|Reading 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 20th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Dykes breaks duck but Rangers held at Reading - Report
Sunday, 21st Mar 2021 15:54 by Clive Whittingham
Another progressive performance from the ever-improving Super Hoops secured a point from an entertaining game at Reading on Saturday - Lyndon Dykes scoring for the first time in 22 games.
I feel like we’ve done little other than talk about styles of play for weeks now. From the Barnsley blow torch and Rangers’ botched attempt to match Millwall for height and physique, to the victorious high press against Spartak Hounslow and the un-QPR-like Blackburn grind, the storylines that enable us to throw out 48 match reports a season for 20 years have all been about shapes and systems and ethos and whether you could watch that every week or if Warbs Warburton was right to switch it up for a certain opponent.
How wonderful, therefore, to finish this penultimate Championship clump of all the games in none of the time – 12 in 48 days – with an aesthetically pleasing spring Saturday afternoon out at Reading. No channel balls here, no kick and rush, no harum-scarum, no dodgy playing surface, no aimless long punts, no four-four-fucking-two. This was a technically proficient, trendy, attractive, moving through the thirds xG-a-thon. Like going from ten episodes of Your Honor straight into Love, Victor. Excellent young boys, almost all of them wing backs and 'tens', free to express themselves and pursue a life of religious fulfilment, with Neil Banfield on the side aptly looking like a dad waiting and watching while his kids have a go on all the theme park rides.
Reading, sixth at the start of play, went first. Seny Dieng had to flick a first minute effort from Rinomhota over the bar after Yoann Barbet’s dodgy clearance fell his way. Rob Dickie cleared a cross from Bayern-bound Omar Richards behind for a corner. Sam Field produced an amazing block to deny Lucas Joao after strike partner Yakou Meite had blown through a rusty offside trap. All in the first eight minutes. Steady on down lads, didn’t even realise we’d started yet, let me get my readers on so I can see what I’m doing here.
Rangers in red, dancing with me, announced their arrival with a tenth minute corner, really well worked to get Charlie Austin unmarked and advancing onto a low cross, but he scuffed the shot. Rangers looked good when playing through Ilias Chair, refreshed after his midweek rest, and his eighteenth minute cross just eluded Lyndon Dykes. A brilliant move started by a huge Austin sweep across the field ended with a great Chair cross, a touch off from Dykes, and a slashed shot wide of the post you’d probably have expected Charlie to score with.
This was about as good as Championship football gets, flowing freely from end to end. Even the goalkeepers were at it – Seny Dieng immaculately pulling a poorly executed aerial back pass from Jordy De Wijs out of the sky and finding a team mate in one swish move. If the Dutchman had lobbed it up at Rob Green like that it would have been 1-0 and the chunky knit would have been getting an airing for another Mail on Sunday puff piece.
Amidst it all, Ovie Ejaria, just too bloody good. We could probably have done without his tantrum and imaginary wave of a yellow card when Osman Kakay - in from the start pending Todd Kane’s £13m move to Sheff Utd - but to be fair he’d skinned the young full back, been pulled back and it was probably a booking. Referee Dean Whitestone lenient there, and with Austin for pulling back goalkeeper Rafael Cabral preventing a quick release, and a third time when Ejaria once again skinned his man – Dickie this time – and was deliberately taken out. When you compare these with the yellow card Chris Willock got early on in our recent game at Birmingham, it’s difficult to conclude the games were being refereed to the same rules. When Ejaria brilliantly got round Austin and Kakay without being fouled, he put one on a plate for Michael Olise, who scored the winner at Loftus Road, but he put a the chance over the bar with his left foot.
Both teams threatened the goal in the closing stages of the half. At one point it looked like a super Reading move on 43 would get four home players clean through on Dieng until De Wijs swooped in and kitchen sinked the whole thing to the back of the main stand. Get out of my pub. At the other end Lee Wallace, more Flying Scotsman than Caledonian Sleeper these days, shrugged off a knock from an earlier monster tackle of his own to get in on an overlap and cut the ball back for Lyndon Dykes to finally score a sixth goal of the season at the twenty second time of asking. For him to play as he did against Millwall during the week, when obviously low on confidence, and then back it up with a goal at last in this game, said a lot about the lad. The delight of his team mates, particularly Charlie Austin, really gratifying to see. Ilias Chair’s pass in the build up better than most of the sex I’ve had.
