QUEENS Park Rangers were held to a goalless draw following an eventful and emotional evening in West London.
Newcastle United were but a side show in the latest saga at Loftus Road with a somewhat unadventurous Alan Pardew side having to soak up a wealth of pressure.
Chances for Jay Bothroyd and Alejandro Faurlín went awry in a stunning opening period with wing-wizard Shaun Wright-Phillips lighting up the occasion.
Unfortunately wayward finishing, goal-line clearances and a handful of luck ensured that the score line remained goalless and the Magpies gained a share of the spoils.
While the media attention focused understandably on Joey Barton it was an excellent team performance that saw Rangers within a hairs breadth of a first home maximum.
Promising much for further performances, the instant gelling of a talented squad provides hope for survival as QPR go in search of their second victory.
Neil Warnock handed debuts to five new players, including handing the armband to former Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Armand Traoré with Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlín pairing in the middle.
Barton was in advance of the pairing alongside Adel Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips with Jay Bothroyd playing the role of lone striker.
Tim Krul started between the sticks for Newcastle, with Danny Simpson, Fabricio Collocini, Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor sitting in the back four.
Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tioté and Jonás Gutiérrez started in midfield with Shola Ameobi partnering ex-QPR loanee Leon Best in attack.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v NEWCASTLE UNITED
The winds of change swept across Loftus Road – despite the take-over of Tony Fernandes banishing the memories of Bolton, it was a genuine pleasure that the benefits of this move could be enjoyed at Loftus Road.
Flanked by his Formula One glitterati, Fernandes was given a rapturous reception – one normally reserved for the status of legend – as he rather modestly took to his seat in the directors box.
His investment was borne out on the field when the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton took to the field in hooped jerseys – signings that in event history have been relatively unfounded for one of the Premier League new boys.
When Jude the Cat took to the field it was the final marker – more symbolic adulation than genuine delight I’m sure – that the Briatore era, and all it signified, had come to an end and Fernandes could build the ‘new era’ that Flavio once waxed lyrical about.
With pre-match formalities out of the way, on-field proceedings burst into life in the cauldron of noise that was Loftus Road and it wasn’t long before QPR were into their stride and enjoying the occasion.
Ryan Taylor’s name has been chanted by many at St James’ Park more out of irony for his recent goalscoring heroics, and his slash at goal from a free-kick rather encapsulated an effort that was true to form for the former Wigan Athletic man.
Adel Taarabt seemed to be benefiting most from his newest colleagues and his nice interplay with Wright-Phillips saw the Moroccan test Tim Krul from distance in the opening five minutes – a warning shot across the bows for the Geordies.
The educated feet of Wright-Phillips were not in question but his aerial prowess evidently and understandably leaves a little to be desired. More neat interplay saw Armand Traoré cross for the England international who could only nod high, wide and handsome of Krul’s goal.
The nature of the Premier League thus far has taught QPR that they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and that lesson was nearly cruelly dished out once more as Leon Best brought the best from Paddy Kenny.
Kenny – who had been a spectator thus far – saw Best roll his marker Gabbidon with consummate ease before caressing goal-bound. The Halifax-born stopper showed excellent reflex reactions to tip the forward’s effort around the target.
The majority of play and possession lie with the hosts, who were flexing their new found muscle against Pardew’s men. Taarabt was majestic in tricking his way beyond two markers before sending Wright-Phillips away down the right.
The diminutive wide-man clipped a cross in for Jay Bothroyd, who angled himself in the air but with the goal at his mercy conspired to flash an effort over the bar. A disappointing miss but nevertheless symbolic of the pressure that Rangers had provided in the early offing.
An action packed fixture took another twist on the 15-minute mark with more expert interchange seeing Wright-Phillips bursting away down the right. A resultant effort towards the near post appeared to be tipped wide by Krul but much to the hosts’ chagrin a goal kick was given.
Yet more stunning midfield trickery from Taarabt saw him dodge beyond one and nutmeg another before caressing the ball to the influential Wright-Phillips. His dinked cross was inches sway from Bothroyd and another goalscoring opportunity.
Far from this being a biased account, it accurately reflects the wave after wave of pressure that the Newcastle rearguard had to endure. Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tioté were virtually on the toes of their respective defenders as Rangers dominated the midfield.
Yet more enterprising work from the dynamic Wright-Phillips saw Bothroyd and his counterparts entrenched in a scramble in the area before Faurlín’s thrash saw the ball agonisingly loop over the bar for a corner.
