Stating the obvious dept: for QPR to win none of their first nine league games – 23.68% of the Premier League season – is gloomy, but not necessarily decisive. But at some point they must start winning the easy games. They may have played Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal in those opening fixtures, but they've also lost at home to Swansea (0-5), to West Ham (1-2) and – fielding a full first team – to Reading in the Capital One Cup.
At last they can look forward to a run of genuinely winnable games – between now and Boxing Day Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and West Brom visit Loftus Road – but are Rangers licking their lips, or crapping their pants? It seems to me that sooner or later struggling teams in the Premier League always develop the fear, and from that moment on they are doomed. Games are no longer an opportunity to win points, but an exercise for individual players to find novel ways not to be the bloke they rip apart on Match of the Day. In the main, they achieve this by the constant avoidance of risk and attention, which only makes the prospect of victory even more remote. I don't think anyone's quite developed full-blown fear yet, but it's possible to see the early symptoms in one or two.
QPR need that first win fast, and will have few finer chances than this to record it. After all, Reading are also yet to record a league win, have lost three of their four away games and are crestfallen after surrendering a four-goal lead against Arsenal reserves at home last week. This might not be the kind of match that kick-starts the full-on Sky Sports Super Stunning Special Sunday hype machine, but for at least one of the teams involved it is enormous.
Mark Hughes knows it as well. "We have in recent weeks played against teams in the top half of the table and we have acquitted ourselves well without getting the points we felt we deserved," he said, looking forward to this game. "Now we are up against teams that are in and around us so they take on more significance because we need to get maximum points."
This is the worst start to a QPR season since 1968, but Reading have not done worse than this since 1959. The teams though are divided not just by a single Premier League point, but by an ocean in experience and expectation. And so it is that according to Brian McDermott Reading's owner, Anton Zingarevich, responded to Tuesday's humiliating humping by Arsenal by observing that "the spirit in the side was fantastic and that some of the football we played in that first half was some of the best we had seen".
There's good reason for Royals to look on the bright side – after all, last season began in only marginally more impressive style than this one. After six games they were 23rd in the Championship; by 4 November 2011 Reading sat 16th, after 15. From this weekend last season onwards they won 23 out of a possible 31 games and amassed 71 points, 13 more than the next best team. They ended the season with the league title. Unlikely FA Cup heroics excepting there will be no silverware this season, but 17th place or better appears eminently achievable if McDermott can fashion even a marginal upturn.
You want teams? We've got the teams!
QPR: Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Traoré, Mackie, Granero, Diakite, Taarabt, Hoilett, Cissé. Subs: Green, Derry, Hill, Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Zamora, Faurlin.
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey, McCleary, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Roberts, Hunt. Subs: Federici, Pearce, Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre, Kebe, Robson-Kanu, Cummings.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
You'll notice Park Ji-Sung is nowhere to be seen, while he recovers from knee-knack. Bobby Zamora, who has been struggling with some minor hip-knack, drops to the bench. Stephane Mbia is totally suspended. Reading start Chris Gunter, Sean Morrison, Garath McLeary and Noel Hunt, none of whom were in the first XI for their last league outing.
The teams are out, and action looks imminent. Which is approximately in line with expectations, it has to be said.
Djibril Cissé, no doubt concerned that his bleached white mohican did not make him appear quite idiotic enough, has died it QPR blue.
1 min: Peeeeeeeeep! They're off!
2 mins: Reading, kicking from left to right as the TV cameras look at it and wearing their entirely and emphatically yellow away strip, make the first nearly-chance of the day. Roberts finds McAnuff in the penalty area, and the winger thwacks a low cross towards goal that is cleared at the near post.
5 mins: Chance! Tabb bustles his way towards the penalty area and then passes inside to Hunt, who takes one touch and then scoops his shot off a defender and out of play. Decent start by the away side, though.
8 mins: Useless statistic alert: Between them these clubs have drawn a statistically unlikely 8% of all Premier League games played in the month of November. Reading have never drawn one, in seven attempts.
11 mins: Reading lump the ball forward, Anton Ferdinand attempts to shepherd it out of play but he just gets a toe on the ball as Jason Roberts pesters. Goal kick given, and the whole thing is most memorable because of the strop Roberts then throws.
12 mins: QPR run up the other end, where Djibril Cissé thwacks the ball goalwards from the edge of the penalty area. It flies just wide. And also just high.
14 mins: A decent Reading move ends with the ever-frustrating Jobi McAnuff thumping his cross over everybody's heads and out of play. "For a media personality having a go at football, Jason Roberts is doing well so far," remarks Gary Naylor. Would have to agree. Nathan Ellington, as he admires a bank account presumably massively boosted by the multi-million-pound transfers engineered largely as a result of a decent partnership with Roberts, has a lot to thank him for.
