QPR can only spell trouble

Manchester City 2 Queen's Park Rangers 0
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The Independent Online
GUY HODGSON

Manchester City 2 Queen's Park Rangers 0

The little boy who was asking what QPR stood for as he waited to get in to Maine Road on Saturday would not need to ask today. Forget the slightly fanciful answer he got from his father (Queen's Park is in Scotland isn't it?), he will know that Quite Poor Really is more appropriate.

For much of this season Ray Wilkins' team have been going round with the tag "too good to go down" attached to their paltry points total. That can be forgotten, too. This had, the first 20 minutes apart, a bona fide raggedness that implies relegation.

It was betrayed in attitude as much as lack of creation. The referee, Graham Poll, may have been over keen at flashing his yellow card but in many cases the QPR players gave him little choice. There was definitely an air of "sod it, we're losing anyway" about some of their fouls. Morale appears to have gone west with backbone.

The result is not a pretty sight. "There's a lot of apprehension," Ray Wilkins, their manager admitted. "No one likes to pass the ball around. I'm confident we can get out of this but I'm not playing. It's very difficult to get players to believe in themselves if we keep losing games."

Particularly if he keeps losing them to suspension. Someone with a good calculator at the FA will be working out the disciplinary consequences of QPR's six cautions but Daniel Dichio erased all doubt by a fatuous dismissal for two bookable offences, the first of which was for kicking the ball away. As he had just returned from a ban you could understand the edge in Wilkins' voice when he said: "I don't think he likes playing football."

There is a notion circulating that Wilkins is too nice to be a manager and if his pleasant, articulate manner survived that and other crimes in the privacy of the visiting dressing-room then it is probably right. Even Mother Teresa would have had her saintliness tried and she surely would have been tempted to do something nasty to Jurgen Sommer.

By all accounts the QPR goalkeeper has been playing well but he made up for it with the City goals. For the first he dropped Martin Phillips' cross to allow Nigel Clough to score and then he stood and watched as Kit Symons' header passed between himself and Ian Holloway for City's second.

Given that Phillips also hit the post and that Georgi Kinkladze was denied only by Sommer's legs when he burst through we could have been witnessing a rout.

All of which left Alan Ball, the City manager, sitting smugly as the Cheshire Cat. Throughout a season of dark forebodings he has been saying that his team are improving and, having established a three-point gap from the relegation places, he had an "I told you so" swagger about him.

This was reinforced by his three recent signings - Clough, Phillips and Michael Frontzeck - who all acquitted themselves well. The last of these has a brooding demeanour of nightclub bouncer and more than one winger, you suspect, will be asking for a quick change of flank when they they get a taste of his tackles.

It was Clough who was singled out by Ball, however. "He can play can't he?" he asked rhetorically. "He has a brain. I'm pleased with everything about him: his attitude his professionalism, his personality. He can only be good for this club. He's the right type of person you need around you."

In short, he provided quality, passing and resolve. QPR again. But believe me none of the above applied to the visitors.

Goals: Clough (25) 1-0; Symons (50) 2-0.

Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Immel; Summerbee, Symons, Curle, Frontzeck; Lomas (Brightwell, 82), Flitcroft, Phillips; Clough, Kinkladze; Rosler (Creaney, 82). Substitute not used: Margetson (gk).

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-1-1): Sommer; Yates, Maddix, McDonald, Challis; Quashie (Brazier, 72), Barker, Holloway, Sinclair; Allen (Gallen, 67); Hateley (Dichio, 67).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Manchester City: Kinkladze, Flitcroft, Rosler. QPR: McDonald, Maddix, Holloway, Barker, Quashie, Sinclair, Dichio. Sending-off: QPR: Dichio, 87.

Man of the match: Kinkladze. Attendance: 27,509.

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