Newcastle shambles helps QPR finish with a win - report
Monday, 18th May 2015 00:18 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have often finished seasons with a home match against Newcastle in recent times, and on Saturday at Loftus Road the Toon Army made perfect guests for the wake.
Not only because they’re one of the few Premier League teams Rangers stand a chance of beating, nor that the shambolic state they arrived in and the despicable second half performance they produced reassured the Loftus Road faithful that there are others out there in varying degrees of mess, but because they actually add a silver lining to the cloud of dropping a division and leaving this stinking cesspool behind.
Newcastle United, a famous old institution, a community asset, reduced to an advertising vehicle for cheap trainers and pay-day loans, will finish either fourth bottom or third bottom of the Premier League this season and for that they’ll be given the thick end of £70m. That’s £70m for a team that has lost nine of its last ten games, won only three of its last 21, won none of its first seven… thanks for your contribution, here’s £70m. Are we really that disappointed to be leaving this gross divison of excess behind?
The whole thing felt rather like the Premier League’s dirty little secret. The club that has used the riches this league provides to line the pockets of mediocre, mercenary players and their agents while completely destroying what was left of its identity and standards of behaviour against the club that openly admits it will take the money, mark a profit on its balance sheet, aim to finish in the middle of the league, miss Europe and get knocked out of the cups at the first possible opportunity. Mike Ashley who treats running a football club like the rest of us do filling in our tax returns; Tony Fernandes the guy who saw a lot of Roadrunner cartoons and thought it made him an explosives expert.
Little wonder they didn’t televise it, despite it being one of the few top flight games this weekend with anything riding on it.
Initially it looked like even the glorified advertising hoarding would have too much for a QPR team that had failed to win at home in ten attempts, losing seven, prior to kick off. Despite having a tall, physically imposing back four of Nedum Onuoha, Stephen Caulker, Clint Hill and Richard Dunne in situ, Rangers were persistently troubled by long punts down the centre of the field. Goalkeeper Rob Green was forced to punch the ball out for a corner after four minutes when one such aerial assault had been allowed to bounce in the area.
Midway through the half the centre backs got in a muddle again: Caulker pushed up to play offside, allowing a dangerous ball to bounce in behind him, while Richard Dunne went too deep and played the visiting lone striker Emmanuel Riviere on. The Frenchman fell over the ball, as you would expect of a £5m player who hadn’t scored in 18 league appearances prior to this, but QPR have always been charitable to these John Jensen/Lloyd Doyley types and the skewed shot drifted into the net regardless. Riviere’s perfectly executed summersault celebration was entirely out of keeping with the quality of the finish, the game as a whole to this point, and his appalling record since arriving from Monaco last summer.
The 68 goals QPR have conceded this season is easily the top flight’s worth defensive record and it wasn’t hard to see how they got there on this evidence. Stephen Caulker was particularly dreadful, and may want to get his agent to leave the last six months off any potential sizzle reel their planning on sending around prospective buyers this summer.
You could hear the circus music gently playing in the background as Sissoko rounded Onuoha and drew Green from his line with a low cut back from the byline. As the goalkeeper claimed the ball, Joey Barton rushed in and booted his team mate in the head. A bad cut, and mild concussion, saw Green leave the field for possibly the final time as a QPR player to be replaced by Alex McCarthy. He was immediately called into action, saving low down in the bottom corner as Fabricio Coloccini tried to steer a mishit Darryl Janmaat cross in from close range.
Chris Ramsey had spoken before the game about not making wholesale changes to his team to “preserve the integrity of the Premier League”. Given that the week began with the QPR captain going on television and bemoaning bad eggs in the changing room, and finished with the same captain coating off one of Rangers’ greatest ever players on social media – with the inevitable jibe about how much money he takes home relative to the greats of the club’s past – with all manner of lurid allegations about players refusing to sit on the bench or come on as a substitute or turn up to training in adequate physical condition in the meantime, this seemed rather like Lisa Riley ordering a Diet Coke with her extra-large four cheese pizza.
