Football: Failure to take a chance leaves QPR struggling

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The Independent Online
ADAM SZRETER

Chelsea 1 Queen's Park Rangers 1

Hitting the bottom of the Premiership for the first time this season with only six games left to play does not augur too well for Ray Wilkins and Queen's Park Rangers.

On Saturday, they lacked the gambling instinct, which at this stage can be their only escape from relegation. Chelsea, admittedly, made life difficult and the chances are that, had QPR thrown everything at them in the closing stages, they would have lost. But one point was never going to be a good result, so they may as well have gone for broke.

Wilkins swapped Kevin Gallen for Mark Hateley in the last 15 minutes, but this turned out to be little more than a token gesture. David Bardsley, crossing as accurately as any full-back in England, pressed forward down the right, but his centre-backs remained rooted to the spot, not once taking the initiative to join the attack, a la Steve Bruce when Manchester United are desperate for points.

John Spencer had given Chelsea the lead, following more fine play from the Gullit-Wise-Petrescu axis on Chelsea's right wing, and the much sought after Trevor Sinclair provided the cross for Daniele Dichio to nod into the path of Simon Barker for the equaliser.

Sinclair remained a nuisance throughout but, for one touted so widely as a target for any number of clubs, he was disappointing. Unlike other similarly feted players with struggling teams, such as Matt Le Tissier or Georgi Kinkladze, he never gave the impression of being able to turn the match.

Wilkins himself has admitted he has found management hard, particularly the aspect of detaching himself from players he still considers team-mates and, in the transfer market where he knows he has spent poorly, misjudging character. Unfortunately for Wilkins, his apprenticeship has been served in the highest league, where mistakes are not easily rectified.

"My gut feeling says we can still get out of it after the way we played against Manchester United last week and Chelsea today," Wilkins said afterwards, clearly shaken by the result from Bolton that consigned his team to last place.

"We still have 18 points to play for, but every game is tough. I am not concerned about my own position, I am far more concerned about the fate of the club," he said.

How Wilkins must admire the achievements of his England contemporary Glenn Hoddle. Chelsea have not reached the level of consistency Hoddle would have hoped for but, since being beaten comprehensively by Manchester United in the FA Cup final two years ago, they have become a totally different proposition.

Next Sunday, of course, they have the perfect opportunity to show just how things have changed. United will have to be at their very best to deny the whole country the pleasure of seeing Ruud Gullit at Wembley on Cup final day.

Goals: Spencer (8) 1-0; Barker (19) 1-1.

Chelsea (5-2-2-1): Hitchcock; Petrescu, Duberry, Lee (Johnsen, 79), Clarke, Phelan; Gullit, Burley; Wise, Spencer (Peacock, 82); Hughes (Furlong, 52).

Queen's Park Rangers (4-3-3): Sommer; Bardsley, McDonald, Maddix (Ready, 46), Brevett; Barker, Yates (Brazier, 88), Impey; Sinclair, Dichio, Gallen (Hateley, 77).

Bookings: Chelsea Hughes, Furlong. QPR: Barker, Maddix, Dichio.

Man of the match: Petrescu.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham). Attendance: 25,590

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