Taarabt wears the star but he's not the lone Ranger

Queens Park Rangers 3 Reading 1
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Happy days are here again in Shepherd's Bush. Almost 15 years after dropping out of the Premier League, and then falling through to the third tier, Queens Park Rangers remain the only unbeaten team in the Football League. Furthermore, they sit on top of the Championship, a position regained before today's epic dust-up between Cardiff and Swansea, despite playing the whole of the second half with 10 men after a red card for their right-back Bradley Orr.

It was a deserved success for a team fashioned by Neil Warnock with a blend of silk and steel. Like Reading's Brian McDermott, Warnock steered his side to a position of safety after being summoned in a crisis last season and has lifted them into serious contention this time. They have one of the division's great entertainers in Adel Taarabt, never quite consistent enough at Tottenham but thriving here, who would acknowledge his debt to the hard graft of Shaun Derry behind him, while the second holding midfielder, Argentine Alejandro Faurlin, is a pleasing all-rounder.

McDermott felt Taarabt "was the difference today" and Warnock would not disagree about the "likeable rogue"he has made team captainto encourage greater responsibility. Naturally enough, he also wished to spread credit around more evenly. "I'm really proud to be manager of the team today,"he said. "You wouldn't have thought we were down to10 men."

At Reading last season Rangers had a man sent off and tried to defend, then lost to a late goal. "So I thought we'd have a go at them in the second half and it was delightful to get three goals," Warnock said.

Rangers were already ahead at the time of the sending-off. Taarabt had already caused problems before wriggling into the penalty area to be tripped by Brian Howard. Older hands recalled Rodney Marsh – praise does not come much higher in these parts – who would have admired the cheeky chipped penalty with which Taarabt defeated Adam Federici.

It should have been the second goal if not the third. Early on Faurlin strode forward to crack a shot against the bar, Rob Hulse screwing the rebound weakly across the six-yard area. From Orr's cross, the old warrior Hulse did better with a header that the goalkeeper saved, then disappointingly again by heading Tommy Smith's centre over the bar.

The balance of the game, very much in the home team's favour at that stage, appeared to change just before the interval when Orr lunged in high on one of the division's more interesting names, Hal Robson-Kanu, and received a straight red card.

For the second half Rangers moved Jamie Mackie, recently made a Scottish international, to full-back and attacked when they could in a 4-4-1 formation. That made sense and brought the reward of a second goal before the visitors had threatened even once. Taarabt continued to attract the attention of two or sometimes three opponents, often luring them into frustrated fouls, and when he wriggled free to set up Tommy Smith on the right, Matthew Mills could only clear as far as Faurlin, who doubled the lead.

That proved to be the first of three goals in 10 minutes as Rangers slackened their grip then regained it. In the 68th minute Reading finally produced an effort worthy of a goal when Shane Long cut inside and hit the top corner of the net from almost 25 yards.It was only the second goal Rangers had conceded at home all season and the sixth in all.

Three minutes later, however, Federici did well enough to parry Derry's free-kick only to see Smith knock the ball back past him for a first goal on his first start since leaving Portsmouth on transfer deadline day.

Comments