(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: Hughes (57 mins).
QPR Scorers: -
Date: 5 January 2002
Attendance: 19,329

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Parkinson, Hughes, Igoe (Jones 70), Forster (Henderson 81), Rougier (Cureton 89), Salako. Subs not used: Ashdown, Gamble.

QPR: Digby, Forbes, Palmer, Askar, Bruce (Langley 66), Bignot, Peacock, Rose (Bonnot 29), Connolly (Leaburn 87), Gallen, Thomson. Subs not used: Pacquette, Evans.

Bookings: Parkinson (Reading); Langley (QPR).
Referee: Bill Jordan (Tring)

Reading showed they'd returned to full form this afternoon in front of a huge Madejski Stadium crowd. So often the Royals disappoint with a golden opportunity to impress in front of a near full house, but today Reading shined to climb to second place in the table - equal on points with league leaders Stoke City. QPR arrived at the Madejski Stadium in good form looking to build on their promotion campaign in front of a massive away following, but in the end were outplayed by a Reading side that were more determined in the fight for promotion.

With Graeme Murty suffering no ill effects after being stretchered off on Tuesday, Reading were able to field a side that matched the team that beat Port Vale 2-0 just a few days ago. Pardew opted to bring Parkinson back into midfield with Jones ready on the bench, and the line-up seemed to work a treat right from kick-off. Reading were playing some decent football right from the off. There was lots of passing on the ground and a distinct lack of hoofing, and it was the kind of football that was massively entertaining for the crowd of well over 19,000.

QPR looked dangerous in the few moments they managed to break through the Reading defence - but thankfully they were unable to stay onside when they did find the net in the first half. WIth the away fans celebrating the home fans relaxed with the flag held high well before the ball crossed the line. QPR were caught offside a massive number of times as they came forward and their only other efforts of the first half seemed to be desperate shots from well outside the area that spun well wide of the target. Hahnemann came well for a number of balls in the box, but again wasn't really needed to make a save in the opening 45 minutes, expect for pushing a weak low shot wide of the post.

The first half really belonged to the Royals who battled at hard as they've done at any point during the season so far. Every ball was chased and we kept possession well. When the ball was lost in midfield there was always a good chance of getting it back with Parkinson and Hughes having excellent games in the middle of the park. A suprise package for the afternoon was Tony Rougier who was everywhere on the pitch doing everything. It would be easy to centre on his performance up front, but it was his pace and ability to tackle that deservedly won him the man of the match award.

With some neat quick passing football we looked likely to go ahead well before the break. After about twenty minutes it was nearly 1-0 to the Royals after Nicky Shorey moved the ball through the middle and set up Forster to run on at the keeper. Forster stayed on his feet and took it wide to the right of the keeper. Unfortunately the angle was too great and he was unable to get a decent enough shot in and the ball was cleared. Under a lot of pressure QPR conceeded a whole load of corners as Reading continued to look for the opening. Unfortunately the QPR defence seemed as strong as the Royals and despite efforts from Forster and Salako we failed to trouble the keeper.

The second half started with QPR's best spell of the game and Hahnemann was needed to make his first real save of the match to push over a shot from close range. However Reading kept the game well under control, and despite conceeding a couple of corners, continued to look tight at the back. Mackie and Williams in the centre of defence looked as solid as you could ask for and contributed a lot to Reading's attack as they played the ball out from defence via the full backs. Hahnemann was also having a great game with some superb balls out from the back. One of Hahnemann's balls upfield led to Reading taking the lead.

It was only right that Rougier, who had been working so hard, did all the hard work for the goal. Rougier took the ball into the edge of the box on the right and took the ball to one side and then the other of his marker and managed to stay on his feet despite some contact between the two players. Eventually he managed to get goalside and lunged forward before cutting the ball sweetly back to Andy Hughes in the middle of the area. Hughes had done well to work himself into such a great passing position and latched onto the cut back to shoot. The shot wasn't the best as it trickled goal bound along the floor. After an age the ball rested just over the line inside the left post and Reading were 1-0 up. To say Hughes was happy was an understatement. It was a deserved goal for the player who looks so much better after moving into the centre of midfield.