GOAL! QPR 0 Reading 1 (Gorkss, 16 mins) A driven corner from Shorey is headed onto the crossbar by Morrison. It bounces down towards Gorkss, who swivels and connects sweetly with a hip-high left-foot volley. Julio Cesar gets both hands on the ball, but can't stop it.
18 mins: Just before that goal, Hoilett saw a shot curl just – really, just – wide of the post at the other end.
20 mins: Since the goal Reading have won two corners, from both of which Morrison has won the header. The second, though, involved a foul on Ferdinand. Still, impressive ball-winning from the Premier League debutant.
21 mins: And up the other end, Diakite slides the ball across the area where Cissé miskicks and the ball bobbles wide.
22 mins: This is a blustery old game, with players and possession swirling around like so many autumnal leaves in a gale force wind. In the last two minutes Liegertwood has sliced a 25-yard shot humiliatingly off-target, and appeared in his own penalty area to pop the ball off Hoilett's toe after Cissé's knock-down.
26 mins: Taarabt gets the ball, jinks to his right, leaves an opponent on his arse, and then slams a 30-yard shot into orbit. Thrillingly inaccurate stuff there from the young lad.
28 mins: Jason Roberts gets the ball in a very decent area, but gets a little confused and instead of taking the ball past Ryan Nelsen and then sprinting clear on goal, he passes the ball to Ryan Nelsen and then, um, stops.
29 mins: Taarabt produces QPR's first shot on target, lovingly sidefooted straight down the middle of goal and into McCarthy's arms from 20 yards.
32 mins: Again Roberts finds himself in a good position in the QPR penalty area. This time he waits for a runner from midfield, to whom he could slide the ball for a simple shot on goal. Nobody runs, so eventually he just thumps a shot into Anton Ferdinand's thighs.
34 mins: Hunt clips Diakite's ankles, and receives a yellow card. Textbook booking, that one.
35 mins: Traoré's playing quite nicely at left-back for QPR. Reliable in the tackle, and daring in possession. As a neutral, it's always a pleasure to watch a defender with a predilection for heart-in-mouth passes, and the talent to bring them off.
36 mins: Taarabt has another shot; McCarthy has another straightforward save.
38 mins: Mackie takes a roundabout route towards Reading's penalty area, and then goes over Morrison's leg. Dangerous free-kick chance here.
39 mins: What a save! Granero curls the free-kick towards the top right corner, but McCarthy flicks out his left arm and tips it onto the crossbar. Good shot, good save, good thud into the crossbar. Lovely moment.
41 mins: Traoré goes on a meandering run through midfield. Reading have a look at the gigantic gap he's left in the home side's defence and get a bit excited. First McCleary dives in, missing both ball and player, then Tabb does the same, catching both ball and player. Free-kick. Traoré is on his way to being my man of the match.
45 mins: A minimum of one minute's stoppage time will be played at the end of this first half.
45+1 mins: Peeeeeeeep! It's half-time! And the crowd aren't happy about it, ushering the home side tunnelwards with a three-second boo.
Half-time: The scoreline is about right, a decent reflection of a game in which Reading have looked marginally better. They have been the only team to make regular threatening incursions into their opponents' penalty area, while the home side have preferred long-range shooting. It must be said, though, that towards the end of the first half Diakite seemed to be waking, and Taarabt was peppering the goal and the stands nearby with shots. Anyone's game, then.
46 mins: Peeeeeeeeep! We're off! Again!
46 mins: Reading are immediately on the offensive, McAnuff fizzing in another low cross only for it to be cleared at the near post.
47 mins: Tabb brings down Diakite on the edge of Reading's penalty area. Tabb has been bright and industrious, but he's a booking waiting to happen.
49 mins: Granero's shot from the free-kick curls into the side netting. "Oh! What an effort!" screams Matt Le Tissier on Sky. Must say I though it was wasteful, but I'm willing to admit that Le Tiss knows more than I do about how to take a decent free-kick.
51 mins: I do intend to bring you a picture of Djibril Cissé's blue mohican, but not one of The Guardian's extensive network of photographic partners has sent us one. Shame on them. Shame.
55 mins: Another crossing chance for McAnuff. This time he doesn't send it low, hard and straight to a defender at the near post. The bad news is he sents it high, soft and straight to the defender at the near post. QPR, though, don't clear and from the resulting corner Liegertwood winds the header but sends it wide.