It was clear that Newcastle were concentrating their efforts predominantly on the counter-attack but their inability to retain possession and build attacks had wingers Obertan and Gutierrez visibly frustrated.
The short corner routine was something that had been deployed on the training ground this week and Wright-Phillips’ cross was nodded goal-bound by the unfortunate Bothroyd – who must have been ruing the day yours truly selected him on a betting slip – as his effort was cleared off the line.
The break-down of a Newcastle attack saw Taarabt and Wright-Phillips continue their fledgling partnership with the Moroccan setting the latter free. The wide-man burst beyond Colloccini evading the challenge of the Argentinean.
Krul raced from his line but could only watch as Wright-Phillips’ effort sailed goal-bound. Only Steven Taylor could deny the wide-man a deserved opened as he threw himself at effort and cleared effectively.
Newcastle started to come into the encounter more towards the end of the half but couldn’t construct a meaningful opportunity as Gutierrez’s effort was blocked at point-blank range and hacked away to safety.
The opening half evidently belonged to QPR, but pressure and opportunities count for little as the hosts were left to contemplate missed opportunities but a whole host of action. It promised much for an exciting second period.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED
The old adage ‘start as you mean to go on’ was made for situations like this as Rangers took to the field brimming with confidence. It didn’t take long for Taarabt to sting the palms of Krul from just outside the area to open the half with a customary bang.
Five minutes into the half and the adventurous Traoré had to be withdrawn with what appeared a reoccurrence of a previous injury. He was replaced by a colleague in a former life – Matt Connolly – who slotted into the left-back berth.
The measurements were fine as Rangers seemed closer than ever to gaining that extra yard or make that scything pass. Bothroyd was working some excellent angles while Wright-Phillips’ movement and tracking was unrivalled.
Indeed a hopeful ball from Faurlín was nearly latched onto by the England international only for a heavy touch to blight his progress. The vision from the Argentinean was sublime as the Magpies’ rearguard was stretched to breaking point.
Barton’s contribution was modest but meaningful, as he drew a rather frustrated and sluggish tackle from the usually cool-headed Tioté. The resultant kick was inches away from the head of Shaun Derry whose tireless contribution was not to be understated.
Barton was on the ball once more, over a corner from the right flank. It was nearly the telling action of the fixture as Derry glanced an effort that seemed to drift in the air for an eternity. The effort looped inches wide of the left-hand upright.
It made for truly exhausting viewing, but nevertheless enthralling as Rangers continued to probe for that opening goal that their play had so sorely deserved. The tactical element of Newcastle’s game then came to the fore.
Krul had been buying the seconds unpunished for quite some time, and rotund official Phil Dowd seemed content to use these moments as a breather, propping himself up on Derry while the Dutchman ran rule over the clock.
Despite the visible frustration of the home crowd, nothing was moving the visibly exhausted Dowd from the centre circle who gave Krul more final warnings than correct decisions on the evening as the home crowd grew visibly frustrated.
Despite putting on an attacking masterclass, Rangers were unable to show for their endeavours. When Wright-Phillips broke clear once more to send a clipped cross beyond Krul, Bothroyd could only fire wide under pressure – another chance going awry.
Derry’s final effort was a glanced header that flew an acre wide of the left-hand upright and tine was running out for the dominant hosts. Warnock then threw on DJ Campbell and Jason Puncheon in a bid to net all three points.
As the encounter ebbed away, Newcastle began to apply some late pressure and however fleeting the neves starting to jangle. Sammy Ameobi seemed to have glued the ball to his feet at one stage, riding a succession of challenges to come away with the ball.
That glue was probably why the now laudable Krul asked for two footballs to be changed in the closing period of the game. Referee Dowd content to prop himself up and exhaust himself once more by waving deliriously at the ‘keeper.
Despite the dominance of the hosts, it was the visitors who would have been happier to leave with a share of the spoils. Rangers rather rattled their now fourth-placed opposition and promised a great deal for Molineux on Saturday
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Danny Gabbidon, Adel Taarabt, Jay Bothroyd (DJ Campbell 80), Alejandro Faurlín, Armand Traoré (Matt Connolly 51), Joey Barton, Luke Young, Shaun Wright-Phillips (Jason Puncheon 88), Anton Ferdinand.
Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye, Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best (Sylvain Marveaux 82) Shola Ameobi (Demba Ba 64), Cheik Tiote, Gabriel Obertan (Sammy Ameobi 88), Steven Taylor