Gallen fuels the fires for survival

QPR 3 Brevett 23, Dichio 59, Gallen 77 Southampton 0 Attendance: 17,615
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The Independent Online
QUEEN'S Park Rangers stood at the brink yesterday and refused to look down. Playing as well as tense circumstances would allow, they recorded their biggest win of the season to move off the bottom of the Premiership and put Southampton very much back among those struggling for Premiership survival.

While, perhaps inevitably, the match jarred as a spectacle, there was no doubting QPR's determination once they had gained a somewhat fortuitous lead midway through the first half. That was always going to be a test of Southampton's resolve, and their failure to pass it brought them the condemnation of their manager, Dave Merrington.

"I was bitterly disappointed with our second-half performance," he said. "I try to protect my players but today I can't. I thought we were second best - closing people down, winning the ball, generally all round. And if you finish second best you're going nowhere."

QPR's recent form had suggested they were better than bottom-of-the-table material. Two weeks ago, they did not deserve to suffer the agony of Eric Cantona's injury-time equaliser for Manchester United, and they followed that with another 1-1 draw, at Chelsea. As long as their fighting spirit remains undimmed, the extra dimension that Trevor Sinclair gives them could just be enough to ensure they retain their present status.

With his combination of speed, tenacity and vision, Sinclair made the difference on a day when Southampton, lacking the suspended Matthew Le Tissier, played football that was often perfectly respectable but almost never threatening. They managed to create the clearer chances early on, but the ultimate course of the match was settled in the 24th minute when, after some rather blurred QPR attacks, Sinclair took matters into his own hands.

Cutting in from the left, Sinclair drove a 25-yard shot towards Dave Beasant's right which the Southampton goalkeeper must have thought he had dealt with when he parried it firmly out towards the edge of the area. But when Rufus Brevett struck the ball straight back into the six-yard box, the pace of it was too great for the covering Francis Benali, and it bounced off his boot and into the net. Brevett, who has never scored for QPR, duly claimed the goal, but if it comes before the FA panel that decides these things, there can surely be only one outcome.

QPR's second, right on the hour, also stemmed from Sinclair, who split the Southampton defence with an angled pass into the path of Daniele Dichio. As Beasant advanced, Dichio lifted the ball over him with great composure. A mix-up between Beasant and Ken Monkou led to the third goal 12 minutes from time when Kevin Gallen was allowed to reach Alan McDonald's long- ball forward and head in from outside the area.

"It's extremely pleasing," Ray Wilkins, the QPR manager, said. "It's all very well people talking about pressure at the top of the table, but there's far more pressure in a relegation battle. It's not very pleasant at all, and our lads are standing up well."