Football: QPR's strike force lose sight of goal

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . .0

Ipswich Town. . . . . . .0

THIS WAS not the best advertisement for graceful on-the-ground football; the best advertisement would contain a goal or two. Even in the most enlightened footballing nations you do not get three points just for elegance, and certainly not in England.

Under the tutelage of the ageless Ray Wilkins, Queen's Park Rangers are nowadays playing with unabashed finesse on the way forward but seem to run out of ideas when they get to the area. It is all very well putting on a weekly exhibition of how to pass a ball, but after their second successive 0-0 draw at Loftus Road, it is becoming evident that Rangers lack someone who can put the ball away. Money being scarce, now could be the time to try out Bradley Allen, Clive's younger brother.

Les Ferdinand, the club's most regular goalscorer, charged around yesterday like a bull at Pamplona but, under John Wark's leadership, the Ipswich defence found a way to herd him away from danger, most notably at the end of the first half when his close- range shot from the byline proved no problem for Craig Forrest in the Ipswich goal. When two good chances did fall to him in the dying seconds, the crowd somehow knew that the goal which had eluded Rangers all afternoon was not about to materialise.

There was never a question that the home side would lose, though. Rangers are ball-players through and through, and play with a collective instinct in defence that they lack at the other end of the pitch. Their one genuine moment of confusion in defence, between Andy Sinton and Darren Peacock, seemed to arise because neither player wanted simply to hoof the ball upfield.

Seconds after setting up Dennis Bailey, whose swivelling shot demanded a gymnastic save from Forrest, Alan McDonald was demonstrating the virtue of team understanding at the other end. Chasing to retrieve an over-hit long ball with Paul Goddard, eager to be a thorn in the side of his first employer, scampering at his heels, he chose to knock the ball across the box into space, where David Bardsley collected it. Somehow you could not see it happening at Highbury or Old Trafford.

With QPR defending so creatively - Peacock and Simon Barker were also seen mopping up tidily - Ipswich had little to show for their efforts but an inaccurate header from Jason Dozzell and a series of speculative efforts from long range. Neil Thompson's ostensibly ferocious attempt alone tested Jan Stejskal.

Rangers saw a false dawn as the interval approached. After typically patient approach play, Ferdinand nodded Andrew Impey's cross into the path of Bailey, who duly netted but turned to see the linesman flagging him down for offside.

In search of the elusive goal Gerry Francis, the QPR manager, sent on Gary Penrice to beef up his attack, and chances did start to flow. Another fluid move ended with a pass from Bardsley which set up the substitute to unleash a fierce shot. Had the angle not been so tight Forrest might have conceded a goal rather than a corner.

The roar that greeted the corner suggested that QPR's discerning public were beginning to despair at all this toothless flair. They thought their moment had come when, after Phil Whelan was incongruously booked for a foul on Impey, Bardsley's high free- kick was met by Ferdinand before Forrest could get a fist to it. The ball sailed towards the net but Eddie Youds, at the cost of a back injury which forced his withdrawal, hooked the ball away for yet another corner.

Rangers continued the hunt to no avail. Penrice produced one good-looking cross but no doubt would have liked someone other than Wilkins to be on the end of it. Had Ferdinand been there to meet it QPR would have won, but Wilkins has not scored very often since leaving Chelsea, and one suspects that he has never scored with his head at all.

Queen's Park Rangers: J Stejskal; D Bardsley, C Wilson, R Wilkins, D Peacock, A McDonald, A Impey, S Barker, L Ferdinand, D Bailey (G Penrice, 58min), A Sinton. Subs not used: I Holloway, T Roberts (gk). Manager: G Francis.

Ipswich Town: C Forrest; P Whelan, N Thompson, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, P Goddard (G Pennyfather, 90min), G Johnson, J Dozzell, E Youds (F Yallop, 77min). Sub not used: C Baker (gk). Team manager: M McGiven.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury)

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