they were at Loftus Road, but QPR bravely attempted to play a bit of football across the paddy field and should have been rewarded with the opening goal after four minutes. Shaun Derry played a nice pass out to the right where Bradley Orr was afforded the freedom of the county of Berkshire against a terribly narrow Reading line up. Orr delivered a fine cross to the near post where an unmarked Rob Hulse met the ball but could only glance it across the face of goal when a firmer contact would have forced Adam Federici into action in the Reading goal.
Two minutes later the passes were flowing again – ten completed in a move that ended with Faurlin playing a one two with Taarabt on the edge of the area and then lifting a scooped shot onto the roof of the net.
An evening of poor refereeing got into full swing in the tenth minute when Taarabt hit the deck and wasn’t given a free kick, then Faurlin was immediately fouled while trying to retrieve the situation but again got nothing from the referee, then Kebe collapsed to the floor and was immediately awarded a free kick for a nothing foul. Neil Warnock wasn’t happy with that, and his mood wouldn’t improve much as the game went on.
Despite the battering Taarabt gave them at Loftus Road Reading persisted with three tactics that were clearly doomed to failure. Firstly they played a basic 442 formation that left acres of space between the defence and midfield for Taarabt and others to operate in, secondly they set up in a very narrow way whenever QPR had the ball which meant whenever the ball was switched across the field more space was available to exploit and thirdly they allowed crusty old Andy Griffin to be the nearest thing Taarabt had to opposition. A mistake from the former Stoke full back gifted Taarabt a corner after a quarter of an hour and Clint Hill should have buried his second goal of the week from the set piece having got across the front of his man. Thankfully we are now looking more threatening from corners after a couple of months spent wasting every one we received – I could sense Danny Shittu licking his lips down on the bench.
Six minutes later Reading had a chance to put some quality ball into the QPR box when Faurlin cynically hauled back Kebe but Connolly headed the free kick behind for a corner that was cleared. QPR swiftly got back on the attack themselves with Routledge playing Ephraim in behind Harte and his low cross into the near post would have presented a tap in for Rob Hulse had Mills not got in first and cleared the ball behind for a corner. This time Taarabt looked for Gorkss at the near post, and found the Latvian completely unmarked but he totally missed his header – the third time QPR had missed a tremendous headed chance in the first 25 minutes.
Griffin’s evening of torment continued when he was outpaced by Taarabt crossing the halfway line and then blatantly and deliberately hacked him to the ground. Bear this incident in mind because although Griffin was rightly booked for it, immediately after half time Jay Tabb did the same thing and escaped without further punishment.
Rob Hulse has not had a particularly happy time of things since moving to QPR, mainly in my opinion because whenever he has played we’ve looked long to his head for flick ons rather than using him as a hold up and lay it merchant like we do with Helguson. We’re so much more effective when the lone striker in our system does that, and Hulse showed he is capable of playing the role on the half hour when he controlled a long clearance from Kenny, held it up tight to the byline and then laid it back to Faurlin who instinctively turned the ball inside to Taarabt and he curled a shot over the bar. Plenty of pressure from Rangers at this stage, but not a single shot on target.
Then, having ignored him completely for half an hour, Reading started giving the ball to Jobi McAnuff who has consistently played his best football against QPR throughout his career prompting the R’s to try and buy him last summer. He started an impressive ten minute period before half time with a low shot on goal from the edge of the area that was inadvertently blocked away by Simon Church on the edge of the six yard box.
Going the other way, McAnuff produced a fine header at the back post in his own area to deny Bradley Orr a free attempt on the goal that, knowing Orr’s recent form in the opposition penalty area, he would have made a bit of a mess of anyway. Within two minutes the former Watford winger had won a free kick from Wayne Routledge and QPR only just survived the delivery to the back post which found two Rangers players and nobody from Reading but still caused a nervy moment as Derry and Hill played a little bit of after you Claude under the cross.
