Football: Peacock strut quells QPR

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Chelsea. . . . . . . . . 2

Queen's Park Rangers. . .0

WITH AN almost audible sigh of relief, Glenn Hoddle finally got off the mark as Chelsea player-manager last night with a victory at Stamford Bridge that was almost single-handedly secured for him by Gavin Peacock, his only major signing, who scored the first and made the second against one of his former clubs.

Not that Peacock deserves all the credit. Hoddle can pat himself on the back for taking the decision to move his pounds 1.2m signing from midfield into attack for his first game there in the royal blue strip. A similar switch at St James' Park last season was largely responsible for catapulting Newcastle towards the Premiership and it had not escaped Hoddle's attention.

It is not difficult to see why Peacock has been deployed in both roles - the second goal owed everything to his terrier midfield qualities - but it does seem that by playing him in attack a team might get the best of both worlds.

The pre-season excellence which saw them carry off the Makita Tournament may not quite yet have been recaptured in the hurly-burly of the English league but there were signs that Hoddle is ironing out the gremlins. 'We'll get better and better,' Hoddle promised.

Dimitri Kharin, their Russian goalkeeper, ensured that what Chelsea had they held, starting with a save in the 12th minute when he turned a bicycle-kick from Simon Barker around a post with agility to match.

Appropriately, Hoddle was at the root of Peacock's first goal. A long raking pass by the Chelsea sweeper was fumbled by Steve Yates, allowing Tony Cascarino to square the ball to Peacock who finished without fuss.

Weaker though they undoubtedly are for the departure of Andy Sinton to Sheffield Wednesday, Rangers at least suggested that they are settling down after all the disruptive transfer speculation. We had to wait, however, until the 47th minute for a serious response to the Chelsea goal and then Kharin was again equal to it, stopping a diving header from Gary Penrice at point-blank range.

Four minutes later Chelsea, to all intents, cut off Rangers' escape route when Peacock tenaciously won possession from the unfortunate Yates near the byline, setting up a chance out of nothing for Cascarino. The big man finished with rare aplomb; a neat little shimmy which threw two defenders and a well-drilled shot into the far corner of Tony Roberts's net.

That made it 10 goals conceded in four games for Gerry Francis's team who cannot have Alan McDonald back in the heart of their defence soon enough. The absence, too, of David Bardsley, the England full-back, only compounded their problems at the back.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Kharin; Clarke, Johnsen, Lee, Myers; Hoddle; Newton, Donaghy, Wise, G Peacock, Cascarino. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Shipperley, Hall.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Roberts; Yates, D Peacock, Wilkins, Wilson; Impey, Barker, Ready, Brevett (Sinclair, 59); Ferdinand, Penrice. Substitutes not used: Stejskal (gk), White.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).