Football: Peschisolido stays cool in cauldron

Fulham 1 Peschisolido 17 Queen's Park Rangers 0 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 19,623
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ALL IS so rosy at Fulham that Mohamed Al Fayed now joins in his employees' pre-match warm-up. Wisely, he stepped aside as the real stuff got under way, an ill-tempered affair in which the home side extended their unbeaten League and cup run to 10 games in front of the biggest crowd at Craven Cottage for 16 years.

QPR have been out of action for a couple of weeks following the meningitis scare at the club but they looked in robust enough health when it came to putting the boot in, encouraged by a large following who delayed the kick-off for a couple of minutes when fighting broke out in front of the main stand.

Paul Peschisolido was the one who eventually unhinged QPR with a goal after 17 minutes, but he missed two simpler chances before - his edge dulled by a crunching tackle from Danny Maddix which reactivated a groin problem - he was replaced after 72 minutes.

Any hope Rangers nursed of extracting something from this first clash between the west London neighbours for 16 years was extinguished when their front man, Rob Steiner, virtually invited the referee, Rob Styles, to send him off. From the start, he perpetrated fouls every time he went for the ball and a tolerant official was in danger of letting the match escalate into open warfare before he finally booked Tony Scully and then, in the 38th minute, Steiner for, of all things, dissent. Four minutes later, Steiner chose to execute a clumsy dive in Fulham's penalty area and was shown the red card.

Fulham should have been up in a quarter of an hour, but Peschisolido completely missed his kick when Geoff Horsfield's back-post header fell to him inside the six-yard area. He made amends inside two minutes. Maddix, the QPR captain, fouled Horsfield on the corner of the penalty area and Paul Trollope's left-footed free-kick surprised Ludek Miklosko, rebounding from the goalkeeper's chest to Peschisolido who stuck the gift away.

Play went on, despite another outbreak of violence in the stands after 20 minutes, and it was soon after this that QPR had their best chance. Maik Taylor came out to fist away a cross but lost the ball which fell nicely for Gavin Peacock. As he drew back his right foot to put it into an open goal, Andy Melville got in a wonderful dispossessing challenge.

With Kevin Gallen off the bench and operating alone up front for QPR in the second half, Fulham pushed for the goal which would have underwritten their superiority. But the closest they managed was Lee Clark's shot, which cannoned off the post, rebounded from Miklosko to Peschisolido, but was sent back into the goalkeeper's grateful arms. Then, in the final minute, Barry Hayles was sent free by Trollope with QPR committed upfield but rolled his shot wide.

The referee needed an escort off the pitch, both at the interval and full-time, when Ian Baraclough had to be restrained by security stewards as he delivered his opinion of Mr Styles' handling of the match. It was a view backed by his manager, Gerry Francis. "If I had been out there I would have been booked for dissent," he said. "I don't want to talk about the referee but I have spoken to him. I was disappointed by his first-half performance. Let's leave it at that, shall we?''