Hughes new role has given him a new lease of life. After giving Reading the lead he almost created another after running at pace down the right wing and sending over a beautiful cross to the far post. The ball was knocked low across the face of goal finding Salako goalside of the defence and certain to score. He made contact but somehow the ball hit his shin and spun wide when it looked certain that Reading would go two up.

With time running out there was plenty of reason to expect the late QPR equaliser as Reading started to defend deep. Thankfully we continued to attack rather than settling on the lead which could have been disasterous. Rougier had really run himself into the ground and it was no suprise when he failed to find the target after being set up on the left side of the box. His shot was poor, but it was hard to blame him after spending 80 minutes running around like a nutter. Rougier rarely lost the ball but when he did he'd chase the man until he won it back - a delight to see. He should have gone off sooner though, but when he did it gave Cureton a late chance to get involved. Cureton looked sharp again and did well to turn and shoot deep in the box on the right - his shot was narrowly wide of the post.

Injury time was played out with Salako and Hughes in the corner of the pitch, winning a few corners and throw-ins as time continued to tick by. It was frustrating for QPR but it was also a true indication of our control on the game at this point. When we did break out of the corner Hughes skipped through the middle of two defenders to break clear to run on goal. For his troubles he was taken down from behind, as we continued to look likely for a late second. Moments later the final whistle had gone completing a confident and deserved victory over a decent QPR side. We've put ourselves in a great position. It's now time to keep this new run of form going.

Following report by John Wells:
Today was a great day to be a Reading fan. The Royals produced a gutsy performance today in front of a huge crowd and the atmosphere was tremendous. The result went our way and deservedly so - just! Rangers are a much better side than the one we dominated at Loftus Road earlier in the season. That day we were cheated out of two points by an appalling refereeing decision. Today we got our just deserts.

Reading attacked from the start and played with the passion they have shown in recent away games. On eleven minutes Forster produced a sharp turn and shot on the edge of the box which flew narrowly past the post. Two minutes later Forster again almost opened the scoring when he ran onto a fine through ball by Shorey. He took it past the 'keeper but wide of the goal and when he got his shot away, although he found the target from a narrow angle, he was thwarted by superb defending on the line and had to settle for a corner. Igoe had a good strike on goal deflected wide. The pressure was intense. The home fans were really behind their team now. The large contingent of Rangers fans had been making a lot of noise initially but were gradually becoming more subdued as Reading continued to dominate the game.

The fast and furious pace predictably slowed towards half time and Rangers were certainly looking dangerous on the break. From where I was sitting they looked to have a good goal disallowed for offside but apparently it was deflected in by a player in an offside position. The chance was created by poor defending when Williams backed off Gallen to provide the time a space for a shot. That apart the was defence working as a unit and looking very secure as they have for the last few games. One goal conceded in four games tells it all. Williams has returned to his best form and Mackie developed into a very solid centre back. They have been dominant in the air and restricted their opponents to a very few scoring opportunities. Murty and Shorey have often played their way out of trouble and supported the midfield and forwards well.

Rangers had their best spell immediately after half time and with patient and controlled football forced Reading to defend. There was certain amount of edginess creeping into the Royals game and they were conceding possession too easily. Rangers nearly took the lead when a fierce shot was deflected onto the crossbar by Hahnemann. When interviewed after the game he revealed that the shot was driven so fiercely he had no time to react and the ball had deflected off his head! However the Royals could not be faulted for work rate and didn't look like losing their grip on the game.

