Rangers produced an admirable response to falling behind at the Madejski Stadium. In previous seasons, Garath McCleary’s opener would almost certainly have led to a familiar collapse, but this squad is made of sterner stuff. Joey Barton’s equaliser was deserved and his celebration, racing to the touchline to hold aloft a shirt belonging to injured team-mate Alejandro Faurlin, was testament to the spirit in the QPR camp.
Austin needs chances:
Charlie Austin is becoming something of an enigmatic figure at QPR. The striker, who signed from Burnley during the summer, has already scored seven goals in 17 appearances. Austin is the classic ‘fox in the box’ forward who thrives on service from midfield – but he does tend to miss those chances. Against Reading, Austin might have had a hat-trick or more, forcing Alex McCarthy into a string of saves. McCarthy won the man-of-the-match award, and rightly so, but Austin should really have buried at least one of his many chances. In a QPR side which generally does not score too many goals, they cannot afford a profligate striker.
Phillips and Hoilett can tear up the Championship:
This performance gave a tantalising glimpse of the potential of QPR’s two wingers, Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips. The wide men tormented Reading throughout the afternoon, but particularly in the first 30 minutes. Both players like to take on their marker before cutting inside, and both do it to good effect. Hoilett hit the bar, and Phillips spent all day scurrying up and down the touchline, creating chances for Austin. If the duo can add goals to their game – even five or six a season – QPR will easily have the best attack in the Championship.
Green for England?
Rob Green has not put a foot wrong for QPR this season, and the ‘keeper deserves credit. Green kept a club-record breaking eight consecutive clean sheets earlier in the campaign, and even though he was beaten by McCleary’s long-range strike here, he was otherwise faultless, making one blinding first-half save. With question-marks surrounding England’s No.1 Joe Hart, who was dropped by Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, Green’s international might not be over yet, if Roy Hodgson can give him a chance.
Barton stole the headlines again – but this time, for all the right reasons. Barton has been a revelation this season, accepting his failure to get his move to Marseille with good grace, and setting about playing arguably the best football of his career. Against Reading, he again came to the fore, scoring the equaliser with a quality free-kick and dictating play in midfield. His nightmare at the Etihad 18 months ago is receding into distant memory, and Barton is gradually rebuilding his reputation as a strong all-round midfielder.
image: © joncandy