Football: Holland's strike saves Ipswich

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Ipswich Town 1
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The Independent Online
THE MOMENT that Gerry Francis was named manager of the month for November, after guiding Queen's Park Rangers to four wins in five games, he must have suspected something would go wrong as football's law of Sod usually dictates the manager then loses his next game. QPR did not lose this, but, by conceding the equaliser a minute into injury time, they surely felt as if they had.

Francis had almost engineered QPR's best result of the season, as their defence, superbly marshalled by Danny Maddix, gave second-placed Ipswich scarcely a decent sight on goal all night, which was no mean feat as Jamie Scowcroft had scored a hat-trick at the weekend. Yet after 90 minutes of complete anonymity, Scowcroft was on hand when it counted to scrape a pass to his team-mate Matt Holland, who poked the ball past Ludek Miklosko and left QPR thinking of what might have been.

In a match that was short on genuine goalmouth chances, both defences stood out and QPR knew that Ipswich, with the best defensive record in the First Division, would hardly be likely to give away many chances either.

Yet it was an uncharacteristic lapse after 58 minutes that saw QPR take the lead. Mike Sheron picked up the ball just outside the Ipswich penalty area. He in turn passed to Kevin Gallen who had run into the area and the former England Under-21 striker turned his marker, Tony Mowbray, to beat Richard Wright at his near post. That was not necessarily something that would have impressed the watching England manager, Glenn Hoddle.

Ipswich seemed to lack the ability to respond and get past either Maddix or the QPR goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko. But when needed, the Czech was in acrobatic form, denying Holland's powerful header in the second half.

But the Ipswich manager, George Burley, felt his team deserved the draw that moved them within four points of the division's leaders, Sunderland, and he revealed his intent afterwards to keep pushing for promotion as he has secured the loan signing of the West Ham United striker, Samassi Abou, to fill in for David Johnson, who undergoes surgery today.

Yet Francis, who lost two players from his midfield during the first half, praised his team's fighting spirit, giving his team the ultimate compliment for a side that were bottom of the table in October, as he said: "We're difficult to beat now and we showed no fear of competing." And he even beat the curse of the manager of the month.

Queen's Park Rangers (3-5-2): Miklosko; Morrow, Ready, Maddix; Heinola, Baraclough, Langley (Scully, 39), Peacock (Rowland, 44), Murray; Sheron (Steiner, 84), Gallen.

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Wright; Thetis, Mowbray (Kennedy, 66), Venus; Clapham, Dyer, Holland, Tanner (Hodges, 81), Petta; Johnson, Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Naylor.

Referee: G Cain (Merseyside).