Football: Francis frustrated at mention of exodus

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Aston Villa. . . . . . . 4

Queen's Park Rangers. . .1

IT WAS not the time to question Gerry Francis about the possible break-up of his side. The QPR manager had kept his humour despite a scoreline misleading enough to be an Agatha Christie murder clue and the enquiries about the potential exit of Andy Sinton and Les Ferdinand from Loftus Road. But on the mention that Darren Peacock had been linked with Wolves, the floodgates opened.

'I get totally fed up with this,' Francis said. 'Every day I read somewhere that one of my players is about to move and most of it is rubbish. If you've got international players, there's something wrong if other clubs aren't interested in them, but what we have to put up with is ridiculous. QPR seem to be being picked on.'

It was difficult not to sympathise with Francis. Last season he crafted a team good enough to finish fifth but the impending departure of Andy Sinton to either Arsenal, Blackburn or Sheffield Wednesday will remove an important joint and if Ferdinand and Peacock follow it is hard to see how Rangers can hope to prosper.

Ferdinand is not everyone's idea of the perfect England striker but he had an impressive match, scoring an emphatic goal from the edge of the area, and, but for the saves of Nigel Spink, would have had a hat-trick. 'He was outstanding,' Francis said.

Which made it all the more surprising that Ferdinand was overshadowed by what was going on at the other end. For long periods Villa looked as if they had retained their penchant for missing opportunities when suddenly their accuracy arrived like a bolt from the blue.

Dean Saunders, with his clever runs and feints, ran ragged a defence weakened by the absence of the injured David Bardsley, Danny Maddix and Alan McDonald. This prised space for Dalian Atkinson who, besides his 39th-minute opener, could have had another two goals by the interval.

By the 61st minute, Saunders had seen enough of his work going to waste and receiving the ball on the left, he made to head towards the flank before turning inside and hitting a shot from 20 yards that entered Tony Roberts' goal low by his left- hand post.

It was a goal worthy to win any match but will probably be lost in the memory under what followed in injury time. Ferdinand had just seen a header skim a post that could have made the score 2-2 when Atkinson got the ball 30 yards out, advanced a few yards and then hit an outrageously powerful shot into the top corner.

Brilliant. But so was the shot that ended in almost the same place a few seconds later when Steve Staunton emulated his colleague. As to which was better, the viewers of Match of the Day can decide when they figure in the Goal of the Month competition.

Goals: Atkinson (39 min) 1-0; Ferdinand (44 min) 1-1; Saunders (61 min) 2-1; Atkinson (90 min) 3-1; Staunton (90 min) 4-1.

Aston Villa (4-3-3): Spink; Barrett, Teale, McGrath, Staunton; Richardson, Houghton (Cowans, 59), Townsend; Saunders, Atkinson, Daley. Substitutes not used: Whittingham, Oakes (gk).

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Roberts; Ready, Witter, Peacock, Wilson; Impey, Wilkins, Barker, Holloway (White, 83); Ferdinand, Allen. Substitutes not used: Brevett, Stejskal (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).