Reading were starting to enjoy a better spell in the game, but should have been reduced to ten men seven minutes from half time after being caught cold on a counter attack. QPR poured forward at speed, committing four men forward against three Reading defenders. Hogan Ephraim took the responsibility on, charging through the middle with the ball at his feet, dropping his shoulder to the left to commit Matt Mills one way and then swerving to the right to carry him away from the centre half. Mills had been done - he knew it, Ephraim knew it, everybody knew it. His response was to step back across Ephraim’s line cynically upending him and denying a clear and obvious goal scoring opportunity. It was a red card, no question about it. Ephraim was away and through on goal with no other Reading players in the picture. What Mills did was completely deliberate and intended. I’d say QPR have had players sent off for the same thing this season, referring to Connolly’s red card at Norwich, but in truth this was more blatant. Russell Booth, in consultation with the three man Reading refereeing committee that included the ever objectionable Mills shouting and hencing forth with spittle in the official’s face, showed only a yellow card. I wondered if he’d left his red card in the dressing room – a question that would sadly be answered a few moments later.
Taarabt blasted the free kick over the bar, but that was merely a side issue to a developing situation with the Reading players and match official that was about to take a further dramatic turn.
Before the flash point Rangers were twice indebted to Paddy Kenny for keeping the scores level. First he flung himself across to his left to palm away the first shot on target in the match as Simon Church let fly from distance after a nice lay off from Shane Long. Then from the resulting corner Mills, who should have been well lathered up with soap in the early bath by this time, met a fine delivery firmly at the back post only to see Kenny produce an unlikely save with his shins having raced across his goal to cover an angle that looked dead set against the keeper. The ball remained loose, Orr got a block in on the goal line and Church somehow contrived to miss the open goal from three yards out sending the ball spinning out for a goal kick to the relief of the QPR fans massed behind the goal.
The dust had barely settled when QPR broke at speed again. Ephraim tried his luck for a second time but miscontrolled the ball badly as he crossed the halfway line and then naively lunged in to try and retrieve the situation, hacking Jimmy Kebe to the ground in the process. It was a red card offence, no question about it, but just to make sure Booth made that decision Mills, who had not been involved in the situation at all, raced in to scream in Ephraim’s face, and then chased the referee with Karacan to deliver their verdict. Ephraim was indeed sent off, but this tactic of Brian McDermott’s team to harangue officials, and Mills’ behaviour in general, is simply unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue to take place.
Rangers had three minutes to get through to half time for a re-organisation. If they could do so they still had a great chance of winning the game having beaten the Royal 3-1 at Loftus Road when down to ten men earlier in the season. They almost gifted Reading an opening goal straight away though with Paddy Kenny coming close to undoing all his previous good work by completely misjudging a through ball leaving Shane Long with an open goal but he pushed his shot into the side netting from an acute angle. Long smiled, but there was nothing to smile about as this was a gilt edged chance.
The half concluded with Clint Hill penalised for cleanly winning a header, after which Adel Taarabt was warned for kicking the ball away and then pressing his head into Karacan’s face as an expression of his own frustration. A foolish act, especially with Mr Booth rattling round the field firing off random decisions like a loose cannon.
One thing QPR couldn’t say at half time was that they lacked practice at such situations. The R’s had had men sent off before half time in their previous three meetings with Reading, and had been reduced to ten men in two of their last four visits to this ground. In this fixture last season the three man Reading refereeing committee talked everybody’s favourite fresh faced toss pot Gavin Ward into sending off Damion Stewart. QPR subsequently tried to shut up shop and play for a point that they were denied by a late penalty. On this occasion Neil Warnock remained positive – and having beaten Reading comfortably at Loftus Road despite early sendings off in the last two seasons that was clearly the right thing to do.
The tactics at the start of the second half were very clear. QPR were going to attempt to control the possession and tempo of the game as much as possible and let the rest take care of itself. Jem Karacan dragged an early shot wide of the post from distance but that proved to be a rare attempt on goal from Reading in the second half. They had a better chance ten minutes after half time when Matt Connolly came in late on Shane Long – not the first or last time he did that on a night where he was clearly sent out to test Long’s hip injury at every opportunity – and a quick free kick was worked into the area to Simon Church. QPR had switched off rather, but Wayne Routledge was alive to the situation and produced a fine tackle in the penalty area to deny Church a sight of goal and win the ball back cleanly. The attitude and work rate Routledge has shown since returning to QPR, particularly when it comes to tracking back, is really quite something to behold.
