Football: Harford off to a poor start

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Ray Harford's reign as manager of Queen's Park Rangers got off to an inauspicious start at Loftus Road when they lost the first match of his stewardship, 1-0 to Peter Reid's improved Sunderland. The only goal of the game came from the Wearsiders' tall striker Niall Quinn six minutes from time.

After the game, Harford revealed that travel to West Bromwich was not the main reason for his move from Albion to the west London club, which is nearer to his Surrey home. "I am ambitious and I see this as a better opportunity to be successful. There are more players here that have played at the highest level than at West Brom but I wish them every success. I hope they finish one place below us."

In this respect, his former charges are not being very helpful. They beat Stockport County 3-2 at The Hawthorns to move up to third, nine places and 13 points above Rangers.

Meanwhile, John Hollins, QPR's caretaker, has been offered the role of assistant manager. "John has done a fantastic job and it looks like the players want to work with him," Harford said. "I hope that he gives it a chance."

For the second consecutive Saturday Mikkel Beck scored the only goal of the game as Middlesbrough won. This time the away victory, over Bury team, lifted Bryan Robson's side to the top of the Nationwide. Not that the manager is impressed. "For the first time this season I had to have a go at the lads at half-time. We were slack in the first half and our passing was poor. We did a lot better in the second half."

The previous leaders, Nottingham Forest, were 2-0 ahead at home to Bradford with 18 minutes to go but Rob Steiner and, in injury time, Nigel Pepper, scored and it finished 2-2. "We played some of our best football of the season," the Forest manager Dave Bassett said. "The players are gutted. But they've got to learn and make sure it doesn't happen often."

Another gutted player: Sheffield United's Michel Vonk. With the Blades leading 1-0 at Norwich, Vonk, returning after a year out with injury, scored an own goal and was then sent off with eight minutes remaining. Two minutes later, Erik Fuglestad won the match for the Canaries. It was only the Blades' second defeat of the season.

Finally, if Terry Venables is still mulling over his future as chairman of Portsmouth, yesterday's 2-0 defeat of Stoke with goals from Pompey's young strikers, John Aloisi and Mathias Svensson, might have helped him make up his mind.