The crucial goal was created by Rougier's twisting run on the left wing. His cross was met by Hughes who completely miscued his shot deceiving everybody and the ball trickled slowly over the line. With half an hour to go we were set for a very tense and competitive finish and we were not disappointed. Rangers to their credit did not panic and played some good stuff at times but were up against a very determined Reading side. Salako could have finished the game off but missed an absolute sitter when set up unselfishly by Forster from a good deep cross from Hughes. The substitution of Rougier came too late. He had run himself into the ground. Cureton was only on the field for a few minutes - long enough to demonstrate why he is the best finisher in the squad almost scoring at the far post after controlling the ball superbly. His all round game will need to improve if he is going to dislodge Rougier or Forster at the moment. After the goal Hughes began to show what he is capable of by running at the Rangers defence and using his pace and strength to go past players. Perhaps now he will now have the confidence to do it again next week.

This performance was an indication that things have improved since October. Everyone was prepared to run and close down players all over the field. Team spirit has never been better. Pardew must take some of the credit for this but the influence of Kevin Dillon should not be underestimated. Basically they are now playing as a team and with more enthusiasm and less anxiety. Players are taking more care with their passing and less inclined to hit long aimless balls when under pressure. Perhaps they are being coached more intelligently, receiving more encouragement and less criticism. Not everything comes off but they are trying to do the right things and you can't ask for more than that.

So over the past two months a side constantly disrupted by injuries and suspensions the Royals have climbed into a very strong position in the league. Today's win today gives Reading the same number of points as Stoke at the top - and we are playing well.

Post Match Opinions

Tremendous performance very similar to when we played QPR at their place earlier in the season, except this time justice was seen with the Royals taking the three points. Outstanding defensive display today with many shining and credit where it's due, Rougier worked his socks off and Hughes surely had his best ever game in a Reading shirt and got my vote for man of the match. Long long way to go, but we're back in the driving seat, lets stay there....URZ!
-- Nick Newbury

Three words - Up For It.
The first half saw a determined game where Reading were determined to win every ball. The last 0-0 first half I enjoyed as much was against West Ham. The second half saw both sides making more mistakes but who would have thought the QPR backs would be broken by a Rougier Hughes combination. I don't really want to pick out players, the team done well and a large crowd really enjoyed themselves. Pardew seems to be instilling a great spirit in the squad -just 20 games to go!

-- Bucks Royal

At last, we perform and perform well in front of a big crowd!
QPR couldn't match our commitment or guile and I left the ground thinking how we only managed to win by one. Hats of to Rougier and Hughes, who both had their best games for Reading. But for me, Mackie and Williams were absolutely outstanding, hardly giving their on-form strike force a sniff. And some of oour passing along the ground was a different class. We panicked a little in the last quarter of the game by defending too deep and giving the ball away too often, but this is nitpicking. I had the misfortune to be sat in the Upper West among 50 or so QPR fans and I have to say they were the most irritating, blinkered and foul mouthed yobs I've ever had the misfortune to be sat among. One Rangers fan behind me kept on saying how much "we don't deserve to lose". What game was he watching? He must have missed the first 45 minutes and at least half of the second period, both of which we dominated. Nice to leave the ground with a satisfied, smug grin on my face!

