Rangers down, Ready or not

QPR 3 Ready 59, Gallen 70, 78 West Ham United 0 Attendance: 18 ,828
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The Independent Online
Teams are rarely unlucky to be relegated - results over a whole season rather than a mere few weeks at the end of it form a fair reflection of merit. But clubs do not come much more unfortunate than Queen's Park Rangers were yesterday.

Bravely, rousingly, they turned up the heat on a West Ham who wilted in it after outplaying Rangers in the first half and two goals by Kevin Gallen confirmed a victory that Karl Ready's opener had promised. An unlikely combination of results elsewhere, however, with the three strugglers immediately above them all winning, sent them out of the top flight after 13 seasons.

As the players basked in Loftus Road's sunny but ignorant appreciation at the end of their final Premiership home game, they were informed by Neil Fraser, the Rangers team doctor, of the results elsewhere. Ray Wilkins, the home team's player- manager, said: "I suppose he's used to giving bad news. But that sums up our season. Some shock results have kicked us in the teeth. The players are distraught but it is important that they remember this feeling and never let it happen again."

It was a curious case of too much, too late. Rangers' third consecutive three-goal home victory graphically illustrated their Premiership pedigree, at least in their passing. There has, however, also been a fragility to them which has too easily been exposed and exploited.

It was duly exposed in the first half by a West Ham unusually free of relegation worries of their own, in a passage of play that made it easy to see why. But they failed to claim the lead they deserved, notably when Tony Cottee met Keith Rowland's low cross at the far post only for Jurgen Sommer to block at his feet.

The turning point came a minute into the second half. Mark Hateley, whose shot and header, both comfortably clutched by Ludek Miklosko, were Rangers' only real threats of the first half, had to leave the field with his third broken nose of the season after an aerial challenge with Slaven Bilic, which brought on the younger, quicker Lee Charles.

Suddenly Rangers, who had been playing Hateley, Gallen and Daniele Dichio up front but had been hoisting too many high balls, found some width and rhythm. They were also aided by some appalling defending as Karl Ready was allowed the space to drive emphatically home after Dichio had headed down Simon Barker's chip.

Nine minutes later, Dichio headed down again, this time from Trevor Sinclair's cross from the right, and after Bilic had miskicked horribly, Gallen swooped, swivelled and volleyed home. The same three sealed the game in another nine minutes. This time Sinclair crossed from the left, Dichio headed back across goal and Gallen tapped home.

It was left to Wilkins to insist that all his young assets, particularly Sinclair, would be staying and to contemplate the Endsleigh League. Before that, he has a meeting to discuss finances with QPR owner Richard Thompson, on Tuesday. After the luck that went missing yesterday, he needs some for that.