QUEENS Park Rangers were indebted to Ciaran Clark for securing a fine point against Newcastle United.
The former Newcastle United defender glanced a header over his advancing goalkeeper in a communication disaster for the hosts.
The visiting side were dealt a hammer blow early on – as in the first minute Jonjo Shelvey smashed home from the edge of the area after tentative defending. Rangers however went on to surprisingly control the first half and were rewarded with a goal when Conor Washington touched home after a neat piece of play in the area.
Shelvey himself was lucky to remain on the pitch after a wild lash out at Jamie Mackie – but the home side re-took the lead when DeAndre Yedlin crossed for Matt Ritchie to nod home when well-placed.
Rangers were visibly flagging but incredibly took advantage of some late profligacy from the home side – Clark Rangers’ late saviour as Holloway’s side embodied their manager. Passion, tenacity and a ‘never give up’ attitude.
Rafael Benitez started Newcastle United in a 4-4-2 formation. Karl Darlow started behind a defensive unit of DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett. Into midfield and it was Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden and Yoan Gouffran; Ayoze Perez sitting just behind Darryl Murphy.
Ian Holloway meanwhile made four changes from the side that were defeated at home by Burton Albion – out went Grant Hall, Michael Doughty, Kazenga Lualua and Idrissa Sylla; into the side came James Perch, Ryan Manning, Jamie Mackie and Conor Washington.
Alex Smithies started behind a back five of Darnell Furlong, Nedum Onuoha, Perch, Joel Lynch and Jake Bidwell. Pawel Wszolek, Massimo Luongo and Manning played through the middle with Mackie and Washington leading the line.
YEDLIN – LASCELLES – CLARK – DUMMETT
RITCHIE – SHELVEY – HAYDEN – GOUFFRAN
PEREZ – MURPHY
FURLONG – ONUOHA – PERCH – LYNCH – BIDWELL
WSZOLEK – LUONGO – MANNING
MACKIE – WASHINGTON
There was a feel-good factor around Queens Park Rangers as they travelled to the North East – despite their dismal record on Tyneside. Recent signings were available to manager Ian Holloway with the exception of Matt Smith and Ravel Morrison and the club was praised for its sensible dealings during a busy January transfer window.
They faced a Newcastle United side prone to the odd wobble, and without January investment – couple that with coming off the back of a hiding in the FA Cup against Oxford United recently and this was as good a time as any for Rangers to strike.
It took less than a minute for hope to evaporate for the travelling few, with a familiar face the architect once more. When a cross was only half cleared by Jake Bidwell, JONJO SHELVEY seized on the loose ball and swept home from the area with aplomb.
It was as simple as that for the hosts who got off to a flyer – and it was a familiar sinking feeling for QPR, who will undoubtedly have had one eye on the six-nil drubbing handed out to them at Loftus Road earlier this season.
Rangers did start creating some opportunities however – first Massimo Luongo curled inches wide from the edge of the area before a neat cross-field pass from Ryan Manning found Conor Washington in good space, his centre for Pawel Wszolek just needed a shot of any description – but the Polish wide-man delayed too long before having the ball nicked away from his feet.
The visitors were showing well with Washington again getting the better of DeAndre Yedlin before sending in a fine cross for Luongo – the Australian international powered a header on goal but fortunately for the Toon it was straight at ‘keeper Karl Darlow.
Luongo was in the thick of the action again minutes later when he seized upon some ponderous play from Yoan Gouffran on the edge of the area but his eventual effort was manfully blocked. Rangers were enjoying a good deal of the ball after a disastrous opening and the home supporters were showing their frustration at the visitors’ new-found tenacity and dominance.
The nervousness around St James Park continued as Wszolek showed Clark a clean set of heels with a very neat turn in the area – but his cross came to little, being plucked by Darlow. Encouraging signs for Queens Park Rangers despite the early disadvantage.
Rangers made their dominance count and duly got their reward. A half cleared corner found Jake Bidwell on the edge of the area, he shows good technique to engineer an effort – Washington displayed a neat touch in the area and poked home under pressure from Ciaran Clark. A deserved goal.