Just before the hour Adel Taarabt got away from his marker and accelerated across the halfway line before being crudely hacked to the ground from behind by Jay Tabb. To go along with the foul which was a yellow card all day long Tabb then picked up the ball and slammed it into the ground as a show of dissent. Astonishingly, and I do mean astonishingly, the referee decided a warning was sufficient. This despite Andy Griffin being booked for an identical foul on the same player in the same part of the pitch in the first half. It’s this inconsistency in decisions that infuriates players, fans and managers so much. A month ago we had a man sent off at Norwich for the same thing Matt Mills was yellow carded for here in the first half, and Andy Griffin was booked in the first half for something Tabb was let off with in the second. I would suggest that, on reflection, even Mr Booth would concede that Friday wasn’t his finest evening of officiating. Looking back at it all in the cold light of day I’d suggest he was absolutely fucking useless.
The referee was back in the thick of things again three minutes later as a rampaging run down the left flank by Shaun Derry won QPR a free kick, presumably for a foul by Andy Griffin although no amount of searching through replays could actually produce any evidence of one. A mystifying decision. Griffin had a moment earlier been allowed to run too far into the QPR half and dragged a shot wide of the post.
Within a minute all eyes were on Mr Booth again as Shane Long hit the deck in the penalty area under next to no contact whatsoever. No penalty was awarded, but no yellow card for diving either and as play went on Alejandro Faurlin, attempting to carry the ball out of the area, was then tackled by the referee who presented possession back to Reading deep in the danger area. He played a ‘get out of jail’ card by quickly awarding a free kick to QPR but overall it was yet another example of crass officiating on the evening. It was getting to the stage now, with every decision going Reading’s way and Booth actually winning the ball back for them in dangerous areas, where I wondered whether he would have been better just slinging a blue and white shirt on and playing for them outright..
Connolly then picked up an overdue booking for another hack at Long.
Both managers showed their hands for the first time in the game with 25 minutes left for play. Neil Warnock sent on Ishmael Miller for Rob Hulse, who had once again struggled to make a positive impact, and Reading brought on Mathieu Manset, who had been linked with a move to QPR in January before signing for Reading from Hereford, for Simon Church who had been poor.
The sides then exchanged set pieces with Adel Taarabt’s free kick after a foul on Wayne Routledge flying right through the area and Ian Harte’s inswinging corner finding Manset only for the big Frenchman to head wide.
QPR were comfortable, and controlling the game, but not really posing much of a threat on the goal. Derry and the outstanding Alejandro Faurlin were so dominant in midfield I was almost embarrassed for Tabb and Karacan. It just needed a chance to fall the way of the visiting team and Ishmael Miller gave a clear indication of just how dangerous the ten men remained when he used all his power and strength to shield a long Clint Hill throw into the Reading area and let rip with a volley that flew just over the bar.
Brian McDermott brought on Hal Robson-Kanu for Jay Tabb and moved Jobi McAnuff into the centre, presumably to try and solve the problem they had getting McAnuff and Kebe in possession of the ball, but it only served to weaken them further through the centre and QPR swiftly made them pay.
The goal, when it came, was beautifully simple. Routledge, who would go on to score it, won a header on the halfway line and then turned to sprint into the space behind him. Rangers worked the ball first into Taarabt from Derry, then to Faurlin and his exquisite through ball had Routledge in behind the Reading defence travelling at speed. He took the shot on early, possibly catching goalkeeper Adam Federici by surprise, and sent the ball into the far corner of the net via the Australian’s despairing outstretched hand. He will have been disappointed not to save it – it was his only real test of the evening and he failed it, a point which Matt Mills made aggressively to his team mate as the celebrations commenced behind the goal. It was Mills that had played Routledge onside, and then failed to catch up with him, but Mills doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who takes a lot of responsibility for his own actions so it suited him to blame the keeper.
