Queens Park Rangers V Reading
RANGERS shared the spoils with Reading in W12 – despite Pawel Wszolek’s 14th-minute opener.
The Polish ace put the finishing touch to a well-worked team move, eventually controlling and firing beyond Ali Al-Habsi – following Olamide Shodipo’s dinked assist – for his first QPR goal.
But the lead was short-lived, as Reading scored the goal that would ultimately earn them a point only seven minutes later.
It was another fine finish, as Danny Williams volleyed beyond Alex Smithies to level matters at the Loft End.
R’s boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made three changes to the Rangers side victorious at west London neighbours Fulham two weekends ago.
Steven Caulker, carrying a slight knock, Massimo Luongo and Conor Washington all dropped down to the substitutes’ bench.
So in came a fit again James Perch, Ariel Borysiuk and Shodipo, the latter who impressed when introduced at Craven Cottage last time out.
The first 10 minutes made for a relatively-even affair.
But Rangers opened the scoring just short of the quarter-hour mark.
It was a lovely team move that led to the goal, instigated once QPR won the ball back thanks to some excellent pressing play.
Borysiuk intercepted well in the middle of the park, Shodipo played in Wszolek with a scooped ball over the top of the Reading defence – and the latter controlled before finishing in style at close range.
In reply, the visitors’ Garath McCleary forced a smart stop from Rangers goalkeeper Smithies in the 19th minute, following a fierce low drive.
But there was nothing Smithies could do to keep out Jaap Stam’s men two minutes later, as the Royals drew level.
McCleary was again involved. His cross from the left picked out Williams at the back post, who kept his cool to direct a cushioned volley into the far corner.
Rangers probably should have regained the lead in the 27th minute.
Joel Lynch’s slide-rule pass picked out Wszolek in the box but, in a seemingly-offside position, everyone – along with the winger – delayed.
However, the linesman’s flag stayed down and when the Poland international wound up to shoot, the Royals’ Tyler Blackett got back in the nick of time to produce a crucial block.
Four minutes later, the R’s went close again. Tjaronn Chery’s ball in was glanced just wide by the head of Joel Lynch.
In the 32nd minute, meanwhile, Borysiuk lashed only inches past the target, following dogged hustling by QPR’s Seb Polter.
Rangers were forced into a change 10 minutes before half-time.
Grant Hall was forced off with what looked like a thigh strain. So on came Caulker in his place.
Reading twice went close before the break.
First, Roy Beerens’ deflected centre from the left astonishingly flashed across the face of goal without a touch.
And it was that same man who eventually pulled an effort wide from the resultant corner kick, as the Dutchman took aim from 12 yards.
Beerens was in the thick of the action again shortly after half-time.
The midfielder saw a shot deflect just over, off Perch, after Reading broke on the counter attack.
Hasselbaink opted for an early second-half substitution in the 54th minute. Shodipo made way for Washington.
Polter should have put the R’s in front again only a minute later, somehow heading just past the foot of the left-hand post when meeting Chery’s inswinging right-flank corner.
At the other end, the impressive Beerens was involved once more in the 61st minute. Smithies fashioned a low block – collecting the ball at the second attempt – when the Reading man fired towards goal from inside the box.
This was fast becoming an end-to-end spectacle, and Smithies was forced into another stop in the 64th minute, parrying McCleary’s low blast after the visitors broke in numbers yet again.
With the game now firmly on a knife-edge, and Reading particularly growing in stature, Hasselbaink used his final R’s sub 17 minutes from time.
Idrissa Sylla – ultimately the hero with his goal at Fulham 14 days ago – replaced scorer Wszolek.
In Sylla, Polter and Washington, the home side now had three recognised strikers on the field.
But, in truth, Reading continued to shade proceedings after that.
That being said, Royals ‘keeper Al-Habsi had to produce an important intervention to keep out sub Washington in the 84th minute. He slid out to deny the forward in the penalty area following Borysiuk’s lobbed ball over the top.
In the end, that proved to be the last opportunity of note. It ended all-square, despite four minutes of added time.