Rangers Play A Very Sweet Toon
St James' Park
Weds. 30/09/09 @ 7.45pm
QPR continued their improving season as they went north to Newcastle - not to get coals but with the hope of goals! And they were not totally disappointed on that score as they more than matched their ex-Premier League colleagues - often bettering them for long periods of the match - to earn a well-deserved away point and stretch our unbeaten run back to August 18th (when we lost away to Bristol City actually - and I don`t count last week`s jaunt at the Bridge either!)
Loanee Ben Watson continued his scoring form for us as he fired a low shot into the net, via a slight deflection, from outside the area as early as the 7th minute. And, following some extremely good football at times, the Rs were to go in at half-time one-up despite Shoebridge`s best efforts to hand Newcastle a way back, with a very harsh penalty in the 18th minute.
But Newcastle are not top of the Championship, nor with a one-hundred percent home record, at least before this evening, for nothing. And it was another loan player, this time Newcastle`s Marlon Harewood (fresh from Aston Villa), who was to stab home the equaliser, on 70 minutes, from close range.
Rangers tired out as the game wore on but they did enough to ensure that Newcastle`s perfect home start to the season was now sullied whilst our own unbeaten run stretched a little further. We now sit 11th in the table on 14 points - which is only 2 points behind 6th place - and with a game in hand over those around and above us.
Newcastle received a timely boost yesterday, as winger Jonas Gutierrez returned to the first team squad following a lay-off from a hamstring injury. He was given a berth on the substitute`s bench whilst Danny Guthrie, who had been suspended at Ipswich on the weekend, returned to the starting XI.
Defender Fabricio Coloccini, however, was ruled out with a groin injury, along with Ryan Taylor, who picked up a calk injury in the Toons` 4-0 beating of Ipswich on the weekend (he was replaced by the returning Danny Guthrie in midfield). Danny Simpson, now recovered from a spell on the side-lines with an ankle injury, was able to take his place in the back four in place of Coloccini. Georgian defender Zurab Khizanishvili made his home debut as centre-back.
Nile Ranger and Andy Carroll remained the preferred attacking partnership, with new loan striker Marlon Harewood finding himself on the bench following his recent arrival from Premier League outfit, Aston Villa.
For the Rs, Jim Magilton named an unchanged squad of 20, from whom he was able to pick a starting XI unchanged following our victory against Barnsley (5-2 for those of you on Mars at the time!) on Saturday. Even the bench remained unchanged this evening! But this did mean that Peter Ramage was unable to face his old colleagues - although I am sure he had a chat and a pint with them after the game!
Fitz Hall`s recovery from his recent groin strain did not come in time to be included in the match-day squad. Gareth Ainsworth - with tendonitis - (although he assured me on Saturday that he was making good progress!), Matt Connolly - glandular fever - and Lee Cook - knee - were also absent.
Kick Off: Newcastle v Queens Park Rangers
A bright opening saw Rowan Vine take an early shot to test Toon keeper, Steve Harper. Rangers front two, of Vine and Simpson, were linking up well in these opening stages although Newcastle were quick to counter-attack, with Andy Carroll eager to test the resolve of our central defensive pairing of Gorkss and Stewart.
And then, on six minutes, the dream start Rangers` fans hoped for. Ben Watson picked up on a mistake in the Newcastle ranks, to strike his second goal for us in as many games. From outside the area, Watson fired in an unstoppable shot, low and hard into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
GOAL: Newcastle 0 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Wayne Routledge was very bright and was doing his best to torment the Newcastle defence in these opening exchanges. He seemed to be running the game at this time, unafraid to try little tricks to bring us into play. At the same time, we were successfully preventing Newcastle from getting near enough our goal to take any shots.
Our early decision-making was excellent and we were spraying the ball around majestically. It was great stuff to watch - shame many of us couldn`t be at the ground in person to witness such marvellous football by the Rs. We were comfortable and Newcastle still hadn`t had a shot at goal after 15 minutes - Cerny must have been thankful it wasn`t a snowy, northern evening as he had nothing to do early on!
