Football: Houston's hell

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The Independent Online
Grimsby Town 2

Mendonca 12, Widdrington 26

Queen's Park Rangers 0

Attendance: 5,472

Stewart Houston continues to suffer as he cuts his managerial teeth. Queen's Park Rangers have yet to win a league match since the former Arsenal No 2 took charge, and here they suffered a second defeat in five days, confirming how difficult it is going to be to regain their place in the Premiership.

Grimsby were in the bottom three yesterday morning, having lost four times out of five at home this season, the latest a 4-1 drubbing by Norwich. But they swamped Rangers, scoring twice inside the first half-hour to take a grip on the contest they never looked likely to release.

Betraying no lack of confidence, Grimsby went for the jugular from the start and Houston's inexperienced side were allowed no time to settle. West Ham came a cropper on this ground last season, in the Coca-Cola Cup, and Grimsby were encouraged by their fans to be similarly disdainful of these visitors from the capital who had not been required to send a team to Blundell Park since 1983.

This direct approach brought its reward within 12 minutes, when Clive Mendonca put Grimsby ahead. Craig Shakespeare, strong in the air, flicked on a long ball and the striker, controlling the ball on his chest, shielded it cleverly before jabbing a shot past Jurgen Sommer.

It was precisely the start Houston had wanted least for a team whose confidence suffers, he says, when they go behind. Worse was to follow as Tommy Widdrington, Grimsby's signing from Southampton, doubled their advantage.

The goal followed a period of sustained pressure but came out of nothing, nonetheless. Taking possession in crowded territory 30 yards out, Widdrington decided to try his luck but the execution was perfect, a looping shot clearing the 6ft 4in American goalkeeper before dipping under the bar.

It added up to an unenviable predicament for Houston, who had not by that stage seen his side mount one genuine threat. The second half brought change, both in tactics and commitment on Rangers' part, but no improvement in the scoreline.

Houston looked baffled afterwards. "We were two behind before we had a real go and I don't really know why that was. We have an inexperienced side and it is a test of their confidence when they concede a goal."