Wilkins allowed a winning smile

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The Independent Online
BOB HOUSTON

Queen's Park Rangers 3 Southampton 0

As the footballing equivalent of the Big Bang continues to sharpen the divide between the Premiership's haves and have-nots, the drop to the Endsleigh First Division for the impecunious assumes ominous and horrific consequences.

The message of what relegation now means has got through at Loftus Road but not, it would seem, at Southampton and that was the decisive factor here. Saints' manager, Dave Merrington, elated after the commitment that had beaten fellow strugglers Coventry, was in deep depression as his men lost the place in the second half and were lucky that Rangers' biggest win of the season only cost them three goals.

Those who maintain that life minus Matt Le Tissier means a more prosaic but more purposeful Saints, should have been at Loftus Road. The suspended maverick, not on song of late anyway, at least would have offered some hope of salvation with a magic moment. After the unfortunate Francis Benali diverted Rufus Brevitt's fierce cross-cum-shot into his own net in the 23rd minute, there was none.

Daniele Dichio's second, calmly executed after Trevor Sinclair's flick had put him clear was the only goal that would not have caused dressing- room recriminations. Kevin Gallen's third left Dave Beasant with a red face when a moment's hesitation and vicious back spin of a bounce allowed the striker to beat him to Alan McDonald's through ball.

Ray Wilkins, the QPR manager, has never lost the ability to smile in public as his problems have grown, but here he meant it. He knows that in players like Sinclair, Dichio and Impey, backed up by the outstanding example of skipper McDonald, he has the stuff to at least rage at the dying of the Premiership light over Loftus Road.

Their visit to St James' Park on Saturday suddenly seems less daunting. As Wilkins put it, "we're due a nice upset and I can't think of a better place for it."

Goals: Brevett (23) 1-0; Dichio (59) 2-0; Gallen (77) 3-0.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Sommer; Bardsley, McDonald, Yates, Brevett; Sinclair, Impey, Holloway, Barker; Dichio, Gallen. Substitutes not used: Goodridge, Hateley, Brazier.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Neilson, Monkou, Benali (Walters, 64); Heaney, Venison, Magilton, Charlton; Warren, Shipperley. Substitutes not used: Widdrington, Tisdale.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: QPR: Bardsley, Brevett, Holloway, Yates. Southampton: Dodd, Charlton, Monkou.

Man of the match: McDonald.

Attendance: 17,615.

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