SHOLA Ameobi came from the bench to separate Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United in a mediocre basement battle at St James’ Park.
A fixture that saw QPR on the back-foot for the majority was decided when the hosts threw on their cult-hero youth product to settle the clash with a fine individual effort.
Rangers flattered to deceive and their inability to retain possession and carve out any semblance of attacking threat was once again their familiar downfall at St James’.
Harry Redknapp could only look to Djibril Cissé as the solitary focal point, and while he contributed little – Rangers contributed less upon his withdrawal.
Back to the drawing board for QPR who lost again against a nervy Newcastle side – two home games in succession could spark the required revival if QPR are to get out of their perilous predicament.
Harry Redknapp made three surprising changes from the side that defeated Fulham, with Esteban Granero, Anton Ferdinand and Fabio da Silva came in for Nedum Onuoha, Armand Traoré and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
QPR started with Rob Green behind a back four of Ferdinand, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen and Fabio with Alejandro Faurlín, Stephane Mbia and Granero starting through the middle. Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie played off lone forward Cissé.
Newcastle United remained unchanged with Tim Krul starting behind a defence of Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon. Cheick Tioté, James Perch and Vurnon Anita started across the middle with Jonas Gutierrez and Papiss Cissé playing off Demba Ba.
KICK OFF: NEWCASTLE UNITED v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The heavens opened above St James Park throughout the day, something which typically prompts a fraught spectacle littered with errors. The visitors travelled in hope that this would work to their advantage despite their disappointing league standing.
Harry Redknapp has helped turn a rabble of mercenaries into a team capable of performing as a cohesive unit – prompting a first win of the campaign against Fulham. Successive wins was certainly not an improbability given Newcastle’s plight at present.
The hosts had flattered to deceive in the league of late with manager Alan Pardew labelling the impending clash a ‘must win’ game. Something had to give in the battle of two sides deep in trouble at the wrong end of the table.
Both sides seemed blighted by the nerves that compounded their respective positions in the table – only a rushed clearance from a Mike Williamson effort was noteworthy from an opening fraught with mediocrity.
The home crowd cut figures of frustration and anger, primarily directed at referee Kevin Friend, but nevertheless Rangers continued to hold firm in the growing tide of home pressure – corner after corner ensued for the hosts with little substance behind the opportunities.
A sighter from QPR came shortly after the 15 minute mark when Esteban Granero’s neat pass found Adel Taarabt, but the Moroccan could only place a tame effort straight into the grateful arms of Dutchman Tim Krul.
In truth neither ‘keeper was being called upon to any real extent with Green only called upon to palm away a deep corner. Fabio meanwhile was dicing with death at left-back, pressing and committing to everything irrespective of his chances of winning the ball.
While nicking the ball from Cissé and misplacing his pass, the young Brazilian was also guilty of getting rolled by the Senegalese forward and finding himself with ground to make up in behind – ambition and naivety in equal measure.
Mackie’s perseverance earned a corner only for Faurlín to loop harmlessly straight into the arms of Krul – despite putting the corner into a good area, the staggering lack of presence in the penalty area was more than evident as Krul comfortably caught.
Fabio was able to deny Cissé when he worked his way in behind once more, and the official’s decision to give a goal kick raised the ire of a relatively quiet home crowd once more. A couple of free-kicks in close succession presented opportunities for Newcastle.
First Mbia was penalised for bringing down Anita on the edge of the area, centrally. Wayward wouldn’t begin to describe Demba Ba’s free-kick, which harmlessly flew over Rob Green’s right-hand upright.
Moments later the same pair tangled again and it was clear that the berating of official Mr Friend was beginning to find favour. Ba once again elected to take matters into his own hands by firing a dismal effort into the stands once more.
In the absence of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, the Senegalese striker seems to have appointed himself as the set-piece specialist – on this evidence he would do better delegating duties and putting himself into the heart of the area.
Anton Ferdinand’s either stupidity or ineptitude earned him a caution when he senselessly threw the ball over Santon’s head and into the stands. He was rightfully cautioned and tempered his defensive nature from there on in.
Gutierrez seemed to be able to attack at will down the left flank, and frustration grew as while he left Ferdinand for dead on countless occasions, the Argentinean was not seemingly able to pick out any forwards making their way into the area.
A speculative Williamson drive served to epitomise the lack of cutting edge from either side going into the break, with the effort only given more credence via a deflection off a hapless Granero – who in truth failed to make a memorable impact on a dour first half in sum.
HALF TIME: NEWCASTLE UNITED 0-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The two sides took to the field once more in the face of testing conditions – the downpour continued to play its role in proceedings, with a slick surface providing great difficulties in terms of weighting the pass effectively.
