The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Char­lie Ben­nett

IT WAS a mis­er­able 2016 for Jamie Mackie, with in­juries keep­ing him stuck on the side­lines – but he in­sists he is now mak­ing up for lost time af­ter he net­ted the win­ner in a tight vic­tory at pro­mo­tion-chas­ing Read­ing on Thurs­day night.

The 31-year-old spent a sea­son on loan at the Made­jski Sta­dium in 2014-15, but showed no sen­ti­ment for his for­mer club by lash­ing home at the back post from Ryan Man­ning’s touch just be­fore the half-hour mark.

The goal was the for­ward’s first since an an­kle lig­a­ment in­jury kept him on the side­lines for eight months and gave QPR a third straight league win.

And Mackie be­lieves the wind has changed at Lof­tus Road and man­ager Ian Hol­loway has found a sys­tem which could turn the club into pro­mo­tion con­tenders.

“It’s great to be back play­ing for the club I love,” he said.

“It’s not just about scor­ing goals. Look at the per­for­mance of the whole squad, in­clud­ing the staff with the prepa­ra­tion for the game. That’s what it’s all about.

“That’s how we’ll climb the ta­ble. It’s not just about one per­son.

“It’s hard when you’re los­ing games. To­gether, around the train­ing ground, the feel­ing is nat­u­rally low.

“Peo­ple prob­a­bly didn’t ex­pect us to get three wins on the spin, but it just shows the char­ac­ter of the boys.

“The man­ager is get­ting the train­ing ground as he wants it – with peo­ple com­pletely buy­ing into what he wants to do. That’s the key for us to go for­ward as a squad.

“As a squad, we’re look­ing up. We don’t think we’re now go­ing to win the Cham­pi­onship – we’re not stupid.

“But we feel like we are build­ing some­thing, and that’s what it’s about.”

Mackie’s goal was the only bright mo­ment in a drab first half, as the hosts failed to se­ri­ously test a res­o­lute Hoops de­fence.

They im­proved af­ter the break and al­most equalised as Yann Ker­mor­gant can­noned a header off the bar.

The Roy­als con­tin­ued to pile for­ward but strug­gled to cre­ate open­ings, with man­ager Jaap Stam left frus­trated with a sec­ond limp dis­play in a row fol­low­ing their 4-0 Emi­rates FA Cup third round loss to Manch­ester United.

“It's dis­ap­point­ing, but we need to be re­al­is­tic as just be­cause we’re play­ing QPR at home, it’s not go­ing to be an easy win,” the for­mer de­fender said.

“You want to win games at home, but you’re play­ing against a side that de­fended re­ally well and came out strong on the counter-at­tack.

“We lost the ball too much in the first half and they cap­i­talised and scored. Af­ter that, they sat deeper.

“We need to be pa­tient and make the right choices on the ball in those sit­u­a­tions.

“We did that better in the sec­ond half, but it’s hard not to give away more chances when you’re chas­ing the game like that.

“We played against a side who de­fended very well. And when they came out on the counter at­tack, they were wait­ing for those mo­ments.

“In the first half, we lost the ball and they score that goal. Then they sit even deeper and it’s dif­fi­cult.

“We needed to do it right, we needed to be pa­tient and make the right choices on the ball – the first touches need to be good, the pass­ing needs to be good and in cre­at­ing chances you need to be good.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

LONG WAIT’S OVER: QPR's Jamie Mackie cel­e­brates scor­ing their win­ner


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