Yates learns gulf between one and none

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Queen's Park Rangers 0 Blackburn Rovers 1

All afternoon, QPR's central defender Steve Yates remained in strenuous proximity to Alan Shearer - holding him up, closing him down and, on occasions, knocking him sideways.

"Steve had a great game," said Rangers manager Ray Wilkins. "There was just one time when Alan got in front of him..."

Result - misery. Like many before him, Yates learned that one chance is all the Blackburn and England centre forward requires. When Geoff Kenna's left-wing cross arrived at the near post 12 minutes from time, it was dispatched with customary economy.

For Rovers, Shearer's 101st Premiership goal was cause for particular celebration, securing as it did their first away win in the League for nine months.

In the interim, Blackburn's fortune has blazed like a shooting star as they have risen to the title and then dropped through Europe. Now, with only one defeat in their last 11 games, they are on the up again, with a top-six place and a run in the FA Cup their main objectives.

Shearer's form is central to their ambitions, and, almost certainly, to England's in the European Championship this summer.

Understandably, Shearer regrets that Terry Venables, who has picked him so consistently, should be leaving as England coach. "It is very disappointing. But if he feels strongly enough to clear his name then good luck to him," he said.

Whoever succeeds Venables, it will not be Wilkins - even though Rangers' 39-year-old player-manager has been linked with the position. "If I was approached, I would turn it down," Wilkins said. "I don't think I'm qualified to do it."

Wilkins, whose suggestions for the job were former Everton and Athletic Bilbao manager, Howard Kendall, and his predecessor at Loftus Road, Gerry Francis, knows he has a big enough task on his hands already.

Climbing from the relegation area is looking an increasingly challenging proposition for a team which is uneasily polarised between old campaigners and talented but fallible youngsters.

"It is going to be tough," Wilkins said. "When you are surrounded by young players you have to try and keep their confidence high." That is getting to be increasingly difficult.

Goal: Shearer (78) 0-1.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Sommer; Bardsley, McDonald, Yates, Challis; Impey (Goodridge, 72), Wilkins (Maddix, 84), Quashie, Brazier (Hateley, h-t); Allen, Sinclair.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Coleman, Kenna; Ripley, Batty, Bohinen, Gallagher; Shearer, Newell. Substitutes not used: Sherwood, Warhurst, Mimms.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester). Attendance: 13,957.

Bookings: Blackburn: Berg.

Man of the match: Batty.

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