Friday 28 October 2016

Woeful Magpies teeter on brink

QPR 2-1 Newcastle

Dominic Fifield

Published 17/05/2015 | 02:30

Matt Phillips celebrates scoring the first goal for QPR
Matt Phillips celebrates scoring the first goal for QPR

Newcastle United's dreadful campaign will stagger into its final afternoon with their Premier League status hanging by a thread. An opportunity to scramble clear of the condemned presented itself, only for a capitulation to haul them back towards trouble. To lose to QPR, a side resigned to life in the second tier, felt like a new nadir for the visitors. They must now beat West Ham at St James' Park next Sunday to guarantee survival.

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This had been dismal, a game utterly devoid of quality, until Newcastle reminded themselves that QPR's back-line are usually obliging. Clint Hill's weak header back towards Rob Green provided an early indication of that much, Ayoze Pérez ambling on to the ball only for the goalkeeper to choke his attempt. Yet, when Tim Krul battered down-field mid-way through the opening period, Steven Caulker was day-dreaming in a ramshackle rearguard for Emmanuel Rivière to collect smartly at his back. The striker, alone in front of goal, appeared to slip as he shot but the ball, struck firmly into the turf, bounced over Green's attempt to smother it and in. It was the Frenchman's first Premier League goal for the club on his 22nd appearance. The defending summed up QPR's season.

It was Newcastle's first goal in 558 minutes of football away from Tyneside and at least served to spark them into life. Ryan Taylor fizzed a free-kick just wide and when Moussa Sissoko muscled his way to the by-line and cut a centre across the six-yard box, Green was forced to dive in among bodies to claim. The goalkeeper was clattered by Joey Barton in that muddle, with the head injury sustained - blood trickled from a cut by his right eye - forcing him from the fray. His dazed wave to the home support may prove to have been a farewell.

His replacement, Alex McCarthy, had only played once in the league, but he reacted smartly to turn away Fabricio Coloccini's header after Daryl Janmaat's shot deflected into the centre-half's path. Yet any hopes Newcastle may have had for a comfortable afternoon evaporated thereafter.

QPR were the more energetic after the break, Reece Grego-Cox offering an injection of running and allowing Leroy Fer to retreat into midfield. Charlie Austin wriggled away from Coloccini and into space before chipping a cross over Krul. Matt Phillips met the delivery, but his shot flicked off Paul Dummett and just wide. Yet the visitors did not learn and, moments later, that combination prised them apart, with Austin's cross nodded in by Phillips.

Newcastle suddenly panicked. Even Krul was affected, his attempted clearance reaching only Phillips. The ball was fed to Fer, whose shot flew beyond the keeper. In seven minutes, Newcastle had been dragged from safety to the cusp of the relegation zone. Sissoko dragged one late attempt wide, while Hill blocked a Papiss Cissé shot, but the contest spluttered to its conclusion in a flurry of misplaced, jittery passes.


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