Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Championship meeting between Reading
and Queens Park Rangers
at the Madejski Stadium. This prolonged Football League weekend gets underway in Berkshire this evening as two teams with an eye on the playoffs face off.
Reading have looked a little shaky in recent weeks, winning just one of their last seven games, but they are still well positioned to climb into the top six with a win here tonight. QPR, on the other hand, are still on the lookout for a new manager and are currently languishing in mid-table with nearly half the season played.
READING XI: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Taylor, Hector, Ferdinand, Norwood, Williams, Fernandez, McCleary, Vydra, Blackman
QPR XI: Green, Perch, Hall, Onuoha, Konchesky, Sandro, Faurlin, Petrasso, Fer, Hoilett, Phillips
The home side are, as expected, without skipper Paul McShane for this evening's match due to the facial injury he picked up against Nottingham Forest last time out. That means a place in the starting lineup for Alex Fernandez, while Anton Ferdinand and Michael Hector partner up in the heart of defence.
has made three changes in all from last weekend's disappointing defeat, bringing in the fit-again Garath McCleary as the final alteration. Nick Blackman has seen his goal tally remain stagnant on 11 following a slack few weeks in front of goal, but he will no doubt prove a threat this evening playing just off Matej Vydra in attack.
It is just the one change as far as the visitors are concerned, as Leroy Fer replaces Yun Suk-Young in the starting lineup at the Madejski Stadium. That does of course means that Charlie Austin is not deemed fit enough to start the contest, so he has to make do with a place among the back-ups.
Tjaronn Chery must have felt that he was in strong contention for a first league start since October, but he is left out of the starting XI once more. Neil Warnock
does retain the faith in Michael Petrasso, however, naming the young Canadian in his team for just his second start.
READING SUBS: Bond, Robson-Kanu, Sa, Obita, Hurtado, John, Cooper
QPR SUBS: Smithies, Angella, Chery, Henry, Luongo, Tozser, Austin
Hal Robson-Kanu makes a welcome return to the Reading squad this evening, taking his place alongside fellow attack-minded player Orlando Sa who misses out once again. Jake Cooper was in contention to start alongside Hector in defence, but that honour instead goes to Ferdinand. QPR, as already touched upon, have both Austin and Chery among their replacements.
Charlie Austin is only fit enough for a place among the QPR subs this evening. Neil Warnock has made just the one change to his side from last weekend's win over Leeds United, while Steve Clarke has opted to go with three alterations.
© Getty Images
Well Steve Clarke
has just about ensured that talk over his near-switch to Championship rivals Fulham is now in the past, but supporters will certainly not forgive the man in charge for even contemplating the move until the positive results return. Reading recorded six wins from seven games earlier this season to put themselves in real contention at the top, yet since then it is one win in seven.
Despite the poor form, the Royals are still in playoff contention and require just a single point to draw level with Birmingham City in sixth place this evening. Reading also boast some decent home form, having suffered just one defeat at the Madejski this term as opposed to three-successive losses on the road.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Just four goals have been scored in the last five meetings between these two sides combined. The omens are good for Reading, though, because the home side has lost this fixture only once during that run.
QPR appear to be closing in on the appointment of Burton Albion's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as their new manager, but as of this moment in time an official announcement has yet to have been made and Neil Warnock is still at the helm. All the experienced boss can do is steady the ship until the new man comes in - be it Hasselbaink or someone else - with the intention of keeping within touching distance of the top six.
Victory here this evening will see the Hoops move to within two points of their playoff target so, despite the mixed opening third to the season, QPR are certainly not out of the promotion race just yet. That said, the gap to the bottom three is just eight points, underlining the indifferent campaign to date under Chris Ramsey and Warnock.
Warnock did pick up a first win in his second coming as Hoops boss last weekend, though, building on what was a harsh defeat to Middlesbrough the week prior. This squad also boasts some real talent, not least Matty Phillips, Rob Green and Austin, so this next run of results could decide the club's likely outgoing business in January.
