IT WAS new management but the same old tale as Rangers’ wasteful nature in front of goal cost them dear once again at St James Park.
QPR had the better of the fixture at large with Jay Bothroyd spurning three opportunities to give the visitors a confidence boosting goal – rather epitomising the poor form of late.
Newcastle meanwhile netted against the run of play as former QPR loanee Leon Best rounded off a fine move to roll home the only goal of the game.
That cutting edge eluded Rangers once more with their profligacy the decisive factor against a Newcastle United side that maintained their 100% record in 2012.
For Mark Hughes there is a run of crucial fixtures that will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the R’s this term and additions are a must on this evidence alone.
Mark Hughes made several understandable changes from the side that were held by Milton Keynes Dons in the FA Cup, with Paddy Kenny, Anton Ferdinand, Akos Buzsaky, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jay Bothroyd and Heidar Helguson all recalled.
Kenny started behind the back four of Luke Young, Danny Gabbidon, Ferdinand and Clint Hill. The midfield four consisted of Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry, Buzsaky and Wright-Phillips with Bothroyd and Helguson the preferred strike force.
Newcastle United started with Tim Krul behind a back four of Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon. The midfield quartet comprised of Danny Guthrie, Ryan Taylor, Yohan Cabaye and Jonas Gutierrez.
Leon Best partnered Shola Ameobi in attack with the notable absences of Cheik Tioté, Demba Ba, Adel Taarabt and Armand Traoré all away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
KICK OFF: NEWCASTLE UNITED v QPR
All the pre-match talk was regarding the recent appointment of new QPR boss Mark Hughes, with Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew wary of the bounce that a shake-up can provide – renewed impetus and a galvanised set-up.
In truth there were very little surprises in terms of selection at a crisp St James Park with the peripheral figure Buzsaky somehow finding himself thrust into the first team limelight once more after a period in the wilderness.
Despite coming into the encounter with a degree of trepidation it was QPR who carved out the opening opportunities of the Sunday afternoon affair, with Jay Bothroyd guilty of spurning the first opening.
A teasing ball dropped into a fine gap for the summer signing that managed to work space between his respective defenders. It seemed for all the work that a toe poke over or around the advancing Tim Krul would hand the visitors the advantage but neither was forthcoming.
The hosts were looking somewhat shell-shocked as the side in the bottom three ploughed forward with great endeavour and renewed vigour. A speculative drive from Heidar Helguson gave an indication of a different policy – shooting when given the opportunity to do so.
Newcastle were struggling to retain possession of the ball or create meaningful opportunities, much to the chagrin of their sizeable home support. Akos Buzsaky was the next to try his luck from distance for the visiting side.
The Hungarian that has been seldom seen under Neil Warnock – given his opportunity owing to injuries and suspensions – carved out some space behind the Newcastle midfield before firing a rasping drive that was parried by the normally composed Krul.
Shaun Wright-Phillips meanwhile was enjoying some fine freedom on the left flank as his effort from the edge of the area had Krul once again scrambling and unable to hold – thankfully saved by an offside flag for the follow-up.
The enterprising wide-man went closer still moments later when good combative work by Clint Hill on the edge of the area saw Wright-Phillips send a resultant effort dipping and clipping the bar on its way to a goal kick – another let off for the lacklustre hosts.
Mackie once again was proving key tormentor down the right flank, a persistent rash that Santon and Coloccini seemed unable to shake off – Bothroyd nearly profited from his persistence forcing a save from Krul after some fine Mackie work.
Rather bizarrely it took an injury to a key player to breathe life into what was proving a mediocre home display. A typically stern challenge by Shaun Derry earned him a booking before it became apparent that Yohan Cabaye could not continue.
Fans’ favourite Hatem Ben Arfa – surprisingly left out by Alan Pardew – come on in his stead to the biggest reception of the day from the home support. It certainly ignited the flames of revival for the hosts who awoke from their slumber.
Ryan Taylor worked a neat angle on the edge of the area before an effort managed to work a corner – sadly given by the assistant referee with Mr Foy allowing himself to be over-ruled despite being better positioned.
This was followed up by a typically speculative effort from Ben Arfa. When they go for you, they’re spectacular – when they don’t, this happens. The substitute managed to work his way across the park before slicing aimlessly, high, wide and handsome of the right hand upright.
Sadly however Newcastle had the lead moments later with what was their first genuine crack of the whip in front of goal. Neat interplay in front of goal saw Ameobi bring the ball down and allow Taylor into play.
The midfielder laid a neat through ball in for Leon Best and the forward did the rest. He turned Luke Young with consummate ease before caressing ball beyond the underworked Paddy Kenny to hand the hosts a lead.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-0 QPR
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the visiting side that had the better of the opening exchange. Their following 1300 supporters voiced their frustration at the sheer simplicity of the way Newcastle grasped the advantage.
Despite several excellent opportunities it would be the hosts and not QPR that would have the advantage. In riposte Mackie carved out a chance for himself only to lash over at the second attempt.
Hughes will have been comforted somewhat by the manner of the first half display, but nevertheless it was the similar frailties that were laid bare for all to see as QPR failed once again to convert while on top.
HALF TIME: NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-0 QPR
The first half time team talk by Mark Hughes will have no doubt been an encouraging one despite the nature of the way they relented to the hosts’ solitary opportunity. Rangers however were in no mood to contemplate their disadvantage.
Wright-Phillips carved open the Magpies midfield with a surging forward run, but as ever his end product lacked the incisive edge that it deserved – a powderpuff effort straight into the grateful arms of Krul.