Rangers were the first to threaten after the break when some rare Taarabt magic on the afternoon nearly carved the desired opening. He jinked beyond two men before laying a clever through ball for Cissé.
The ex-Sunderland forward has a good goalscoring record against Newcastle, much to the chagrin of the home faithful, but his drive at Krul’s near post was ably fielded by the Dutch stopper, who ably tipped the ball away for a corner.
From the resultant corner Mbia harmlessly looped Faurlín’s centre over the bar, with another opportunity of note going awry in a game of seemingly few chances. Rangers brought on Shaun Wright-Phillips for the ineffective Granero ten minutes into the half.
While Cissé’s and Gutierrez played out their respective final moments of the fixture with the latter’s deep cross nodded harmlessly over by the forward. Gabriel Obertan came on for Gutierrez, but the crowd did not exactly agree with Cissé’s withdrawal.
The home crowd hounded the decision to withdraw the forward, who himself made it known he was unhappy to be coming off, refusing to shake Alan Pardew’s hand. His replacement, Shola Ameobi, was cheered onto the field however.
The break in play appeared to work better for the home side, as Anita’s in swinging free-kick flew dangerously across the target, only to be fielded well by Rangers’ stopper Green – he did however show the other side of his Jekyll and Hyde style – nearly dropping a corner unchallenged into the back of the net.
QPR’s Cissé was withdrawn with Junior Hoilett coming on in his stead – the change prompted Jamie Mackie to lead the line while Wright-Phillips continued in an advanced position through the middle. The lack of width for Rangers was evident however, who provided themselves with very little options.
It was attack against defence as Rangers were unable to retain possession. Hoilett lost the ball wide right and allowed Obertan to burst away and deliver for Ba. His header, while well-guided, was tame and Green was able to force the ball away from close range.
With 15 minutes remaining Rangers replaced Alejandro Faurlín with Shaun Derry, while the home side withdrew Cheick Tioté at the expense of Sylvain Marveaux. Rangers’ change in particular seemed an attempt to sure up the defensive barracks.
It seemed to pay dividends when Newcastle looked to a speculative shot with Simpson’s left and weaker foot was blocked by Hill. At times in the second half however it appeared that Rangers were down to ten men, such was the dominance of the home side.
The visitors produced very little in terms of attacking intent and in truth it appeared that one goal would help unpick the hard work offered by the side throughout the encounter. Mackie chased but was afforded little support as long-deliveries from Green failed to yield any figment of joy.
The inevitable happened with just under ten minutes remaining when SHOLA AMEOBI found himself unmarked in behind. He cut inside leaving Derry for dead, before delivering an unstoppable curling drive beyond Green for the decisive goal.
It was an indictment of Rangers’ inability to retain the ball in the right areas of the field, and despite some admirable defending, they eventually succumbed to the softest of goals when their concentration eluded them.
While Rangers attempted to press with little in the way of substance, the hosts started to find their way in behind for the first time in the affair, Marveaux haring away only to see his eventual shot well-fielded by Green.
Hill was waking a tightrope following a booking as persistent infringements on the edge of the area rightly or wrongly. Marveaux was once again in the thick of the action, taking set-piece duties from bar to slam an effort across the goal but just wide of Green’s right-hand upright.
Mackie’s tenacity for the game stood alone at times, which has happened all too often this season. Despite lacking the quality to really test Coloccini and Williamson, his effort was undeniably prevalent.
His effort to win a free-kick from Williamson gave Rangers a life-line – albeit probably ill-deserved. Taarabt’s tame, chipped free-kick should have been handsomely fielded by Krul, but even then the underworked ‘keeper nearly spilled at the feet of an onrushing Mbia.
It brought down the curtain on a fixture where Rangers’ lined up strangely, probably with one eye on forthcoming home games, flattered to deceive despite defending well at times, and ultimately paid the price for a lack of cutting edge going forward, going on to lose the match against a nervy Newcastle side.
Despite a lack of striking prowess, a little more common sense in key areas could have seen Rangers take a point or three – as it was Redknapp’s men must contemplate future clashes against West Brom and Liverpool in W12 – which will prove pivotal to their survival hopes.
FULL TIME: NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, James Perch, Cheick Tioté, (Sylvain Marveaux 77), Vurnon Anita, Papiss Cissé, (Shola Ameobi 61), Jonas Gutierrez, (Gabriel Obertan 60), Demba Ba.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rob Green, Anton Ferdinand, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen, Fabio da Silva, Stephane Mbia, Alejandro Faurlín, (Shaun Derry 78), Esteban Granero, (Shaun Wright-Phillips 56), Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt, Djibril Cissé, (Junior Hoilett 64).