Championship - Ten-man QPR extend lead at top

Fri, 04 Feb 21:39:00 2011

Wayne Routledge scored a late winner to propel 10-man Queens Park Rangers to a narrow 1-0 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium - and extend their lead at the top of the Championship.

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The winger, on loan from Newcastle United, pounced with eight minutes remaining to send Neil Warnock's side eight points clear of second-placed Norwich City, who play on Saturday at Burnley.

The goal defied the situation Rangers found themselves in, having been forced to play for just over a half with 10 men after Hogan Ephraim's dismissal for a wild challenge just before the break.

That decision had enraged Warnock, who had moments earlier seen Reading skipper Matt Mills escape a red card for what appeared to be a professional foul, but the fiery manager ended the night with a smile on his face after his side registered their first victory at the Madejski.

A cagey opening period, which had previously produced just a pair of missed headed chances at either end, exploded into life with five minutes remaining before half-time.

Simon Church, quiet until then, lit the touch paper with a fierce drive from the edge of the box which Paddy Kenny was equal to, the Irishman tipping over the bar with an excellent save.

The Royals maintained that pressure and moments later a goalmouth scramble saw the ball bounce just wide of the far post, when it could easily have ended up in the back of the net.

Then came the moment that should have changed the course of the game, with Ephraim losing control of the ball and in his desperation to win it back going over the top with a straight-legged lunge on Jimmy Kebe.

He saw red, deservedly so given the dangerous nature of the challenge, although Warnock did not quite see it the same way, especially having seen Mills get away with his trip on Ephraim four minutes earlier, and he raged on the touchline as referee Russell Booth gave the midfielder his marching orders.

Warnock's anger persisted into the half-time break as he stormed into the dressing rooms with a snarl on his face, but his mood could easily have been worse, had Shane Long capitalised on a Kenny error soon after the dismissal.

Long, who had passed a late fitness test on his troublesome hip, was gifted the chance as Kenny made a hash of coming off his line to claim but as he rounded the keeper he could only find the side netting.

With a man extra and considering their current good form, Reading should have taken the game to QPR after the break, but they failed to really test the opposition during a second half that was all too easy for the visitors.

Just once did they fashion a chance that was worthy of the opening goal - on 71 minutes when Mills flashed a header wide of its intended target.

But it was the league leaders who made the breakthrough first, Routledge running on to a neat through pass to fire low past Adam Federici in the Reading goal and send the visiting fans into raptures.

Reading substitute Mathieu Manset could have equalised almost immediately but he dragged his shot wide of the mark, and with that went the home side's chances of getting anything from the game.

While Rangers continue their march towards promotion to the Premier League, the result sees Reading stay in eighth after passing up the chance to close the gap on six-placed Leeds United

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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