QPR get proceedings under at the Madejski Stadium. I mentioned how this fixture has lacked goals in recent times, so let's just hope that changes this evening!
Ferdinand had to be alert at the back to deny QPR on the counter, standing firm to deny a ball through to Phillips. The Hoops looked very impressive in their last away outing at Boro at the back, but the onus is surely there to go more attacking tonight.
Some decent intricate link-up play from the hosts, but they have been unable to really work the ball into a dangerous area of the field. Warnock will be just about the happier of the two managers following the opening five minutes of this contest.
Still a lack of real tempo to the contest, with neither side yet to truly get a grip on things. Reading have seen more of the ball so far, without troubling their opponents whatsoever.
CHANCE! Blackman gets away from Konchesky down the right, forcing the QPR full-back to pull back on his opponent's shirt. The referee was thinking of giving a yellow, which never did arrive, but further punishment almost arrived from the free kick. Norwood swung one in for Hector to meet at the back post, which the defender nodded right across goal.
QPR clearly fail to learn their lesson, giving another free kick away in a near identical position for Norwood to once again swing in. It's another great delivery, too, but this time the Hoops just about divert the ball away before the Reading attack dies down.
A good spell for the home side, this, which could end with a goal to show for their efforts at this rate. QPR struggling to get a foot on the ball at the minute, with Reading well on top and getting balls into the box.
Solid defending from Ferdinand once again, this time getting across to deny Phillips the chance of cutting into a central position. QPR have got into more advanced positions over the past couple of minutes, but Konchesky fails to keep the ball in play when whipping in a cross to see the rare move break down.
QPR are left Hector's foul on Fer, who looks to drift into a little gap in the hole. The visitors certainly have some quality in the attacking areas, which is further bolstered by the inclusion of Austin among their subs.
For the third time this evening Norwood delivers another decent cross from the right. No Reading player could get a head to the cross, though, and another opening goes begging. Just the one chance so far this evening - coming from a Norwood set piece - which Hector headed wide a little earlier.
So very little between the teams at the moment in truth and, I'm afraid to say, it is shaping up as though it is going to be a low-scoring stalemate. Reading may have had a breakthrough had Fernandez not overhit his pass to Vydra who was left unmarked in a central position.
No way through for the returning forward so far. There has been little by the way of chances in the opening quarter of this goalless affair.
SHOT! Hoilett wins the ball off Fernandez and gets a shot on goal at the end of the attack, but it was simple enough for Al-Habsi to collect right down the middle. Up the other end, Blackman dragged his attempt wide from what was his first real sight of goal.
So a couple of signs there that this game may have a goal in it as it progresses, but which way that opener goes is anyone's guess at the moment. The pressure will grow on Reading more so than their opponents to get forward as this match wares on, you feel.
YELLOW CARD! Fer's momentum takes his right through Norwood, to see the game's first yellow card correctly waved in his direction. Not been a particularly dirty match, yet both sets of players have been left unhappy with certain challenges so far.
Blackman looks to slip in Vydra but his pass is quite easily cut out in the end. Still just the one chance in this match, though Reading have yet to have a single shot on goal.
Gunter gets high up the field but a punt into his direction is a tad overhit. The Royals perhaps looking to get bodies forward in a quicker manner now in order to break down their resilient opponents.
Still an incredibly bland half of football, with very little action to speak of. There is no sign whatsoever of either side opening the scoring at the Madejski Stadium, with 10 minutes to go before the break.
QPR win themselves a corner kick to put the Royals under a little pressure, only for the set piece to go straight through the box. It certainly wasn't a bad delivery, with Al-Habsi left stranded between his sticks, but no visiting player could capitalise.
Reading's turn to win a first corner of the match now, which McCleary drives into a central position. QPR defend it well through the powerful Onuoha, though, to bring an abrupt end to another attacking move.
This game is just crying out for one of these sides to get a grip on things and get bodies forward to sustain some pressure. Seems to be a real fear of conceding first at the moment, meaning a goalless first half seems inevitable at this point.
