Barker's pace the QPR ace

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . .3

Sheffield United. . . . .2

IF GOALS keep pouring through the open sluice gates of defences like these, this first Premier League season is going to believe in its own hyperbole. Yesterday at Loftus Road, even the usually comparatively elegant and disciplined Queen's Park Rangers succumbed to exciting, defensive misdemeanours only to ensure that in the end they made fewer errors and sent Sheffield United away unrewarded for their spirit.

Whatever reservations Gerry Francis had about playing three games within a week, Rangers, and United come to that, have made notable contributions to seven days seemingly preoccupied with the razzmatazz of reissuing the First Division under its new label.

A 3-1 win over the bullyboys of Southampton and a comforting 1-1 draw at Manchester City had lifted Rangers off with a little bit of style and some of the more interesting football one always believes they traditionally want to play. Sheffield had the more daunting opening, but went to Old Trafford and with a 2-1 win set in motion all of the familiar doubts about the other United. Their 2-1 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield was no disgrace, and altogether the club must be feeling more confident these days since in the close season they were able to turn down several huge offers for Brian Deane, yesterday's outstanding contributor.

Some of the most myopic defending imaginable offered Deane and Les Ferdinand so many avenues to goal that it was inevitable that both would take advantage. Ferdinand was the first, after only three minutes, when the always sharp Simon Barker sent him on a weaving run, avoiding three tackles before threading a shot into the far corner.

Celebrating by returning at full throttle to help combat United's immediate retaliatory attack, all Ferdinand did was to arrive in his own penalty area in time to watch John Gannon's free-kick drift over his head, leaving Alan Cork time and space to crack in a good but invited goal.

Although Lawrie McMenemy was at the ground to watch Deane and Sinton, it was Barker whose pace and neatness on the right side caught the eye, especially when Garry Thompson replaced Ian Holloway and pumped more strength into Rangers' attack. Barker instigated their second goal by forcing back the uncertain United defence before finding Sinton on the far side. Sinton controlled the ball deftly and returned it to Barker whose header comfortably eluded Simon Tracey.

Deane's efforts to join the scoring revealed itself in an over-eager snap-shot wide when placed in open space by Darren Peacock's inexplicable attempt to sell a dummy that fooled only himself. Yet Deane's surprising nimbleness in confined areas makes him difficult to control and his strength here overwhelmed Peacock. Inevitably Deane secured his fourth goal of the week when, yet again, a combination of his own power and indistinguished defending allowed him to gain inches over the heads of everyone to put in United's equaliser from Mike Lake's corner.

But it was United's grit and their refusal to let Rangers dwell on the ball that not only brought a profusion of referee's warnings, but also the opportunity to revive again. It should have been sufficient to have given them a draw but when a free-kick from Sinton dropped into a crowded penalty area, the ball bounced off Cork and Dennis Bailey prodded in Rangers' winner.

Rangers' Ian Holloway was taken to hospital after the match with an injury to his left eye. His manager, Francis, said: 'There is a problem with his retina. There is blood in the eye and he couldn't see out of it. At worst his sight could be threatened, but it could be just a broken blood vessel.'

Queen's Park Rangers: J Stejskal; D Bardsley, C Wilson, R Wilkins, D Peacock, A McDonald, S Barker, I Holloway (G Thompson, 30 min), L Ferdinand, D Bailey, A Sinton. Subs not used: D Maddix, T Roberts (gk). Manager: G Francis.

Sheffield United: S Tracey; K Gage, D Barnes (A Littlejohn, 87 min), J Gannon, P Beesley, A McLeary (C Hartfield, 47 min), I Bryson, M Lake, A Cork, B Deane, G Hodges. Sub not used: A Kelly (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Referee: P Foakes (Clacton-on-Sea).

Goals: Ferdinand (1-0, 3 min); Cork (1-1, 4 min); Sinton (2-1, 13 min); Deane (2-2, 59 min); Bailey (3-2, 83 min).