Then it looked like Newcastle were given a life-life. They won a free-kick, following a clumsy challenge by Gorkss on Nile Ranger, and the ball was floated into the box, to be met by Steven Taylor. His shot was judged to have been handled by defender Damion Stewart and the referee didn`t hesitate in pointing to the spot. It was a harsh penalty decision because Taylor struck his shot, from the initial free-kick, very hard and straight at Stewart. It was more ball-to-hand than hand-ball!
Danny Guthrie stepped up to take the spot kick. But, joy of joys, his penalty was well saved by Rs` keeper, Radek Cerny, (despite him having done nothing up till then!) It was a well-struck penalty but that made the save even better from Cerny. Oh, and by the way, that was Newcastle`s first actual shot on goal - let alone on target!
Rangers then went on the attack themselves, although Routledge wouldn`t have been proud of his personal effort that he took right-footed but scuffed wide of the left-hand post, following another Watson corner. We weren`t discouraged though and continued streaming forward in numbers.
Newcastle`s efforts were limited, in the first 20-or-so minutes, to set plays following free kicks. Following another foul by Gorkss on Nile Ranger, Danny Guthrie sent the ball into the Rs` penalty area only for Damion Stewart to clear majestically. On 27 minutes, Stewart fouled Andy Carroll, but Cerny cleanly and effortlessly caught the ball following Guthrie`s right-footed inswinger from the left wing.
Sandwiched between these two Toon efforts, Rangers had two quick corners, both taken by Ben Watson, but both were well cleared by first Alan Smith and then Nicky Butt.
Danny Guthrie found himself in on the right-hand side of the penalty area, but the angle was very tight. To Andy Carroll`s dismay, Guthrie tried to shoot himself, which Cerny was easily equal to, instead of taking the more sensible option of passing to Carroll, who was in a good position if he had only received the ball.
Then, following an outswinging corner taken by the tireless Danny Guthrie, Gary Borrowdale cleared off the line, on the left-hand post, from a powerful shot from Andy Carroll. Next, Kevin Nolan got his head on the ball, following a cross from Enrique, sending it flying towards our goal, but Cerny was equal to it this time.
You sensed that Newcastle were starting to motor a little better - at last - and the atmosphere in the ground picked up noticeably as the frustrated Toon fans felt that their team may, finally, be taking the game to the Rs.
Another great run by Wayne Routledge in an effort to ease the pressure off the Rangers` defence, saw Steven Taylor called into action. Then, Ben Watson had a chance to increase our lead. However, his shot from outside the box flew wide despite it being on his favoured left foot and sitting at a nice height for him to get a shot off. Watson was disappointed; but his general effort in midfield, particularly during the previous 5 or 10 minutes of Newcastle pressure, was steadying to say the least.
And Routledge, who was indefatigable, put the Toons` defence under further pressure on 35 minutes. Zurab Khizanishvili had to be alert that time. Play quickly switched back in favour of Newcastle after that. First, Andy Carroll took a left-footed shot from outside the area but his effort flew wide of Cerny`s right-hand post.
Then, 18-year old Nile Ranger found himself unmarked and unchallenged shortly afterwards, but he couldn`t do any better with his free header than see it fly wide of our right-hand post again, to the disappointment of the Newcastle fans.
This was quickly followed by a free-kick to the Rs`, as Akos Buzsaky found himself brought down. He stepped up to take the free-kick himself. The big guns of Gorkss and Stewart went up into attack, but unfortunately, although the Buzsaky`s ball into the 6 area was cleared by Carroll before a Rangers` player could pounce.
Rangers were starting to flag towards the end of the 1st half - not surprising the speed and tempo, the effort and determination that we`d put in during the previous 40 minutes. Newcastle were now camping in the QPR half and Jim Magilton was beginning to look worried - he, like the rest of us, couldn`t wait for the half-time whistle.