YELLOW CARD! Hall is the next player to see yellow, this time for handball on the halfway line. Taking one for the team, really, as Reading were looking to break.
Sandro gets forward and sees his cross deflected behind for a corner. The delivery is thumped away by Al-Habsi, though this is a positive enough end to the half from the visiting side.
Onuoha blocks away a delivery into Vydra's pass, before full-back Taylor launched a shot well over the bar. It's a shot, at least - just a third of the half from the Royals. Just 30 seconds or so left to play at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: READING 0-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Well this is usually the point where I analyse the first-half action, but there is honestly so very little to discuss. QPR had one attempt on goal, coming via Hoilett's weak effort around 25 minutes in, while the home side had two half chances at a push.
Reading's best hope of making a breakthrough appeared to come through Norwood's set-piece deliveries out on the right-hand side, the first of which Hector headed narrowly across the face of goal. Blackman had just the one sight of goal directly after Hoilett's shot up the other end, which he dragged wide on his weaker right foot.
That proved to be it in terms of the first-half action, I'm afraid, with just the odd challenge being thrown in to liven things up slightly. Tonight marks the 25th anniversary of Sir John Madejski's Reading reign, but this will be somewhere close to the bottom of the pile when it comes to ranking the all-time great matches witnessed here.
Just how fit is Charlie Austin? Even if he's only at 25%, the prolific forward will surely add some attacking quality to this bland affair. In terms of the Royals, the have the returning Hal Robson-Kanu to call upon, while Orlando Sa is also an option.
READING SUBS: Bond, Robson-Kanu, Sa, Obita, Hurtado, John, Cooper
QPR SUBS: Smithies, Angella, Chery, Henry, Luongo, Tozser, Austin
No way through for Reading yet, but Garath McCleary had proven pedigree in this fixture with two goals in two games against tonight's opponents QPR.
© Getty Images
RESTART! No changes made by either manager at the break, so it's as you were at the Madejski Stadium. Will we see an improvement in this second half? I certainly hope so!
Petrasso shows plenty of confidence in midfield to belie the way this game has gone so far. Goals are always at a premium when these sides meet - just four in the last five combined, in fact - so we can't really complain.
Will it be Steve Clarke or Neil Warnock who shows their hand first in terms of alterations? The hour mark is usually when changes are made, but we can surely expect that to be brought forward by a few minutes at this rate. Still absolutely nothing happening.
Sandro's half-volley deflects behind off Hector for a QPR corner, sparking life into the travelling supporters. Onuoha was the target at the front post, but Faurlin couldn't quite pick him out at either the first or second attempt.
At long last - QPR have built up just a little momentum and finally the game has some sort of rhythm to it. Phillips swings in a cross to the front post which is once more cleared away. Petrasso then burst through but perhaps took too many touches and was crowded out inside the box.
Hoilett is caught in the head by Taylor's knee to bring a stoppage in play. That may be bad news for QPR, but the good news is that Austin is seemingly stripping down to his playing kit on the touchline and readying himself to come on.
CHANCE! Just a glimmer of an opening for Reading, but unfortunately for the hosts this latest chance once again falls to Hector, who couldn't quite get a clear shot away inside the box. The centre-back had an even better opportunity moments later from a corner, however, heading over from close range when getting ahead of his marker.
So certainly an improvement in the game over the last 10 minutes, then, which can pretty much be traced back to the moment QPR opted to get forward and attack rather than sit back on the draw. They have yet to create a clear-cut chance tonight, while Hector just headed over his side's best opening.
QPR were ready to make a couple of changes, but they are just waiting to see if Hoilett is okay to continue following his earlier knock to the head. Reading now in possession and patiently looking to find a way through the visitors' backline.
QPR SUB! Petrasso has tried his best to make an impact on his second QPR start, but hasn't really made a great deal of difference. His replacement almost certainly will - Charlie Austin the man to come on with 25 minutes left to play.
OFF THE BAR! It's a real belter from Blackman, whose free kick well and truly dips in the air before crashing back off the crossbar with some force. Green was rooted to his spot, despite the ball being within touching distance right above his head. Can only assume that the former England international expected the attempt to float well over.
