Football: QPR left stranded on the starting line

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The Independent Online
Tranmere Rovers 2 Queen's Park Rangers 1

The league, as managers will tell you, is a marathon not a sprint and Queen's Park Rangers are beginning to resemble the runner left looking bemused on the start line as the rest of the field races off into the distance.

Among the favourites for promotion from the First Division, they have yet to win this season and were beaten more comfortably last night than the scoreline would suggest. David Kelly and Lee Jones got the goals for Tranmere, who habitually harbour hopes of going up, while Gavin Peacock's reply came when the game was beyond salvation.

"It is fair to say," John Aldridge had said beforehand, "that we have yet to perform to our true potential" although the Tranmere player-manager will have been happy with what he saw last night. After a sluggish opening, Paul Cook and Liam O'Brien controlled midfield while David Kelly oozed menace.

Which contrasted with the first 15 minutes when Tranmere's goalkeeper Danny Coyne denied Kevin Gallen and Paul Murray with his athleticism and as Gavin Peacock had been just over with a chip the flow had been almost exclusively one way.

Tranmere's impersonation of a boat going against the stream ended when the Rangers goalkeeper, Lee Harper, let John Morrissey's 17th-minute shot slip through his hands. To his relief, the ball bounced wide of the post but the spell had been broken and after Gary Jones had hit the bar with a header the home team took the lead six minutes before half-time.

Kelly attempted a flick-on that was thwarted inadvertently by a QPR player. The visiting defence was off balance to gather the rebound, however, and he lashed in a shot from 25 yards.

Tranmere's second, after 71 minutes, was equally spectacular, Lee Jones bending a shot round Harper from the left corner of the area so that when Peacock scored with the game's last kick thanks to a dreadful handling blunder from Coyne, the points had already disappeared.

After a draw and a defeat in the League and a Coca-Cola Cup defeat at home by Wolves in midweek, the mood among the QPR supporters was not forgiving and before Peacock's final flourish they were chanting for manager Stewart Houston's sacking. On a baking August day it was the first definitive sound of winter.

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Coyne: Stevens, McGreal, Thorn, Thompson; Morrissey (Branch, 79), O'Brien (Irons, 89), Cook, L Jones; Kelly (Aldridge, 84), G Jones.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Harper: Perry, Rose, Morrow, Brevett; Sinclair (Slade, 76), Barker, Peacock, Murray; Spencer, Gallen (Brazier, 76). Substitute not used: Graham.

Referee: S Mathieson (Stockport).

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