-- Roy Evans

This was as good as it gets with a 1-0 score line.
The game had been built up a great deal and usually we let ourselves down on these occasions. Not today. This afternoon we saw two teams who both wanted to win the game and who wanted to play football. That it was won by reading was because of their greater desire and their superior all round ability. The person who perhaps deserves the greatest credit is the manager. he has had more than his fair share of injuries, but he has assembled a squad which showed today that it is willing to run and chase all sorts of lost causes. Nowhere on the pitch was this better displayed than by Tony Rougier who showed that he can harness an astonishing work rate to his undoubted skill. It was ashamed that he did not score today because he deserved to. Unusually we started brightly urged on by tremendous support. we dominated the first half and the only concern was the fact that we did not turn our superiority into goals. QPR looked a neat and tidy side but did not really threaten, whereas we did but did not find that finishing touch. It was interesting to see Hughes operate in the centre of midfield and I though that he had an excellent game, in contrast to his recent performances. It was also good to see Parkie back at his best, winning the ball fairly and playing the simple pass. The only disappointment of the first half was the lack of a home goal. Forster went close, but not close enough. It was obvious that QPR must have more to offer and so it proved at the start of the second half when they enjoyed their best period of the game as they started very brightly. The back five all did well. Mackie continues to impress and it is good that he has some pace. We ought not to keep going on about Murty and Shorey or someone will come and make a silly bid for them, but they both look so comfortable on the ball. Hahnemann made one good save and his distribution was excellent. When the goal came it had that lucky edge to it. Some excellent work by Rougier followed with the ball being played to Hughes who somehow contrived to mishit it completely, sending their keeper the wrong way so that he could only watch as the ball bobbled over the line. Who cared? We were winning and thoroughly deserved it. That we did not go on to be clear winners was due to some poor finishing. How Solako missed his chance after good work by Rougier let Forster find him with a pass, only he will know. The reality was that we could and should have won by two or more clear goals. That we did not merely added to the tension, but today was our day. There will need to be more days like today. It has been a strange season so far. Today was the best performance that I have seen at home and I include West Ham in that. We are more consistent away, and certainly the best of all was probably the first half at Notts County. What we need to do is to press on from here. Retain the commitment and the desire that we saw today, that will keep the fans supporting like they did today. It just needs a few finishing touches, preferably from the strikers!
Well done Pards!

-- Ken C

A really good performance from Reading today, and credit to both teams for playing some neat football. The good thing, as already stated, was the the fact that a bumper crowd witnessed it.
The only let-down was Reading supporters being out-sung from the stands by QPR!
Rougier deserved Man of the match... he gave it 100%.
My thumbs up, however, goes to John Mackie - totally focused, totally commited.
Lets keep moving on!

-- Nigel (Chippenham Royal)

A pleasure to see a Reading side with a real hunger for the game, a side that realy wanted to win. Whats more they kept this up for the whole game rather than cooling off after 10 minutes. This was a tricky match with QPR keen to close the gap however Readings drive and commitment made Hahnemann a spectator for long periods of the first half. In the second half Rangers got into the game a little more but never realy looked like scoring and Reading deservedly took the lead after some excellent work by Rougier ended with Hughes poking the ball over the line via the post. Salako missed a golden chance later on to put the game beyond QPR however Readings goal always looked good eough to win the game. A good solid performance against quality opposition, if we can reproduce this every week we will go up, if being the operative word.
-- Adam Kirkwood

I thought Rougier and Parkinson set a superb example and inspired the others to give absolutely 100% today. It was this effort, plus some inspired moments from Rougier that earned the victory. Rougier's heading, tackling and dribbling were of Premiership quality. His intelligence led to many exciting passing movements. The only place he seems to lose a bit of confidence is in front of goal, but he was easily worth two players today.
-- Robert

How strange that two players the negative Reading fans love to hate combined to produce the goal that won a superb game. Lovely passing football from both sides and it was nice to see a team come to the Mad Stad looking for a win. Heres hoping for a least a draw up north next week against another top side!
-- Tim Smith

I agree - fantastic performance on Saturday against some fellow contenders - Reading outplaying their opponents through the better part of the match. BUT, the score shouldn't have been 1-0, we had some great opportunities that really should have been converted. We'll not be able to afford to miss these like we did on Saturday if we want promotion. Nonetheless - a wonderful game.
-- Sebastian Powers

Great performance from the Royals - but not such as a great performance as some are saying from the fans. QPR's travelling fans were often louder than the home fans, and towards the end of the first half you could hear a pin drop in the Stadium. It was hard to believe there was nearly 20,000 fans there. Whoever makes up what goes on the official site is sadly losing the plot going on about their plea to make some noise being successful. If they want noise then it's up to the fans - not up to some rubbish they put on their website.
-- Adam

