Football / FA Cup: Rangers headed in right direction

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

Swindon Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

WHAT price Les Ferdinand now? The QPR striker has seen his transfer valuation soar in recent weeks and last night he produced two spring- heeled leaps to match and to point his club towards an FA Cup run which could yield the means to keep him in west London.

Two identical Ferdinand headed goals in two minutes midway through the first half set QPR on their way to a fourth-round home tie against Manchester City or Reading, holing Swindon's intentions after they had just stared at and spurned two inviting chances of their own.

It was poor finishing but the man newly rated at pounds 5m by his chairman - in an attempt to ward off interest from Newcastle, Liverpool and others - was having no part of it on a night when spectators and TV viewers were reminded of the entertainment riches that two passing teams can provide.

Three minutes after Ferdinand's double-barrelled attack, Gary Penrice helped himself to Rangers' third as the visitors' defence appeared stuck in an after-you torpor. They can pass and move with the best of them but currently, without their reliable captain and stopper, Colin Calderwood, they cannot defend to save their lives. Their resources were thin at the back. They have leaked 16 goals in their last five games and repairs are urgently required if it is not to cost Glenn Hoddle's attractive team a promotion place from the First Division.

To all intents and purposes then it was a game of one half or, to be exact, a game of five minutes as Rangers struck their purple patch. It was asking too much for the visitors to recover from that even though they gave it all they had. They seemed to know that if they could not profit from those early opportunities they were never going to score.

Ian Holloway, later to display far greater accuracy, left his 15th- minute pass to Ray Wilkins short and allowed Steve White to nip in. His finish was weak and a minute later Craig Maskell was equally culpable after Martin Ling had delivered a cross that had goalkeeper Tony Roberts struggling.

Rangers rolled up their sleeves in preparation for a hard night's labour. Yet within 11 minutes the tie had drifted out of Swindon's reach, such are the peculiarities of this game.

In the 22nd minute Holloway delivered accurately from the right and Ferdinand gained inches on his lanky marker, Shaun Taylor, to bludgeon home his first scoring header. The same move two minutes later, the same result and poor Nicky Hammond had not recovered when a corner three minutes later squirted through to Penrice who had no right to expect his low shot after a neat turn to end up in the net.

Just as Ferdinand had made Swindon pay for their earlier failings at the other end, now Roberts was to increase Hammond's misery with a string of excellent saves as Swindon sought some reward from the inventive passing which had illuminated the midfield activity.

The pick of his stops, a miraculous double effort came at the start of the second half when Hoddle unleashed one of those speciality free-kicks, stirring many a memory among a disappointingly low crowd. Before the ball had reached its target White dived in for a header that the eventual Welsh successor to Neville Southall did brilliantly to deny. He then repeated the save as Maskell seized on the rebound.

Queen's Park Rangers: Roberts; Bardsley, Wilson, Wilkins, Peacock, McDonald, Barker, Holloway, Ferdinand, Penrice (Impey, 87), Sinton. Substitute not used: Maddix.

Swindon Town: Hammond; Kerslake, Bodin, Hoddle, Mitchell, Taylor, Hazard, Horlock (Summerbee, 71), Maskell (Murray, 71), Ling, White.

Referee: K Redfearn (Northumberland).

(Photograph omitted)