KEVIN Doyle’s second goal in a QPR shirt failed to prevent 10-man Reading inflicting just the R’s second home defeat of the season on Sunday.
Doyle – opening the scoring at Loftus Road for the second game in succession – drew Rangers level against his former club after Danny Williams headed the Royals in front early on.
Harry Redknapp’s side couldn’t complete the comeback, however, going down to second-half strikes from Alex Pearce and Garath McCleary prior to Kaspars Gorkss’ late dismissal.
Redknapp made three changes from the side which succumbed at Derby County six days earlier, including a debut for youngster Will Keane. Elsewhere, Armand Traore and Junior Hoilett returned to the starting XI while Tom Carroll, Gary O’Neil and Andrew Johnson missed out altogether.
Despite a bright start from the hosts, it was the Royals who edged ahead on ten minutes. Adam Le Fondre found space on the left before finding an unmarked Williams six yards out, who made the most of the visitors’ first attack with a firm, downward header into the far corner.
Williams had another sight of goal three minutes later from Jobi McAnuff’s floated free-kick but could only direct his next header into Rob Green’s grateful arms.
Rangers fought their way back into proceedings, however, and restored parity on 20 minutes. A goalmouth scramble ensued from Traore’s pull-back and, after Keane’s initial effort rebounded off Royals ‘keeper Alex McCarthy, former Royals man Kevin Doyle dived in to stab the R’s level from close range.
The equaliser sparked Rangers into life, with the woodwork denying the R’s a second within a minute. Junior Hoilett’s jinking run ended with his cross ricocheting off the post via Gorkss’ deflection, while Keane’s deft header from the resulting corner flew inches over the crossbar.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between as the half wore on, though the visitors came close to regaining the initiative five minutes before the break. After Jordan Obita’s initial corner was cleared, the Royals winger whipped his next cross agonisingly past Green’s far post.
Rangers came out of the traps quickest after the interval as Joey Barton tried his luck twice after the re-start. The midfielder curled a 25-yard free-kick harmlessly over before missing the target again from similar range less than 60 seconds later.
Once again, though, it was the Royals who drew first blood in the half. Jobi McAnuff’s corner evaded Green’s reach, allowing Pearce to net with a stooping header at the back post.
Bobby Zamora replaced Keane from the re-start, but the striker’s introduction couldn’t prevent the Royals taking a two-goal lead moments later. After Garath McCleary was given room to run down the R’s right, the winger arrowed a thunderous 30-yard drive beyond a motionless Green.
Rangers responded but wasted a gilt-edged opportunity at the other end. Hoilett’s looping cross looked destined to provide Doyle with a simple tap-in but the R’s goalscorer somehow failed to make contact from a yard out.
The visitors’ lead looked in jeopardy when former R’s defender Gorkss received his marching orders 20 minutes from time. After bringing down Hoilett on the right flank, referee David Coote showed no hesitation in brandishing the red card.
Redknapp seeked to make the numerical advantage count, withdrawing Benoit Assou-Ekkoto for Yossi Benayoun with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Barton again threatened late on, dipping a volley over McCarthy’s upright. But despite five added minutes, the R’s fate was sealed with Reading the only side in hoops celebrating come the final whistle.