Having seen his Queens Park Rangers side get their 2021/22 Championship campaign off to a highly impressive start, with the Rs picking up 11 points over their opening five fixtures of the season, Mark Warburton would have undoubtedly been worried his side’s unbeaten league record was about to come to an abrupt end with 11 minutes left to play against Reading on Saturday.
Indeed, heading into the closing stages of the fixture, the west London side trailed the hosts by three goals to one, with QPR very much looking as if they were heading for their first defeat of the new season.
However, just 13 minutes after being brought into the game, debutant Andre Gray pulled one back for the visitors, before Stefan Johansen dramatically levelled the scores in injury time, ensuring the Rs would be heading back to London with a share of the spoils.
And, while the Norway international’s late equaliser would have delighted Warburton in the moment, it is Gray’s first goal for the club which could well prove more valuable to the 59-year-old over the course of the season.
Having got off the mark so quickly for QPR, Warburton will feel vindicated about his decision to bring the £70k-per-week centre-forward to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on transfer deadline day, as Gray clearly still possesses the ability to play a huge role in the club’s push for promotion this season.
Indeed, the 30-year-old has demonstrated previously that he is an extremely capable goalscorer in the Championship, having scored 17 goals and registered eight assists over 47 appearances for Warburton’s Brentford side back in 2015/16, as well as 25 goals and 10 assists over 43 appearances for both Brentford and Burnley in 2016/17 – firing the latter to promotion.
As such, with the £3.6m-rated man having bagged his first league goal for QPR just 13 minutes into his debut, we would not bet against Gray going on to replicate this previous form once again this term, perhaps even surpassing the hauls of former Rs striker Dexter Blackstock in 2006/07 and 2008/09, when the forward scored 13 and 11 Championship goals respectively.
And, if the player Xisco Munoz dubbed a “brilliant” talent can indeed refind his goalscoring form for the west London side, it would undoubtedly provide the club’s already strong chances of securing a top-six finish this term with a considerable boost, something that would delight everyone associated with the club.