In the last couple of minutes, Buzsaky, from 30-yards out, struck a sweet shot which flew to the right of Harper`s goal but was still applauded by manager Magilton. Just before the half-time whistle, Buzsaky spotted Harper out of his goal, following a dreadful clearance, but the Magical Magyar was just off target and the ball flew harmlessly wide - much to Harper`s relief.
It was Newcastle who had the last word of the half, though, as Guthrie sent a cross into our penalty area which was met by Andy Carroll. His effort, however, was successfully cleared by Gorkss and went out for a Newcastle throw-on. The referee, thankfully, blew his whistle on that half as Newcastle got the ball back into play.
Half Time: Newcastle 0 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
The 2nd half started with Gutierrez coming on in place of Nicky Butt. Rangers did not make any changes at this stage. Butt hadn`t had any luck against Routledge whereas Gutierrez could be relied upon to track back and follow Routledge like a shadow. This seemed to work as later on in the half, Routledge was to switch wings with Buzsaky in an effort to get more luck on left than he had in the 2nd half on the right.
We expected Newcastle to go straight on the attack. But it was Rangers who had a couple of early corners, carrying on from where they left on in the 1st half. Buzsaky took a short corner on 46 minutes which amounted to very little but, on 47 minutes and following on from Watson`s corner, the ball was punched away by Harper and expertly won back by Rangers. Rowan Vine crossed the ball back into the box and it fell sweetly onto Damion Stewart`s head. He was able to get his header away - the ball, however, flew agonisingly wide of Harper`s right-hand post - to everyone, including Magilton`s disappointment. He had jumped up in anticipation of a 2nd Rangers` goal - but it was not to be!
And this was quickly followed by another effort by Buzsaky which Steve Harper was able to save comfortably. To top it all, some misplaced passes by the Newcastle players were upsetting the fickle Toon fans who started booing their own players at this early stage - quietly, but nevertheless, the fans` discontent was palpable.
Then, on 52 minutes, Newcastle had a chance right on the edge, on the right-hand side, of our box. Shoebridge awarded the home side a free-kick following a clumsy tackle by Routledge on Gutierrez. Danny Guthrie had a good opportunity to get the ball into the mix but instead he chose to shoot and he did so wildly, seeing the ball fly high and wide of Cerny`s goals - to further jeers from his own fans.
They quickly had another chance as Andy Carroll again tested Radek Cerny in our goal. But the keeper was equal to his shot. Play kept swinging from one end to the other and it was Rangers turn to go on the attack, this time with Leigertwood who sent the ball into the box only for Toon keeper, Harper, to make a clean save.
Guthrie then tested Cerny, only to find him standing tall, and then it was Rowan Vine`s chance to get in on the act as play again switched ends. Some great play from the Rs, as we worked the ball crisply from defence into attack, saw Buzsaky feed Vine in with a great chance. But despite some neat footwork from our number 8, unluckily for Vine, and for us, his right-footed shot taken from just outside the area, missed Harper`s left-hand post. Still 0-1 though!
Rowlands was then a little too casual in midfield as he looked to send the ball upfield and was robbed by Kevin Nolan. Luckily Nolan was unable to take advantage, being a relatively slow footballer and therefore unable to leave Rowlands in his wake, and we recovered the ball.
Play was switching from one end to another and both defences had to be alert. Gorkss was certainly his usual towering self in the centre of defence which was thankful as the next cross that came into our area, Cerny dropped the ball! One or two mistakes were creeping into Rangers` play - but Newcastle were showing early signs of frustration at the same time. Would that play to our advantage?
Then, on 59 minutes, Routledge burst down the wing, only to be caught, for a change, by Enrique, who was able to send the ball out for a corner to the Rs. Terrible defending by the Toons, from Buzsaky`s outswinging corner, saw the ball bobbling all over their penalty area. The ball fell to Stewart but he was unable to turn the ball in and, instead, it was deflected off Zurab Khizanishvili for another Rangers corner. That corner, however, amounted to nothing more than a Newcastle throw-on as Nile Ranger cleared Ben Watson`s inswinger.
