Football: Eaden helps to balance books

Queen's Park Rangers 2 Darlington 21, Steiner 37 Barnsley 2 Thomas 11, Eaden 57 Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 11,054
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The Independent Online
GERRY FRANCIS and Dave Bassett, old rivals deserving better things but operating these days with one hand tied behind their backs, had to settle for fair shares to maintain their respective teams' recent improvement after a lively set-to in west London.

Rangers, unbeaten at home but with six draws now from 10 matches, shrugged off a long list of injuries to come from behind and lead at the interval. Bassett and Barnsley responded positively, however, and an equaliser by their captain, Nicky Eaden, was the least they deserved for bossing the second half.

The best news of the week for Barnsley, whatever their results, was that Bassett was content to stay rather than take up what is rapidly becoming a poisoned chalice at Blackburn. In putting the Tykes up with the promotion contenders after six wins in their previous seven games, Bassett had confirmed his ability - priceless in any manager - to take players and teams and make them better. Yesterday he brought in Steve Chettle, who was recruited on loan from Nottingham Forest, one of numerous old employers who were unable to provide the financial ammunition Bassett needed to help them reach full potential.

Francis, equally successful on a limited budget at Bristol Rovers - or no budget, as it was not unknown for him to use his own money for transfers - and in his first stint at Loftus Road, has again had to work amid grim financial constraints since returning to his favourite club after a tough time at Tottenham.

He was able to announce the acquisition of a Dutch striker, Samuel Koejoe, from the Austrian club Salzburg for pounds 250,000. With Kevin Gallen and Steve Slade injured, Koejoe would have been useful, but the signing did not go through in time.

"We're delighted in this situation that we have managed to find someone," Francis said. "Samuel's very much like Les Ferdinand in terms of coming into the game late, and he has lots of potential." Another Sir Les? Rangers should be so lucky.

They have defenders missing as well and it showed as Barnsley took the lead after opening them up three times in the first 10 minutes. Neil Shipperley and Craig Hignett, both set up by the former Rangers striker Mike Sheron, missed the target, but Geoff Thomas, another good old trouper following Bassett from Forest, was more accurate, side-footing in a quickly taken free-kick by Darren Barnard.

Moving Tim Breacker from wing-back to man-mark the troublesome Hignett, Rangers found some rhythm and by half-time were themselves in front. Midway through the half, Jermaine Darlington, reverting to an orthodox left-back role, cut in from the flank and hit a strong drive that deflected off John Curtis to leave his goalkeeper groping. In the 36th minute, poor defending allowed Rob Steiner to start and finish a four-man move that also featured telling touches by Chris Kiwomya and Paul Murray.

Francis's personnel problems increased when his captain, Steve Morrow, was carried off after bravely preventing Sheron heading an equaliser. Barnsley took advantage in a furious spell at the start of the second half, the pressure from which eventually became irresistible.

Although Lee Harper in the Rangers goal made three excellent saves from Sheron's header, Hignett's darting run and Barn-ard's drive, he could do nothing to stop Nicky Eaden, who had all the goal to aim at following a knock-down by Shipperley - yet another Forest old boy.

Darlington put Rangers' only real opportunity of the second half too high and his team could easily have lost when Bruce Dyer's back-header in the 86th minute bounced off the bar on to the line, Hignett and Thomas just failing to nudge the ball in.