The goal would usually have been enough to secure Routledge, whose work ethic second time around at QPR has improved markedly compared to his previous spell, a man of the match award and indeed the broadcasters went down that route themselves. But for me the sublime pass to set him free, played with perfect poise and pace on a pudding of a pitch, put the seal on a superb Alejandro Faurlin performance and he was the top man on the night in my opinion.
Ordinarily the remaining eight minutes and stoppage time would be a long drawn out affair, but Reading had hardly threatened when the scores were level and they looked a spent force after Rangers had scored. Manset was a threat but when the ball dropped to him in the area he skewed it horribly wide with his left foot when a right foot shot would have been a better option. After he won a foul 30 yards from goal but Ian Harte drilled his shot into the wall.
Mr Booth’s final act of the evening was to add four minutes of injury time onto the end of a half in which no injuries had taken place, and ultimately he played almost five for reasons known only to himself, but we could have played all night and not conceded such was the ease at which our back four dealt with what was thrown at them and the final whistle was greeted with terrific celebrations on the field and in the away end.
This is a first double secured by QPR against Reading since the 1963/64 season and has been achieved despite playing with ten men for 50 minutes of both matches. That’s mainly down to QPR’s will to win, attitude and commitment to attack even in the face of adversity but also down to the rank bad planning and tactics from Reading manager Brian McDermott. He has twice now had 50 minutes to pick holes in a ten man QPR side and not only failed to do so, but also left his team so open at the other end that they’ve conceded three goals instead.
There were good and outstanding performances all across the pitch from a QPR point of view. Wayne Routledge deserved his goal for a fine display going both ways, Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin were fantastic and Paddy Kenny made two great saves in the first half. The back four was also right back on its game, although as Reading were without the sort of physical presence in their forward line that has caused us problems previously this season I can’t say I was surprised that they coped well. For all the criticism I’ve levelled at the defence recently, we’ve now conceded just one goal in five games.
This was a tremendous result for us for a number of reasons. Most importantly it laid down a marker to the chasing pack before they’d had a chance to even play this weekend. It gives us an important cushion at the top with Nottingham Forest due in town next weekend and the manner of the victory will also increase the belief among fans and players alike that this really could be our year.
Reading: Federici 5, Griffin 5, Ingimarsson 6, Mills 5, Harte 6, McAnuff 6, Tabb 6 (Robson-Kanu 76, 6), Karacan 6, Kebe 6, Long 5, Church 5 (Manset 68, 7)
Subs Not Used: McCarthy, Gunnarsson, Hunt, Khizanishvili, Cummings
Booked: Griffin (foul), Mills (foul)
QPR: Kenny 8, Orr 7, Connolly 7, Gorkss 7, Hill 7, Routledge 8 (Hall 90, -), Derry 8, Faurlin 9, Ephraim 6, Taarabt 7 (Moen 86, -), Hulse 6 (Miller 66, 7)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Rowlands, Chimbonda, Shittu
Sent Off: Ephraim 42 (serious foul play)
Booked: Hill (foul), Connolly (foul)
Goals: Routledge 82 (assisted Faurlin)
QPR Star Man – Alejandro Faurlin 9 An almost perfect display of deep lying midfield play with a fabulous pass through for the winning goal to boot. Faurlin tackled everything that moved, won just about every header that came his way, and made light of a terrible pitch to spray the ball this way and that. Right back to his best after an indifferent few weeks.
Referee: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire) 3 I think you can probably gather from the match report that the referee mark was never going to be particularly high, and the write up less than complimentary. Mr Booth wasn’t just incompetent, he was inconsistent with it. If you know your referee is incompetent then you can make allowances for it but when he shows a yellow card to Griffin for a tackle from behind on Taarabt as he crosses the halfway line, then lets Tabb off with a warning for a tackle from behind on Taarabt as he crosses the halfway line it’s a bit hard to know where you stand. Should have sent off Matthew Mills and allowed the Reading skipper, Ian Harte and Jem Karacan to surround him and scream in his face after every decision without taking action. All in all, absolutely bloody awful.
Attendance: 18,982 (2,000 QPR approx) After a few weeks where the QPR travelling support has been small in number and low on noise it was great to see so many Rangers travelling to this one, and making themselves heard throughout the game.
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