With almost an FA Cup atmosphere about yesterdays game, both teams responded to provide a thoroughly entertaining match. In the first half Reading dominated and out played QPR, we were first to every ball, tackled well and did not give them a chance to settle. For all our neat passing football though Rangers managed to keep us from penetrating their defence and whilst several times Reading went close, we failed to make the impression our football and endeavour deserved. In terms of commitment spirit and flare though Reading totally out classed Rangers, it was against the run of play however that Rangers netted the ball, only for it to be disallowed for off side. Reading's defence momentarily went to sleep and this was a warning that their opponents had not come just to play out for a draw.
In the second half Rangers started more brightly and Reading began to look like a side who had given their all and could not get the goal they deserved, we held our composure though, did not give in to Rangers reluctance to coceed a goal and kept battling for that break through. The difference in the second half was that tactically we defended a little too deep for my liking and gave Rangers the confidence and time to get at us. Having said this, apart from the shot Hahnemann pushed on to our bar, we defended stoutly and Rangers were frustrated in creating clear cut chances. Mackie and Williams were brilliant especially towards the end when Rangers increased their aerial power with substitutions. The man of the match by far was Rougier, he was tireless in his running, tackled back and caused all sorts of problems to the Rangers' defence, if only he had had his shooting boots then we could have witnessed one of the greatest Reading performances of the modern era.
Reading gradually got back into the game after starting the second half slowly and continued intelligent patient and probing football, Rangers had become more optimistic about perhaps getting a result and the game became more open giving Reading the chance to counter attack. Finally the break through came and Hughes bobbled one in off his shins from short range after some good build up play, much to the disappointment of the Rangers Fans around me who had infiltrated the home crowd. Although Rangers came back at us, it was Reading that looked the more likely to score and how Pardew must have cursed when a succession of chances were squandered, especially when Salako appeared to miss an open goal from point blank range. On his recent home form Salako has been a shadow of the player who first thrilled the crowd, not that he has played badly but he just has not been the handful and threat to the opposition he has been, perhaps he is trying to impress less to have his fee reduced by Charlton!
Overall Reading's performance was sound and in the context of the fixture which hopefully is a turning point in our season was a colossal three points. I would have liked to see Pardew take a chance and play Gamble as it is his accurate intelligent passing, running off the ball and tackling back that could settle the team and create more clear cut chances for the likes of Cureton and Henderson. Pardew will point to the result however as justification for sticking with experience, and I think Joe's time will come. We are really back in the driving seat now and with Bristol City's result going in our favour, perhaps the belief and confidence our performances have lacked this year will be restored for this vital part of the season. The good thing is that you still feel Reading can play better and if we can create more goal scoring opportunities, with our strike force the goals will come. Our rivals over the coming weeks all have tough fixtures to play which could work in our favour, Reading have got the opportunity to make that early push to become league champions. Come on Reading build on this fantastic result.

-- Paul Finch

What a performance. With so many of the other teams not playing, we all knew today could be the start of Reading's determination to take control of the league. Who knows if that is what will happen? Certainly on that performance, I can't think of a team that could beat us. It's been a very long time since I saw Reading completely dominate a team.
The committment in the first half was first rate. Half time arrived in what felt like 5 minutes. We wobbled at the beginning of the second half and I wondered if we would rue those many goal scoring opportunities that weren't taken. As it happened we scored against the run of play. It was only ever going to be a Reading win after that.
Every player was fantastic today, and I could go on for ever about them all, though Tony Rougier had the best game of his Reading career. He was magnificent. I was so happy to see Pardew substitute him at the end so he could get a standing ovation. So we are joint top. It really is in our own hands now.
I know the Chairman has already spent a lot of money on the squad, let's hope he can find some more to keep Salako. Who knows, that may prove crucial in getting promotion. Come on you Royals!

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

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