As a result, Ramsey’s team had all the same problems QPR have had for months – lack of attacking intent or ball-playing ability at full back, lack of anybody at all capable of playing left wing to any kind of standard, lack of creativity from midfield, shambolic defending at the heart of the back four, an isolated and frustrated striker and a chronic lack of pace across the entire team – but with the added annoyance that he’d picked half a dozen players who won’t be here next season ahead of half a dozen who will. The result was a predictably slow, drab, half-arsed 45 minutes of football and as half time approached the long-suffering supporters of this broken club were starting to turn. Boos were audible as passes went astray, and as the half time whistle sounded.
At half time Ramsey removed Junior Hoilett and Stephen Caulker, two of many who’ve played brilliantly elsewhere and then nosedived in form since moving to QPR. Hoilett, in particular, looked like somebody trying to play football after taking a large dose of rohypnol immediately before kick off. On came Yun Suk-Young and youth-team graduate Reece Grego-Cox and the difference was apparent immediately.
Grego-Cox is raw with the ball, but has a leap that belies his small stature, pace to burn and a brave, physical side to his game that nods to his background as a rugby fly half in Harlequins’ junior sides. Straight away he beat taller Newcastle players to three headers in succession, and within five minutes he’d provoked an angry reaction from Coluccini after a robust challenge. Now not only did QPR have some speed in their ranks, but they had something for the crowd to get behind. The mood changed, and within 15 minutes the score had been reversed.
Grego-Cox’s first won header gave Austin a chance to cross for Matt Phillips to slide in at the back post but a last-ditch block sent the ball flying an inch wide of the bottom corner. The public address system played the goal music anyway. Pure QPR.
No mistake seven minutes later though as Austin crossed to the back post during a flowing counter attack and Phillips headed powerfully down into the bottom corner to equalise.
Austin caused more panic with muscular penalty box presence that ended with him firing the ball right through the goal mouth and out for a throw in and although Barton was booked for a stupid, needless foul on a Newcastle player shepherding the ball out for a goal kick the momentum and mood was very much with the home team by this point. When Tim Krul missed his kick and Matt Phillips showed more desire to reach the loose ball than Ryan Taylor, it set up Leroy Fer for a shot from 30 yards that flew into the net like an Exocet missile and almost ripped the net clean off the back of the posts.
What followed was a thoroughly odd half an hour of football where QPR, repeatedly, invited Newcastle to equalise only to have their gifts thrown back in their face.
Paul Dummett was left completely by himself on the edge of the six yard box, dead centre of goal, for a corner on the hour mark but when the ball fell to him he skied it into the upper tier of the School End. Eight minutes from time QPR toed a ball through for Sissoko to run clear on goal but he too missed the target – the flag had been raised, but referee Lee Probert recognised QPR had played the ball and the goal would have stood had it been scored. Nedum Onuoha pulled Remy Cabella back by the throat in the penalty area under a back-post cross – a challenge every bit as stupid as the one he conceded a penalty for at Liverpool recently – but Probert said no spot kick.
In the dying seconds McCarthy spilled the ball in the six yard box but Hill executed a goal-saving block only to then, in the next attack, inexplicably let a long ball drop behind him into the area causing a total panic from which Newcastle again failed to score when they should have done. It was the sort of incident that made you wonder whether we should start using a ball with a bell in it. Not Clint Hill’s finest performance on potentially his last first team appearance at Loftus Road.
John Carver’s side was a shambolic mess from the start of the second half – half time chat from the self-proclaimed best coach in the league working wonders there – with only Jack Colback offering any kind of effort, positional sense, discipline and performance. The rabble only became more disorganised as Carver started to introduce players from the bench. Rolando Aarons, Papiss Cisse and Sammy Ameobi all came on in the second half, and while the three they replaced could hardly said to have contributed much to proceedings –Cabella, in particular, won’t be troubling the kit man with a lot of washing this week – the performance of the three new comers was shambolic. What little shape Newcastle had about them before, dissolved entirely in the closing stages.
I was particularly taken by the performances of Sissoko and Cisse – two giant, physical specimens who barely punch at flyweight for their team. Sissoko makes no secret of the fact he’d like to join Arsenal, and appears to be sulking until that happens. On the rare occasions he wasn’t walking around here, he could be seen standing still with his hands on his hips while the game went on around him. When situations were slightly tight, or the options for a pass were minimal, he just gave up and whacked the ball out of play.
