Football: Evans pounces on a bad day for Francis

West Bromwich Albion 2 Queen's Park Rangers 0
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a bad day all round for Gerry Francis. Shaken in a car crash on the way to training yesterday morning, he recovered only to suffer defeat in his first match back in full charge of Queen's Park Rangers.

Second-half goals by the former Southampton striker Micky Evans and Shaun Murphy provided a timely confidence boost for the home side after the trauma of losing a 2-0 lead to Sunderland on Sunday and emphasised the scale of the task facing Francis in his second term at Loftus Road.

After a first half notable only for the poor quality of the football, Albion raised their game after the break and fully deserved a victory that lifts them from the bottom half of the First Division to within seven points of the top.

The warning signs for bottom-of-the-table Rangers came nine minutes into the second half with Keith Rowland booting away a header by Matt Carbon which the home side claimed had crossed the goal-line. Then James Quinn, who had carved out one of only a couple of chances in the first half, wasted an opportunity by failing to find an unmarked Lee Hughes.

But after 67 minutes, substitute Evans, who had been out of action for six weeks with the latest of a series of injuries since his pounds 700,000 move from The Dell last year, took advantage of the first of two costly slips by the Rangers goalkeeper Lee Harper, forcing home a cross from the right by Murphy that squirted out of Harper's grasp.

Nine minutes from time, Harper - preferred by Francis to the on-loan Ludek Miklosko - dropped a corner by Mario Bortolazzi, who was impressive in Albion's midfield, and Murphy pounced to make the result safe.

"I should have turned round and gone home after the shunt," Francis joked. "The side has won only one away game in the last 12 months and you can see the confidence go when we go a goal down. We need some of the spirit Sunderland showed here on Sunday."

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller; McDermott, Murphy, Carbon, Van Blerk; Quinn, Flynn, Bortolazzi, Kilbane; De Freitas (Evans, 55), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Sneekes, Mardon.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Harper; Rose, Ready, Maddix, Baraclough; Scully, Peacock, Morrow, Rowland (Slade, 64); Sheron, Gallen. Substitutes not used: Murray, Kulcsar.

Referee: T Jones (Barrow-in-Furness).