RANGERS were forced to settle for a share of the spoils against Reading, despite twice taking the lead in this live Sky Sports encounter at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
QPR did move up to fourth in the Sky Bet Championship table with this result, but will probably reflect on two points dropped after twice grabbing the initiative in W12.
Nahki Wells struck his eighth goal of the season to give the R’s a 25th-minute lead, before visitors Reading – under newly-appointed boss and former Rangers assistant Mark Bowen – equalised through George Puscas two minutes later.
Jordan Hugill’s 58th-minute strike saw the Super Hoops regain their advantage, but this affair ended all-square, ultimately, as Sam Baldock rounded off the scoring by registering a Royals second in the 74th minute.
R’s boss Mark Warburton made one change to the team that secured a 3-2 victory at Hull City on Saturday.
Hugill replaced Bright Osayi-Samuel in Rangers' starting XI, with QPR reverting to a 4-2-2-2 formation as a result.
The hosts lined up as: Liam Kelly; Angel Rangel, Toni Leistner (captain), Yoann Barbet, Ryan Manning; Josh Scowen, Geoff Cameron; Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze; Hugill, Wells.
There wasn’t much to choose between the teams in what was a bit of an untidy opening.
Reading had the first real chance of this contest in the eighth minute. Neat footwork from visiting playmaker Oviemuno Ejaria ended with him slipping in Baldock, whose subsequent box attempt forced a fine block from R’s ‘keeper Kelly.
Rangers’ maiden effort arrived six minutes later. Wells stood up a cross for strike partner Hugill, whose looping header lacked the pace to trouble Reading custodian Rafael Cabral.
In-form QPR weren’t exactly at their free-flowing best early on in the first half, and Kelly produced another fine save to keep out Ejaria in the 22nd minute – who danced his way to 20 yards from goal before unleashing a fierce low shot.
However, the R’s had strong appeals for a penalty turned away in the 25th minute. Andy Yiadom looked to have intentionally handled Wells’ 12-yard effort, but an award wasn’t forthcoming from referee Jeremy Simpson.
Wells didn’t let that bother him, though, emphatically handing Rangers the lead in the 29th minute.
Eze’s clever pass went through the legs of Michael Morrison to find Wells on the edge of the area, before the Bermudan international buried an effort into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Rangers in front, then – but that didn’t last long. Only two minutes, in fact.
Ejaria – who had posed Reading’s greatest attacking threat so far – played a ball from deep that allowed Puscas to race free of last-man Leistner. Puscas then produced a low finish from 16 yards to beat Kelly, who had strayed off his goal-line.
The R’s will have been disappointed to squander their lead so soon, but did almost regain the one-goal advantage five minutes from half-time.
Reading couldn’t clear Manning’s floated free-kick into the box and, when Leistner saw his initial shot blocked, Cameron followed up to fire over from inside the penalty area.
Rangers made a first change of the evening at the break, with Todd Kane brought on to replace Rangel.
Warburton’s men – who also changed to a 3-5-2 formation in the process – made a bright start to the second period.
That positivity was rewarded with an R’s second just short of the hour mark.
Kelly’s long ball forward was initially flicked on by Hugill and, when Wells in turn played the ball back into his path, the West Ham loanee’s 18-yard blast skipped up into the net via a deflection off Royals skipper Liam Moore.
With their lead now back intact, a second Rangers substitution arrived in the 67th minute. Luke Amos replaced Wells.
Four minutes later, the R’s went close to adding a third goal. Patient approach play resulted in Manning crossing from the left to Kane at the back post who, albeit heavily on the stretch, could only poke wide.
But Reading levelled matters sixteen minutes from time.
John Swift’s left-flank centre was headed back across goal by Yiadom and, when the ball squirmed past a couple of bodies in the six-yard box, Baldock eventually stole in to smash home from close range.
Defensively, it was another disappointing goal to concede. In the 78th minute, meanwhile, Baldock so nearly had a second when he turned Puscas’ right-wing cross only just over the bar.
With 10 minutes of normal time remaining, this game hung in the balance somewhat. Would there be a winner?
From Rangers’ point of view, unfortunately not – despite four minutes of stoppage time at the death.
The R’s huffed and puffed, but couldn’t produce any further clear goalscoring opportunities, subsequently having to settle for a point in the end.