Houston fails to please fans

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Port Vale 2
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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers, hoping to present their new manager, Stewart Houston, with his first home win, failed dismally last night, a goal 11 minutes from time by Simon Barker giving the scoreline an illusory sense of competitiveness.

A crowd of just 8,727 - Rangers' lowest League gate in five seasons - witnessed a desperately gauche display by a home side in which only four players were over 25. How many more will feel moved to watch the next home game in nine days' time is an interesting question.

"We have got quite a bit of work to do here," said Houston, who has now had four games in charge since leaving his caretaker-manager role at Arsenal.

Yesterday's news that he had recruited his former backroom colleague at Highbury, Steve Burtenshaw, to join him and the former Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch at Loftus Road strengthened the conviction that Rangers are to be modelled on the north Londoners' style.

Sadly for the Loftus Road faithful, who greeted this performance with a smattering of boos and muted cries of "What a load of rubbish", the traditional Highbury virtues come with traditional failings. Unexciting is probably the kindest word to use in the circumstances.

Rangers, however, are still far from acquiring the solidity which is the first requirement of the Arsenal school of football. "We have a lot of young players," Houston said. "It's a learning curve." A learning curve so steep, in fact, that Houston must surely look to the transfer market to strengthen his squad.

He has been told by the chairman, Chris Wright, that money would be available, and last night Houston hinted that he may have seen enough to act accordingly. "Young players have to come in and go out," he said. "At the moment, they are staying in because of the circumstances."

Houston, who accepted that the crowd had a right to their disappointment, will need to act soon to halt the freefall of a club relegated from the Premiership last season.

Port Vale, with two fast wingers, Steve Guppy and John McCarthy, getting behind the Rangers wing-backs, threatened on several occasions before Guppy, cutting in from the right, drove home the opener with a left-foot shot after 71 minutes. Guppy's run five minutes later set up Stuart Talbot for a shot which beat Jurgen Sommer and was tapped over the line by Tony Naylor.

Barker's 20-yard goal three minutes later came from nowhere, and generated nothing.

Queen's Park Rangers (3-5-2): Sommer; Plummer, McDonald, Brevett; Graham, Barker, Perry (Mahoney-Johnson, 56), Quashie, Brazier; Sinclair, Dichio. Substitutes not used: Maddix, Roberts (gk).

Port Vale (4-4-2): Van Heusden; Hill, Aspin, Glover, Tankard; Porter, Walker, Talbot (Bogie, 77), Guppy; McCarthy, Naylor (Foyle, 83). Substitute not used: Mills.

Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).

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