59 mins: Bosingwa plays a low cross towards Mackie, who tumbles to the ground and then throws his arms about in fury when the referee ignores him.
60 mins: The home crowd find their voice, after a strong spell of home pressure ends in a corner. It floats across goal and is tapped out of play by a QPR player. Talking of QPR players, I can now reveal that the reason Mackie was so upset (59 mins) was that Morrison was probably responsible for his penalty-area tumble.
62 mins: Reading replace Garath McCleary with Jimmy Kebe.
63 mins: Noel Hunt is currently receiving treatment after violently heading Granero's forearm.
GOAL! QPR 1 (Cissé, 67) Reading 1! A cross from the right. Morrison tries to diving-head it clear but makes no contact; Cissé controls with his instep and taps the ball past McCarthy.
67 mins: Now we'll get some photos of Djibril's blue flash.
69 mins: QPR, wind in their sails, drive forwards. Taarabt slams in a 20-yard shot that McCarthy pushes wide at full dive.
69 mins: Kebe runs 60 yards from well inside his own half to the edge of the penalty area. Very nice. Shame about the shot at the end of it, but we won't dwell on that.
72 mins: Shorey slides the ball across goal, Roberts diverts it towards the far post, but it hits Ferdinand and bounces clear. In unrelated news, I see that Marseille played today in a limited edition collectable kit intended to highlight the fight against breast cancer. Interesting.
76 mins: Finally, a picture of Djibril Cissé's blue streak. All my dreams fulfilled.
78 mins: Cissé is brought down a few yards outside the penalty area by a sharp gust of wind, with the innocent Gorkss standing nearby. The referee gives a free kick.
79 mins: ... which Granero curls wide, thankfully. Reading bring on Hal Robson-Kanu, instead of Jobi McAnuff.
81 mins: Shorey's corner is headed over the bar by an embarrasingly unmarked Robsob-Kanu. Rangers bring Zamora on for Mackie.
82 mins: Tabb has been receiving treatment for a knock of some description. He's fine now.
83 mins: Super save! Reading have a cross cleared to Zamora, who passes the ball into the path of Cissé. He waits for Taarabt and plays him through on goal. Taarabt checks past Gunter and has the goal at his mercy, but McCarthy gets a touch on his slightly nonchalant finish, which rolls wide. And QPR replace Traoré with Onuoha.
85 mins: The home side are pushing hard now. Taarabt bursts into the penalty area again, but this time his shot rolls away for a throw in.
87 mins: Suddenly a path opens up for Liegertwood, but his shot flies nowhere near the goal.
88 mins: Reading bring Adam Le Fondre on for Jason Roberts.
90 mins: The referee's whistle is dominating these closing moments, ensuring a frustratingly staccato closing. The latest is to call on the physio after Morrison heads the back of Ferdinand's head.
90+1 mins: A frankly bizarre five minutes – plus whatever is added for this latest delay – of stoppage time awaits.
92 mins: Reading unveil a long throw, which Gorkss heads on to Robson-Kanu, whose header is saved. QPR break, and Cissé carries the ball down the right before crossing towards Zamora, who manages to turn the ball towards goal but without any venom, and McCarthy collects.
90+3 mins: Le Fondre takes on Taarabt inside QPR's penalty area. He waits for the challenge, and then goes down. But there actually was no challenge, so he gets booked.
90+4 mins: Reading, suddenly back in the game, attack again. Hunt slides the ball to Hunt, bursting into the inside left channel, but the shot is a bit embarrassing.
90+6 mins: Three lovely tackles from Tabb in the last 90 seconds frustrate QPR, but Cissé still squeezes in a 30-yard shot that curls just wide. Just.
90+6 mins: And that is the last kick of the game. Reading and QPR continue to search for a first win of the season, but Southampton will be bottom of the table tonight.
Final thoughts: That was fun, but without great finesse. It was all chaos and little class. Neither side can grumble unduly about a draw, but QPR will probably have a go – they have the classier players, and it took two wonderful saves from McCarthy for Reading to secure their point – but they will probably also be the more depressed tonight. This was another winnable game unwon. As @OptaJoe has just pointed out on Twitter, QPR are the first team since Watford in 2006-07 to win none of their first 10 Premier League games, and we all know what happened to them. Swindon hold the all-time record with 15, and we all know what happened to them. Credit to Granero, for looking quite classy, to Tabb, for being an effective ankle-nibbler and not getting himself sent off, and to Traoré, for occasional and entertaining headrushes.
Thanks for keeping me company. The good times don't stop here, though – Jacob Steinberg is helming Liverpool v Newcastle United, which starts shortly.