The Queen’s Park Rangers manager, Harry Redknapp, rolled the dice on transfer deadline day with a handful of loan signings but the three games since then have yielded just one point against Burnley, Derby and Reading, all of them rivals for automatic promotion and play-off positions in the Championship.
During QPR’s only decent spell on Sunday, when a goal by one of the loanees, the former Reading striker Kevin Doyle, equalised the 10th-minute opener from Danny Williams, it looked like wheeler-dealing might outdo the solidity of the visitors selecting the same line-up for the seventh match running. Soon enough, though, there were plaintive cries of “Harry, sort it out” as a Rangers defence far removed from the parsimony of last autumn allowed Alex Pearce’s back-post header from Jobi McAnuff’s corner to put Reading in front again after 56 minutes and Garath McCleary’s sumptuous long-range shot to more or less complete the job two minutes later.
McCleary strolled from his own half and the Jamaican midfielder was challenged too late by Niko Kranjcar as he unleashed a dipping right-footer from outside the penalty area beyond the dive of Rob Green. It appeared to provoke angry words between two or three QPR players.
After successfully appealing Pearce’s red card from their previous match, Reading had his fellow centre-back Kaspars Gorkss sent off for a lunging foul on Junior Hoilett in the 71st minute. There had already been five yellow cards for innocuous fouls, including one that rules Joey Barton out of Rangers’ next two matches, so Gorkss, the Latvian who lifted the Championship trophy with QPR in 2011 and Reading a year later, took a mighty risk lunging for a ball he never looked likely to win.
“A silly challenge to even contemplate diving in for,” was the initial reaction of Reading’s otherwise delighted manager Nigel Adkins. He later tempered that to the tackle being worthy of further examination, but probably not another appeal. McAnuff, the Reading captain, added: “We wanted to show we were serious about promotion this year.”
Long-term injuries to QPR’s 14-goal top scorer Charlie Austin and his regular provider Matty Phillips forced Redknapp’s move for Will Keane, the England Under-21 striker from Manchester United, who made his debut yesterday, up front in a 4-4-2 alongside Doyle. Doyle struck in the 20th minute of his first appearance against the club he left five years ago. Hoilett cut out a weak clearance on the edge of the penalty area and stabbed a short through ball to Keane, whose weak shot was parried into Doyle’s path by Alex McCarthy.
McCleary and Barton – for a mild push on Adam Le Fondre – joined Hoilett, Clint Hill and Williams in the book in the second half, during which Reading rejigged capably in Gorkss’s absence.
“We’ve started to ship goals and for two of Reading’s we backed off them,” said Redknapp’s assistant, Kevin Bond, who confirmed QPR are still pursuing the loan signing of West Ham’s Ravel Morrison. “In an effort to do something about scoring, we’ve made ourselves more open to conceding them.”