Football: Owl returns much the wiser

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Ferdinand 69

Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Bright 78, Watson 79

Attendance: 16,858

A HAPPY return to Shepherd's Bush for Sheffield Wednesday, winning there for the second time this season, and for Trevor Francis, now a much wiser old Owl than when taking his first faltering steps as manager of Queen's Park Rangers; less so for Andy Sinton.

The England midfielder, absent injured when his new club beat his old one 2-1 in the Coca-Cola Cup last month, was unable to respond to the boos yesterday and found himself taken off in a double substitution after 75 minutes, which changed the course of a vaguely disappointing game.

Having just seen Wednesday fall behind to Les Ferdinand, Francis withdrew Sinton and Chris Bart-Williams and was rewarded with two goals in as many minutes. 'It worked better than I expected,' he admitted with a modesty becoming the latest candidate for the England managership. Details of recent talks with the FA's headhunter Jimmy Armfield, he said, should remain private.

The other Francis interesting England, Gerry of the Rangers, was left to rue the injuries and suspensions that left his team with half a dozen absentees, more than balancing out the Achilles trouble that deprived us all of Chris Waddle. The game also suffered from a scuffed-up pitch and, as both managers pointed out, from the unreasonable demands made on players (if not supporters) at this time of year.

There had been a bright opening, and almost a Bright one when the Wednesday striker dispossessed Rangers' goalkeeper, Jan Stejskal, but allowed him to retrieve the ball from a sitting position. Although Ferdinand encouraged the home crowd by the ease with which he went round Des Walker in Rangers' first attack, Darren Peacock's headed flick- ons from corner kicks were their most threatening weapon for a long period.

Kevin Pressman in Wednesday's goal did well to reach them under pressure, which was the full extent of his work until well into the second half. Then as the entertainment belatedly picked up, he saved well from Michael Meaker at the foot of a post and beat out a fizzing shot from Ferdinand. Perversely, his best save, getting finger tips to a low drive after Meaker's outstanding run from the halfway line, brought a goal. Ferdinand, following up, was able to squeeze in his shot from a difficult angle.

The home supporters' raucous glee, redoubled by Sinton's exit, tempted fate. Scarcely had he pulled on his track suit top than Peacock and David Bardsley lost Bright, who was free to head in Roland Nilsson's cross. Two more minutes and Gordon Watson made an intelligent square run to stay onside and send Ryan Jones's pass beyond Stejskal.

(Photograph omitted)

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