Football round-up: Fans protest over Francis 'loss'

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The Independent Online
ONE thousand Queen's Park Rangers fans staged a loud and mobile demonstration after the home match against Wimbledon yesterday. Furious at the possible loss of the club's coveted manager, Gerry Francis, to Wolves, they moved from the Loftus Road stands to the pitch to South Africa Road, outside the ground, and stayed there for an hour after the match until the manager appeared.

'I'm more than happy to sign a new contract at QPR,' he told them. 'But if that's not going to happen I'm going to have to decide what else I'm going to do.' He would not elaborate on his meeting on Friday with the Wolves chairman.

For his part, the Rangers chairman, Richard Thompson, said that after an emergency board meeting over the weekend a statement about his manager's future would be issued by tomorrow. 'I allowed Wolves to make an approach out of courtesy to Gerry Francis,' Thompson said.

It was a courtesy that the Rangers fans could have lived without judging by their reaction. 'We want Thompson out' and 'There's only one Gerry Francis' were the unoriginal, if succinct, chants. They have been increasingly dismayed at the continuing uncertainty surrounding the club's future ownership and the habit of selling their best players.

A game of football broke out amid all the controversy and if it proves to be the former England captain's farewell home game he will have left on a winning note. Victory came thanks to a Darren Peacock goal set up by Les Ferdinand, one of the players Rangers may lose if Francis goes. Meanwhile, up in the Black Country, Wolves, managerless since Graham Turner's resignation last week, drew 0-0 with Grimsby.

Coventry had lost their past three games without scoring and never looked like changing that at Elland Road, where Leeds United forced five corners in the first 12 minutes. The winner came from Rod Wallace just before the hour.

Stan Collymore is back and how. The Nottingham Forest striker, who returned after injury yesterday, received a hero's welcome, scoring within 60 seconds of coming on as a second- half substitute and was then sent off two minutes from time for elbowing Bolton's captain, Phil Brown. 'What he did was unprofessional and you can't get away with that,' his manager, Frank Clark, said. 'It could have been a fairy-tale return for him.'

Collymore's goal put Forest 3-1 ahead after Bolton had scored first. They then weathered Wanderers' late charge to win 3-2 and creep to within two points of the leaders, Crystal Palace, who play Charlton this afternoon.

Other promotion challengers were less successful. Leicester were sluggish and struggling Barnsley took full advantage. Andy Payton did the damage. And lately Tranmere have been slipping up as often as Tonya Harding. Oxford were the cause of their latest stumble, winger Joey Beauchamp scoring from close range. Luton seemed to have this week's FA Cup sixth-round replay against West Ham on their minds and were fortunate to hang on to a point at home to the bottom club, Birmingham.

Reading's leading scorer, Jimmy Quinn, scored both goals at Hull to take his season's tally to 34 and his club back to the top of the Second Division after Plymouth were surprisingly beaten at home by Cardiff, for whom Phil Stant also scored twice. Peter Shilton's West Countrymen had only reached the summit last Tuesday. Perhaps the rarified air did not agree with them.

The wheels have come off Crewe Alexandra's Third Division promotion train in spectacular fashion in recent weeks. Torquay are the latest side to find Gresty Road a less than forbidding venue, their 3-2 win improving their own promotion chances. Chester, who had taken over Crewe's top-spot in midweek, lost at Carlisle, which allowed Shrewsbury to draw level on 60 points after beating Mansfield 3-1. A point behind are Wycombe, who kept their nerve to win 3-0 at Darlington, Steve Guppy finding the net twice.

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