Queen's Park Rangers. . .1
RELUCTANT participants they may have been, but Queen's Park Rangers illuminated their contentiously belated start to the season with a goal BSkyB is sure to replay time and again.
The satellite arrivistes and the west London club are not the best of friends after their well publicised disagreement over the scheduling of this match, but Sky will have welcomed Andy Sinton's telegenic equaliser - albeit through gritted teeth.
The odd job man of the England squad - he has flitted between left-back, midfield, and left wing in a five-cap career - scored from 20 yards to equalise a more prosaic strike from another of Graham Taylor's young aspirants, David White.
An interesting game was always going to struggle to live up to some ludicrous pre-match hype. Fireworks, dancing girls and parachutists: Sky gave us the full treatment. Everything but the Refrigerator at centre-half.
The football, at least, was reassuringly British. There was nothing ersatz about the buzz created by City's deployment of two wingers in a full-blown 4-2-4.
Nottingham Forest and Liverpool it was not, City ensuring that the ball spent more time arcing through the air than skimming across the turf, but football is a broad church, diversity among its strengths.
Peter Reid's confidence that City can improve on last season's fifth place is founded on the expensive acquisition of Rick Holden to supply Niall Quinn's prolific forehead, the return to fitness of the gifted Paul Lake and the availability of funds for more reinforcements, demonstrated by the pounds 1.5m offer for Wimbledon's Terry Phelan.
Queen's Park Rangers - no sales, no signings - are paupers by comparison, but under Gerry Francis's astute direction they are as good to watch as anyone on their day.
This, it has to be said, was not one of those, but again they have the makings of a decent, progressive team, with Bardsley and McDonald as good as most in defence, Wilkins unrivalled as a midfield tactician and Sinton a clever and economical provider.
The contrast between the two sides has more to do with football philosophy than finance. Queen's Park Rangers play a passing game, as one might expect from a team moulded by Francis and Wilkins.
City are unapologetically Route One. Typical of their direct approach was the incident, midway throught the first half, which saw Quinn take Tony Coton's long clearance on his chest, turning Darren Peacock in the process, before shooting powerfully, and only fractionally wide, from 25 yards.
His sights set, the Irish totem's second strike, after 37 minutes, was more productive. Holden, according to his manager, is the best crosser of the ball in the country, and the pounds 900,000 newcomer from Oldham will have won a few friends on his debut by picking out Lake who, in turn, set up Quinn on the edge of the penalty area. Jan Stejskal did well to reach the striker's low shot, falling to his left, but his outstretched palm succeeded only in diverting the ball to White, who made short work of a close-range finish.
Queen's Park Rangers regained parity in stunning fashion, two minutes into the second half, when Wilkins's square pass allowed Sinton to beat Coton with a rising left-foot shot from just outside the penalty area.
Not to be outdone, Fitzroy Simpson promptly produced an even more spectacular drive, doubling up in disbelief when Stejskal reached his 25-yard free-kick and touched it on to his cross-bar. The combative midfielder's mortification was complete when White dragged the rebound wastefully wide.
Such was the excitement, with the game bubbling nicely, that Ian Brightwell got away with a back- pass which went unpunished when Coton picked it up.
Excitement yes, precision no. The two are uncomfortable bedfellows, and although Wilkins and Dennis Bailey both went close there was too much hit and hope for either side to achieve a positive outcome.
Manchester City: Coton; Hill, Brightwell, Simpson, Curle, Vonk, White, Lake (Sheron, 76), Quinn, Holden, McMahon. Substitutes not used: Flitcroft, Margetson.
Queen's Park Rangers: Stejskal; Bardsley, Wilson, Wilkins, Peacock, McDonald, Impey, Holloway, Ferdinand, Bailey (Thompson, 89), Sinton. Substitutes not used: Maddix, Roberts.
Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).
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