Football: Wright caught in the congestion

Click to follow
Queen's Park Rangers. 0

Arsenal. . . . . . . 0

A GOOD old-fashioned derby, but therein lies the problem. Old- fashioned is right. The fans loved every red-blooded minute, but what Graham Taylor made of it is anybody's guess.

Fast, furious and physical, it held its audience spellbound, but had precious little in common with international football, and Taylor, we may presume, learned precious little from his visit. QPR needed a win to restore them to the top of the table, a fourth successive victory for Arsenal would have hoisted them into second place. The incentives and the adrenalin militated against composure and precision; a goalless stalemate and six bookings was a fair reflection.

Having recalled Ian Wright to the England squad for next week's friendly in Spain, Taylor must have hoped for a more meaningful test of his readiness to fill Gary Lineker's golden boots. A gulf wider than the Bay of Biscay separates London's domestic squabbles from Santander.

Congestion in both penalty areas restricted clear-cut chances to a minimum, and Lineker's heir apparent had just two. With the first, his clever chip brought a flying save of the highest order from Tony Roberts, deputising for Jan Stejskal in the QPR goal. The second did him no favours, his response taking the form of a hurried shot into the side netting when he had the time and space in which to make sure.

George Graham said afterwards that his principal goal-scorer was still troubled by a thigh injury, and would not take his place in Taylor's squad next week unless he could 'do himself justice'.

Gerry Francis is satisfied that his team are doing that with their bright start to the season. Neat and tidy, as is their wont these days, QPR also summoned the aggression lacking when they were beaten 1-0 at Chelsea on Saturday.

They might have had a penalty after 19 minutes, when Lee Dixon's challenge sent Andy Sinton sprawling well inside the area. The tackle was dubious, to say the least, and Ray Wilkins led a posse of QPR players who chased the referee to protest at the decision that no foul had been committed.

Old Butch, 36 in two weeks' time, is old enough to know better. All he got for his longest run of the night was the inevitable booking.

QPR were still seething over the penalty, or rather the lack of one, when Les Ferdinand clattered into David Seaman culpably late, provoking an exchange of unpleasantries with Lee Dixon which left the Arsenal defender flat on his back. Both players saw red, and will have been grateful for Ron Groves's preference for yellow when he reached for the card again. Nigel Winterburn, David Hillier and Sinton were to suffer the same fate.

Craft and guile was needed to compliment the hard graft if a positive outcome was to be achieved. Instead it became ever more frenetic and died a scrappy death.

Graham muttered darkly about referees and their shortcomings, but the real fault is with the system. Pell-mell football breeds only mediocrity at international level. Perhaps Taylor deserves our sympathy after all.

Queen's Park Rangers: Roberts; Bardsley, Wilson, Wilkins, Peacock, McDonald, Impey, Barker, Ferdinand, Bailey (Penrice, 80), Sinton. Substitutes not used: Maddix, Cordwell (gk).

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier (Pates, 78), Bould, Adams, Jensen, Wright, Campbell, Merson (Smith, 78), Parlour. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).