Cisse was introduced, ostensibly, to search for an equaliser but he was as much of a threat as a Green party parliamentary candidate and almost seemed to be deliberately missing his chances. One, when well positioned in the penalty area, almost cleared the School End altogether, which we haven’t seen done since the days of the old Wimbledon or when Simon Barker used to take QPR’s penalties. Then, in stoppage time, he took the responsibility for a free kick awarded by Probert right on the very edge of the penalty area but instead of whipping it round the wall and trying to beat the keeper for power and accuracy, or going over the four defenders and doing the keeper with elevation and placement, the Senegalese striker instead just chipped it delicately back to McCarthy. It took most of the three minutes of stoppage time for the ball to reach the goal. It was almost like he was sportingly returning it because he didn’t think it was a free kick. It was bizarre.
Afterwards Carver said he couldn’t fault the effort of his players, and that it was a very hot day.
Surely even Mike Ashley and his team of accountants must be slightly concerned about all of this. That’s assuming they were there to see it, and not at a buffet somewhere. If they do stay up, it’s thanks to the incompetence of others. Trips to Swindon and Rotherham remain a strong possibility.
QPR, a team with nothing to play for, by contrast had a bit about them in the second half. Led by Matt Phillips and Charlie Austin, with Grego-Cox’s pace and pugnaciousness and Leroy Fer chiming in intelligently, it was a half-decent second half performance apparently inspired by a terse intervention from Les Ferdinand at half time.
But you can’t fatten a pig on market day, and QPR were down long before the relegation was confirmed at Manchester City last week. All this talk of "owing the supporters a performance" rang a little hollow - how about one when it mattered?
The fans streamed onto the pitch at the end and chanted Tony Fernandes’ name, like smokers eulogising over the smooth great taste of the thing that’s killing them. The half time words of Darren Peacock and Trevor Sinclair, said with genuine feeling and despair at the state of a club they took to their respective hearts in the 1990s, rang a lot truer.
Another summer of upheaval and soul-searching lies ahead.
QPR: Green 6 (McCarthy 34, 6); Onuoha 5, Dunne 5, Caulker 4 (Yun 45, 6), Hill 5; Phillips 7, Henry 6, Barton 6, Hoilett 4 (Grego-Cox 45, 6); Fer 6, Austin 7
Subs not used: Wright-Phillips, Doughty, Furlong, Comley
Goals: Phillips 54 (assisted Austin), Fer 61 (assisted Phillips)
Bookings: Barton 49 (foul), Yun 83 (foul)
Newcastle: Krul 4; Janmaat 6, Coloccini 5, Dummett 5, Guttierez 5; Taylor 5 (Aarons 84, 5), Colback 6; Sissoko 4, Perez 5, Cabella 4 (Ameobi 73, 5); Riviere 6 (Cisse 63, 4)
Subs not used: Anita, Gouffran, Abeid, Woodman
Goals: Riviere (assisted Krul)
QPR Star Man – Matt Phillips 7 Probably the single biggest plus of the Chris Ramsey reign so far – from bit-part utility forward with no place in the team and no self-belief, to dangerous Premier League winger. Rangers will do well to keep him now.
Referee – Lee Probert (Wiltshere) 6 Newcastle should have had a penalty in the second half, and there was a nutty moment in the second half when a QPR counter attack was halted because Newcastle were making two substitutions, even though the referee and linesman didn’t seem to have signalled for the substitutions to be made. That sort of chaos happens a lot when Probert is around, but he always looks like a man who’s enjoying himself regardless so that’s something.
Attendance 17, 608 (1,800 Newcastle approx) The idea that starting a couple of the kids in this game could be dangerous, because it may result in a big defeat and a hostile crowd destroying them, was shown up for the rubbish it is by the second half here. For not only did the introduction of Grego-Cox bring much-needed pace to the team which helped it go onto win the game, but it also gave the fans something to get behind and support – there was an audible collective will for him to do well whereas a tired, staid first half with the same old one-paced team we’ve been suffering all season had the crowd right on the bring by half time, with boos clearly audible during the last five minutes of the half.
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