The Newcastle stopper will be well-remembered for his disappointing time-wasting tactics at Loftus Road earlier this campaign, but to his credit he was consistent – doing it while the hosts were a goal to the good in this occasion.
Nevertheless it was up to QPR to raise questions of him and they should have at least done this moments later. A deep cross from the left saw Helguson touch down a sublime flick-on for Bothroyd.
Somehow the striker conspired to thrash right-footed over the bar from his position in the six-yard box. It was another in a string of bitterly disappointing efforts from the summer signing who is evidently struggling for goals at Premier League level.
Mackie by comparison was brimming with confidence. He fought through two challenges before laying a sublime through ball for the aforementioned Bothroyd. The striker opted for the near post as Krul was able to swat away with ease.
Newcastle felt they had claims for a penalty when the ball struck Akos Buzsaky’s arm in the area only for Foy and his linesman to become engaged in a staring contest and ultimately give nothing – evidently you cannot give what you haven’t seen.
Taylor scythed a gap in the Rangers midfield to let fire with a rare Newcastle effort on goal. It was deflected away for a corner. Despite moments of forward momentum, the hosts seemed far more contented to soak up pressure and play with their backs to the wall.
It was a dangerous tactic indeed as QPR eyed every opportunity to try and get forward and get into the team that sat behind the ball. While uninspiring for the home crowd it was proving effective for the time being.
The typically eccentric Paddy Kenny did his best to save a corner kick but inadvertently handed an opportunity to the Magpies. His blast out of play was seized upon by Ben Arfa who fed Gutierrez for a speculative drive. Kenny scampered back in time with ample defensive cover on the line.
Newcastle broke once more in the face of a failed visitors’ attack – Ben Arfa’s fine through ball found Best who opted to square with the ball evading his strike partner Ameobi and away to safety.
The vastly contrasting ambitions were epitomised when James Perch was thrown on for the hosts at the expense of goalscorer Best while Rangers threw on Tommy Smith and Federico Macheda in search of a leveller.
Sadly it was all to no avail – Rangers supporters could leave the game sounding like a broken record once more as despite their better opportunities and high level of endeavour for the most part they came up short once more.
FULL TIME: NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-0 QPR
Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Ryan Taylor (Dan Gosling 82), Danny Guthrie, Yohan Cabaye (Hatem Ben Arfa 25), Jonas Gutierrez, Shola Ameobi, Leon Best (James Perch 77).
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Luke Young, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Clint Hill, Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry, Akos Buzsaky (Federico Macheda 76), Shaun Wright-Phillips, Heidar Helguson (Tommy Smith 65), Jay Bothroyd.
Paddy Kenny – 6/10
In truth Paddy had relatively little to do on his return to action after his FA Cup exile. Sadly he could do very little about the goal he conceded but will look to retain his place on this basis.
It was once again a straight toss up between ‘keepers with Cerny’s recent performances against the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal doing his selection chances no harm whatsoever
Luke Young – 7/10
Immense again for my money – this is possibly our greatest piece of summer business as he oozes consistency and calm both at the back and helping out Mackie going forward.
Certainly little fear of him losing his place on this evidence, despite the fact he may have done a tad better for the solitary goal.
Danny Gabbidon – 6/10
The defender looked a tad more confidence in possession of the ball as he did battle with Ameobi and Best on more than a couple of occasions.
He and Ferndinand are forging a partnership for the time being, but depth in this position will be a must given the relative injury record of the pairing.
Anton Ferdinand – 6/10
Rather reads the same as Gabbidon, occasionally prone to error, but by and large solid on the day and will be disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet.
The former Sunderland man was given the expected reception by the home fans but nevertheless fought hard to combat a strong forward pairing in Best and Ameobi.
Clint Hill – 6/10
It is fortunate that he was the only available left-back on the day as his style directly suits the long ball mentality of the home side.
He was able to slot in an and help out the central defensive pairing in dealing with the tricky customers up front and certainly helps with options in the defensive unit.
Jamie Mackie – 8/10
All effort and commitment – something one would come to expect from a Jamie Mackie display, almost patented for the former Plymouth man.
He created several chances for others with his commitment and the level of skill he has added to his game really helped the attacking effort.
Shaun Derry – 6/10
Typically tough and committed it would appear that Yohan Cabaye was a little upset with the manner of Derry’s display.
Despite the evident willing and effort he was starting to show signs of flagging in the latter stages and probably be doubtful for Tuesday’s FA Cup game.
Akos Buzsaky – 6/10
As one would come to expect, Buzsaky appeared a little off the pace requiring a couple of touches where one was required, subsequently slowing the attacking effort.
It was however a nice introduction back for him as he picked a couple of nice passes as he looks to finally work his way back into form and back into the frame.
Shaun Wright-Phillips – 6/10
His inconsistency is becoming highly frustrating. Many will testify that he can be a real game changer on his day but his days are becoming all too fleeting.
In the first half he looked exciting in spells, even hitting the bar. With space hard to come by in the second half he was swallowed up in a sea of players and went missing.
Jay Bothroyd – 5/10
He worked some useful lines in the channel but ultimately he will be judged by his goals – three good chances and only a tame effort on target to show for his day.
I always try and back Jay when he is being pilloried – rather unfairly – by others in the crowd, but today there was a lack of a core set ingredients for me – goals in the main.
Heidar Helguson – 6/10
Only Mark will know why he took off our most potent goal threat – if it wasn’t an injury then there are questions to be asked by his withdrawal.
With Bothroyd evidently struggling for confidence in front of goal maybe he wanted to give him every opportunity, but the tide started to change when Heidar was withdrawn.