Promotion hopefuls Reading and Queens Park Rangers missed the chance to improve on their positions in The Championship as Joey Barton cancelled out Garath McCleary’s opener at the Madejski Stadium.
Royals boss Nigel Adkins made a change to what had been a settled defence after conceding five at Sheffield Wednesday last time out. Veteran Latvian Kaspars Gorkss replaced Republic of Ireland international Alex Pearce and faced his former club.
Hoops manager Harry Redknapp meanwhile was also forced into an alteration. Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin picked up a serious knee injury in the home win over Derby County, so Gary O’Neil came in.
QPR flew out of the traps, but failed to take a host of early chances. Canadian winger Junior Hoilett rattled the bar when allowed to cut inside unchallenged. Alex McCarthy in the home goal then saved twice from Charlie Austin before Matt Phillips fired into the side-netting.
Weathering this early storm, Reading began to threaten themselves through Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. He stabbed wide when the Hoops defence failed to cut out a low McCleary cross. Pogrebnyak then headed over the bar.
Redknapp lost Jermaine Jenas half an hour in to a pulled hamstring. Niko Kranjcar replaced him. The Royals continued to press meanwhile with Rob Green tipping away Chris Baird’s header from a Danny Guthrie free kick.
The visitors ended the half as they began it with McCarthy keeping out a flicked Austin header and then turning over another Hoilett effort from outside the box. QPR were forced into another change at the break as defender Richard Dunne succumbed to a recurring groin problem. Nedum Onuoha was pressed into service.
A similar pattern of play to the second half followed until the hour when Adkins saw his side take the lead. McCleary came infield off the left and let fly from similar range to Hoilett’s early effort. This 25-yarder found the bottom corner, going in off the post.
Quickly reacting to falling behind, Redknapp sent Hoops striker Andy Johnson on. He combined with fellow attack Austin, but a half volley from the former Burnley man fell into McCarthy’s grateful gloves.
Controversial midfielder Barton brought QPR level 13 minutes from time when he fired a free kick through the Reading wall from the edge of the box. Hoilett soldiered on despite a late injury. Adkins looked to his bench, but it was too late to change this draw.
This contest was a Premier League fixture as recently as April and, in like fashion to their top flight meetings last term, both the Royals and Hoops had to settle for a point. It’s a result that better suits their promotion rivals.
- Reading: 21 Alex McCarthy, 2 Chris Gunter, 15 Sean Morrison (c), 17 Kaspars Gorkss, 3 Stephen Kelly, 12 Garath McCleary (11 Jobi McAnuff 89’), 6 Chris Baird, 20 Danny Guthrie (16 Hope Akpan 89’), 37 Jordan Obita, 7 Pavel Pogrebnyak, 19 Hal Robson-Kanu (14 Billy Sharp 89’) 4-4-2
- Goals: Garath McCleary 62’
- QPR: 1 Rob Green, 2 Danny Simpson, 5 Richard Dunne (15 Nedum Onuoha 46’), 6 Clint Hill (c), 39 Benoit Assou-Ekotto, 17 Joey Barton, 36 Gary O’Neil (8 Andy Johnson 66’), 7 Matt Phillips, 16 Jermaine Jenas (19 Niko Kranjcar 31’), 23 Junior Hoilett, 9 Charlie Austin 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Joey Barton 78’