Reading came out for the second half breathing fire, QPR’s resistance not helped by an early injury to De Wijs requiring a Geoff Cameron from the bench. Ejaria build up, every bit as excuisite as Chair’s, got Olise in again, this time he found the target, Dieng saved, Moore stuck in the rebound, but the offside flag was raised. Within two minutes Yoann Barbet lost out poorly on halfway and Reading sprung Meite against Dickie – both the centre half and goalkeeper Dieng will probably reflect they might have done more with what turned out to be the equaliser. Dickie, in particular, seemed to let the whole ‘return to the club who released him’ narrative get to him a little bit on Saturday in my opinion.
Soon Joao was rounding Dieng and skewing a simple chance wide after more splendid build up from the irrepressible Ejaria. Joao and former QPR youth product Josh Laurent were soon unmarked from a corner but the ball ended up going wide of the post. Chair saw yellow for kicking the ball away and squaring up face-to-navel with Laurent. It felt like QPR’s heads had gone a little bit, and the Ejaria problem was becoming terminal.
Warbs Warburton acted decisively, sending on Chris Willock to start getting hold of the ball again, and Dom Ball to go and babysit Reading’s problem child. Both switches worked a treat, QPR came home with a wet sail and were unlucky not to win, Reading in the end perhaps fortunate with a point that looked for a good chunk of the second half like the least they’d get from the game.
Moore had to deflect a goalbound Willock shot wide. Then Wallace replicated his run and cross from the earlier Dykes goal, this time picking out Stefan Johansen who should have scored, and seemed to have a huge shout for a penalty as Moore fell on the loose ball with his hands after executing the block – referee Whitestone ignored it, and penalised Johansen for following in on him. Generous with a capital gen. Willock’s cross had star man Wallace in unmarked at the far post but he couldn’t generate enough power with the header, Dickie crossed for Dom Ball to flick a header goalwards that he also should have scored with. Another great move, another big thick injection of Dom Ball into the action, a dangerous ball from Dykes blocked behind for a corner. Four added on, Barbet in on a poor touch to feed Johansen, shot scuffed when Dykes was in a great position for one more pass. From circling the drain, Rangers had created four amazing chances to win the game in the final ten minutes. Reading's fade exacerbated by Rafael's weird insistence on depositing the ball in the side stand every time he got it.
And now we breathe. Two weeks off to reflect on a transformative couple of months in which QPR have won seven and drawn two of 12 games, climbed into the top half of the table, and given all the indications they might actually be building something quite special here. The mood post Reading A the polar opposite to that post Reading H. Rangers are back? Hello. Hello.
Reading: Rafael 5; Holmes 6 (Esteves 83, -), Moore 6, Gibson 6, Richards 7; Rinomhota 7, Laurent 7; Ejaria 8, Olise 6 (Semedo 79, 6), Meite 7; Joao 5 (Puscas 79, 5)
Subs not used: Baldock, Southwood, Aluko, Tetk, Onen, Camara
Goals: Meite 57 (assisted Rinomhota)
QPR: Dieng 6; Dickie 5, De Wijs 7 (Cameron 49, 6), Barbet 6; Kakay 6, Field 7, Johansen 7, Chair 7 (Ball 65, 7 (Kane 90+1, -)), Wallace 7; Dykes 7, Austin 6 (Willock 65, 7)
Subs not used: Lunley, Bonne, Thomas, Hämäläinen
Goals: Dykes 45 (assisted Wallace)
Bookings: Chair 51 (kicking ball away)
QPR Star Man – Lee Wallace 7 Been playing well for a few weeks now, and this was the best so far with a lovely assist to crown the performance. Not far off setting up a late winner for Johansen too. It’s obviously sparked a lot of wondering where on earth this much maligned squad member has been hiding this sort of form for the last 18 months, but if you think about it this is really the first time since he moved here from Scotland that he’s been able to stay injury free and have a run of games in the team. Up to the start of February he’d only made nine appearances, and none at all through December and January; since Watford on February 1 he’s played in 11 of the 12 matches we’ve had.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 6 The handball penalty appeal at the end would have been incredibly harsh, and his decision to let it slide was in keeping with a very lenient display overall. I think Kakay, Dickie and Austin were all very fortunate in the first half not to be booked for deliberately pulling opponents back by the shirt – usually pretty mandatory these days. Whitestone, of course, the referee who recently failed to award Middlesbrough a penalty when Blackburn’s Jarrad Branthwaite nearly took Dael Fry’s eye out so he does seem happier to let stuff go than most officials.
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