An injury-ravaged Reading came away from West London with a 1-0 win thanks to a late Michael Olise wonder strike after Ilias Chair had struck the post for the hosts.
Reading made four changes from the side that lost to Birmingham in midweek, Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao missing out through knee and hamstring injuries respectively whilst Tom Holmes and Michael Olise dropped to the bench. QPR made just the one change from their draw with Millwall as Willock replaced Ball in a shift to a 4-2-3-1.
Roared on by 2,000 fans for the first time this season, Rangers made a bright start and had the first real opening of the game when the electric Chair managed to drive across the top of the Reading box and fire through a crowd with Rafael having to react quickly to make the save.
This soon sparked Reading into life, and from their first corner of the day, Michael Morrison rose tallest at the far post to head inches past the post when perhaps he should have done better. Soon afterwards, Semedo won the ball back for Reading in the middle of the park to tee up Aluko whose shot from the top of the D was sliced comfortably wide.
Sam Baldock was having an increasingly lonely game up front for the Royals, with his stature not working to his advantage versus Dickie and Barbet. However, a long ball along the ground from Laurent picked out Ejaria perfectly, though Baldock couldn’t connect with the cross as a half-chance went begging.
Reading’s injury problem grew by one around the half-hour mark when dependable left-back Omar Richards went down with a hamstring issue. With an injury list now comprising of Swift, Meite, Joao, Richards, Yiadom, Puscas and Araruna, Reading need to pray that their luck turns soon.
QPR started to get control of the game as the first half wore on and clearly looked to exploit Reading’s weakness of dealing with shots from outside of the box as exposed by Birmingham on Wednesday. Carroll went closest when his drive on the right-hand side of the box was turned over brilliantly by Royals’ skipper Liam Moore.
When Bright Osayi-Samuel is on the pitch the game is never going to be dull. Having switched sides to attack Esteves on the QPR left, he began to make inroads as time started to tick away in the first half.
Osayi-Samuel found himself in oceans of space inside the box just before half time, and his cross found Kakay on the far post with a tap in – however under pressure from Gibson he failed to get away a meaningful shot as the ball was scrambled to safety.
Reading started the second half with a lot of the play, but without a focal point up top in Joao and with their main creator on the bench this play frequently came to nothing – in fact, neither side managed a shot for the first 20 or so minutes of the first half.
However, when Reading won a free kick on the edge of the area, Paunovic decided it was time to unleash Olise, though his tame shot was easily gathered by Dieng. It didn’t take long for Olise to cause havoc with another set-piece though, Holmes nodding wide from a corner straight into the danger zone.
QPR were to have further opportunities before the game was out. Firstly, a whipped ball from the left found substitute Adomah in the box – from 12 yards out his shot was blocked well by Everton loanee Lewis Gibson.
QPR’s best chance fell in the 77th minute as Holmes was needlessly caught in possession on the halfway line, and Chair was released on the break. Chair’s shot from the edge of the box had Rafael completely beaten but pinged back off of the inside of the post and to safety for the Royals.
You could have been forgiven for thinking that at 0-0 away from home when Paunovic took off his only fit forward and brings on a centre back in Tom McIntyre that Reading were setting up for a draw. Not on your life.
Olise had done well to advance down the left and found McIntyre in support. The young defender played a sublime backheel to take out the entire QPR defence and leave Olise in space 25 yards out. The young talent who has been attracting all sorts of attention fired a beauty of a shot into the bottom corner past the despairing Dieng, with Mark Warburton describing the finish as ‘world-class’ in his post-match interview.
In a game of few clear cut chances, that was to be the bit of magic that would win the game. Reading now play three of their top 6 contenders in the next four games, and will surely have to be much, much better going forward to expect much of a return. For QPR, 1 point in five games leaves Warburton in a tricky spot.