Queen's Park Rangers. . . . . 2
QUEEN'S PARK RANGERS, never great travellers, achieved a deserved victory with two beautifully taken goals in a sterling second-half performance which had scarcely been presaged in the first.
Having scored eight goals in their first four games - including a 3-1 win over yesterday's opponents - then gone three games without, the result was a big relief to the manager Gerry Francis.
He must have delivered a strong dose of his forceful pragmatism at half-time after Rangers had failed to make an early impression, knocked out of shape by Southampton's up-and-at-'em style, which created a highly niggly atmosphere. Three players were booked in 23 minutes but the number could have been doubled.
After the first, Gary Penrice, had been cautioned for fouling Perry Groves, Benali's free-kick arrived via Speedie and Monkou to Matthew Le Tissier, whose low drive beat Jan Stejskal.
But Southampton, devoid of penetration or cohesion, were incapable of capitalising further. They soon paid for that as Rangers' England winger, Andy Sinton, bent a direct free-kick around the wall, before the lead was taken just two minutes later.
Francis may apply for compensation for the injury David Bardsley received making his very brief debut for England in Spain, but the right-back's bad luck proved to be his side's fortune, as Bardsley's replacement, Justin Channing, scored his first goal for four years in his first appearance for over a year.
Arriving from nowhere in the box, he connected on the volley with Les Ferdinand's short cross, after a build-up involving Sinton and Ray Wilkins.
In the Rangers defence, Darren Peacock may resemble one of the Chippendales, but there was nothing vain about his performance, holding out with style and ease Southampton's frantic efforts to equalise, with Alan McDonald and Clive Wilson equally sound around him.
Southampton: T Flowers; J Dodd, F Benali, T Hurlock, K Monkou, K Moore, M Le Tissier, N Maddison (Banger, 65 min), I Dowie, D Speedie, P Groves. Subs not used: J Kenna, I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.
Queen's Park Rangers: J Stejskal; J Channing (Holloway, 90 min), C Wilson, R Wilkins, D Peacock, A McDonald, A Impey, S Barker, L Ferdinand, G Penrice, A Sinton. Subs not used: D Maddix, T Roberts (gk). Manager: G Francis.
Referee: A Gunn (Sussex).
Goals: Le Tissier (1-0, 11 min); Sinton (1-1, 54 min); Channing (1-2, 57 min).