A big scare at the back for the visitors as Hall's headed back to Green lacked any real pace, allowing Vydra to chase it all the way. Green was waiting right on the edge of his box, however, and the ball just had the legs to make its way to the keeper prior to the Reading forward getting a touch.
YELLOW CARD! Faurlin, with a heavily bandaged head following an earlier challenge, bursts away from Norwood before being pulled back by the midfielder. Norwood just about avoids an automatic one-match ban, with the cut-off point now being extended from five cautions to 10.
The second half has certainly bettered the first in terms of action in the final third, but we are yet to see a breakthrough at the Madejski Stadium with three quarters of the game played.
© Getty Images
A cross into the box is well collected by Al-Habsi. Solid goalkeeper, with Charlie Austin waiting to pounce on any loose ball. Reading about to make a change or two.
READING SUB! Hal Robson-Kanu makes his welcome return to action following a six-week layoff, providing something slightly different in his hybrid forward role. Just 15 minutes left to go in this one, and it is still delicately poised to say the least.
QPR SUB! About 10 minutes later than planned due to that Hoilett knock, Chery is finally introduced in place of the defender. His first piece of action is to smash a free kick into the Reading wall.
Williams almost releases Blackman, but Konchesky got across well to thwart the danger. This game may have lacked any real drama, but at least it is still wide open heading into the closing stages. QPR and Reading will no doubt go all out for the points - one is not really ideal for either.
CHANCE! The best chance of the match has just been squandered by Onuoha, who got on the end of Austin's flick on just a few yards from goal but headed over the crossbar when left free. A glorious opportunity to surely win the contest has just passed the Hoops by.
READING SUBS! Steve Clarke makes his final two changes at the same time, bringing on Sa and John for Blackman and Vydra. Eight minutes to go in Berkshire.
CHANCE! What's that saying about London buses? Moments after QPR came close up one end, Robson-Kanu does likewise up the other. Having been slipped through on goal, the returning forward really should have tested Green at the very least from the tight angle, but instead drilled an effort wide.
The ball breaks nicely for Chery to unleash a shot, which is blocked away on the edge of the box. Fer is completely wiped out by Hector in the build-up which leaves him a little winded, but he is okay to continue.
The gasps around the Madejski Stadium are audible as a Faurlin flick on is so very nearly latched on to by Austin, only for the ball to zip through to a grateful Al-Habsi. The striker was clearly offside, but the flag didn't go up - maybe because he didn't technically interfere with play.
GOAL! READING 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS (NEDUM ONUOHA)
Well QPR played well and lost the points at the death in their last away outing - it's a completely different story this evening. Neither side has truly deserved to win the game, but credit to the visitors for at least throwing bodies forward at this late corner. The ball found its way to Onuoha at the back post, who nodded the ball into the ground and somehow beyond the reach of a flummoxed Al-Habsi.
The Royals stopper will not won't to see that one again, having allowed to ball to just roll into the net. Reading have two more minutes of added time to rescue themselves a share of the spoils.
A hugely disappointing evening for Reading, who have now picked up just one win in eight. A chance to climb into the playoff zone has now passed them by, as they struggle to get the ball forward here.
FULL TIME: READING 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was certainly a slow burner, but we did at least have some entertainment in the final 30 minutes or so of this Championship contest. In truth, neither side really did enough to win the game, but QPR will not care a great deal after picking up maximum points to claw themselves within two points of the playoff zone.
For Reading the chance to climb into the top six themselves passes them by, with the pressure now starting to build on manager Steve Clarke just a fortnight after turning down the Fulham job in a dramatic U-turn. In the end Nedum Onuoha
's late header proved the difference to bring Neil Warnock's time in charge of the club to a winning conclusion.
That concludes Sports Mole's coverage of this evening's match at the Madejski Stadium, but be sure to join us tomorrow for live commentary of Ipswich Town vs. Middlesbrough in what should prove to be a more entertaining affair across the 90 minutes. See you then!