A deserved equaliser for QPR in a half they most certainly had the better of. Newcastle players left the field to the very expression of indifference. The whistle went and most just got up and headed for their half time pie – a near perfect first half which augured well for the second period.
It took little over 30 seconds for Rangers to register their first effort on target in the second period. Sloppy play allowed Washington a chance to have a pot-shot at goal, it was easily saved by ‘keeper Darlow. Newcastle by comparison created their first chance when a Shelvey corner saw Clark nod high and wide from close range.
Rangers continued their high press, led by the tireless Luongo. When his ball over the top was chased down by Wszolek, Paul Dummett’s loose touch fell to the Pole, but his powerful drive was thwarted by Darlow. The home crowd was less than pleased with what they were seeing.
Jonjo Shelvey should have been sent off less than ten minutes into the second half for his incredibly obvious swipe at Jamie Mackie – referee Robinson elected not to see the incident which will more than likely result in retrospective punishment, helping QPR not a jot.
Rangers had lost their concentration long enough to concede a soft goal. Hayden found space on the right hand side of the area to loft a hopeful ball into the far post and MATT RITCHIE climbed above Furlong to loop a header beyond Smithies.
It was a bitter pill for Rangers to swallow as despite their better play overall, they were once again behind to a savvy Newcastle side. Smithies then saved well from Shelvey when he produced a nice, curling effort.
Changes for both teams on 65 minutes – Sammy Ameobi replacing Darryl Murphy; for QPR it was Ryan Manning replaced by Luke Freeman – a deadline day signing from Bristol City. Joel Lynch then raised a few jeers among the home support when he dropped his studs into Ameobi’s back – albeit unsure on this occasion if it was deliberate.
Newcastle should have put gloss on the scoreline when Dummett found Hayden down the left and his centre was on a plate for Gouffran, but Smithies saved well from close range before punching away the resultant bouncing ball.
Rangers were visibly struggling to match their first half levels – they threw on Kazenga LuaLua against his old club, replacing the bandaged Jamie Mackie. Newcastle again should have sealed it when a lax Perch pass found Hayden, his through ball for Perez saw the striker place straight at Smithies.
Holloway made his final change by throwing on debutante Sean Goss at the expense of Darnell Furlong. It prompted a shift to a 4-4-2 formation with Perch slotting in at right-back. His first action was to lose the ball and Perez nipped in – his cross however was an unmitigated disaster and he felt the full force of the home crowd.
The game was fraught with tension – and it was on a knife edge. Newcastle now showing a far more assertive side to their game, while Washington was a constant reminder that any slip up would be challenged. Perez though once again was centre of attention when he rolled a ball across the box which slipped past any oncoming runners.
It was his last action of the game as he was withdrawn for a fresh set of legs in Mo Diame. Rangers by comparison appeared to be running out of steam. High and hopeful passes were not being delivered to their intended recipient and willing runners such as Washington were going without that necessary service.
However an incredible turn of events saw Rangers level with a minute remaining. Lualua’s teasing cross from the left saw CIARAN CLARK glance a header over the advancing Karl Darlow and into the back of Newcastle’s net – another incredible swing in a game that ebbed and flowed.
Four minutes of injury time ensued as Yoan Gouffran produced a smart save from Smithies and Jake Bidwell was on hand to clear away with the goal gaping.
Rangers however held firm against their loftier placed opponent and were every bit the value for a point. A wonderful away performance that was testament to this new found ‘never give up’ attitude on the road.
Newcastle United: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Gouffran; Perez (Diame 86), Murphy (Ameobi 66).
Subs not used: Sels, Hanley, Lazaar, Gamez Duarte, Mitrovic.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies; Furlong (Goss 81), Onuoha, Perch, Lynch, Bidwell; Wszolek, Luongo, Manning (Freeman 66); Mackie (Lualua 74), Washington.
Subs not used: Ingram, Cousins, Doughty, Petrasso.
Referee: Mr T Robinson