On 60 minutes, Marlon Harewood joined the fray, in place of Nile Ranger, in the hope he would be able to change Newcastle`s fortunes. But every time it seemed that Rangers were being pushed back, back we came! We holding our own and keeping possession well. Indeed, it was Rangers who went on the attack following the substitution, with Buzsaky, Rowlands and then Routledge all trying to work the ball forward. Great play, Rs!
Slowly, as in the 1st half, Newcastle began to come at us, with Enrique marauding down the wing more and more. Stewart had to clear from an Enrique cross on 63 minutes and then he had to clear again as Danny Guthrie sent in a right-footed free-kick from the left wing, following a foul on Gutierrez by Rowan Vine.
Stewart was frustrated and objected vociferously as Shoebridge then awarded Newcastle yet another free-kick on the edge of the box following a clumsy tackle by Martin Rowlands on Andy Carroll. Carroll himself stood over the ball and struck his shot left-footed which flew straight through our wall into Cerny`s safe hands. Why did the wall jump up as Carroll struck his shot though?!
Rowan Vine took a right-footed shot which again flew wide, following a dirty tackle on Akos Buzsaky which earned Alan Smith the first yellow card of the evening.
And then disappointment finally hit home as, from two-yards out, Marlon Harewood poked the ball under Cerny and into the net for their equaliser. Carroll won a brilliant header, from a good cross in from the right downward and across the goal, past Cerny, and all Harewood had to do was stick his foot out.
GOAL: Newcastle 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
The Newcastle fans finally started singing not jeering, as our own Adel Taarabt began his warm-up. Rangers needed to re-group, particularly as Routledge sent a ball straight to Harper as he over-hit it in his eagerness to get the ball forward. Harper was able to get the ball downfield immediately, putting Rangers under pressure again.
Taarabt finished his warm-up and came on in place of Jay Simpson on 72 minutes, who had had a good 70 minutes without actually producing anything of note. Taarabt actually went further up field than Simpson had been, ahead of Vine. With almost his first touch of the ball, Taarabt took a shot from just outside the penalty area but it missed Harper`s left-hand post.
Damion Stewart then found himself in the ref`s book. His foot came up high and caught Alan Smith in the stomach as he tried to stop the veteran striker making inroads into our penalty area. From the resulting free-kick, taken by Zurab Khizanishvili, Gutierrez burst into the area but his attempt at goal ended up, thankfully, into the side-netting.
Rangers had their own chances to attack. Taarabt was brought down by Kevin Nolan, who feigned innocence, but the resulting free-kick amounted to nothing as, following good flowing football again from the Rs and a solid header forward by Damion Stewart, a Rangers player wandered off-side. Taarabt was brought up short by Shoebridge`s whistle! A whistle that now seemed to be heard more frequently as there followed a series of free-kicks given to both sides in a match that didn`t seem to warrant so many free-kicks!
On 78 minutes, Gutierrez floated a cross into the area. The Newcastle fans held their breath, hoping that their new-found hero, Marlon Harewood, could finish again. But his effort, from inside the area, missed our right-hand post - phew! Harewood then had a chance but, as he was offside, it wouldn`t have counted anyway!!
Buzsaky tried to toe-poke the ball through to Rowan Vine later on, but it ended up going back upfield to Andy Carroll! QPR won a free-kick and Wayne Routledge took the ball closer and closer to Harper`s goal - but he wasted his chance to shoot when he had it, instead running nearer and nearer to the goal hoping a better opportunity would present itself - which it didn`t as Buzsaky`s left-footed effort, on 83 minutes, missed the Harper`s left-hand post!
But had Newcastle noticed that Routledge and Buzsaky had switched wings at this point, I have to ask? Magilton felt that Routledge was so much quieter in this half than the first, with the introduction of Gutierrez by Chris Hughton, at half-time, so he made the tactical switch.
In the final 5 minutes, Magilton took the ever-improving Rowan Vine off the pitch. He warmly applauded the travelling Rs fans before leaving the field of play for Alejandro Faurlin. Faurlin played on the left, where Routledge had been most of the night, whilst Routledge went up front with Taarabt - that was an interesting change!
Caretaker manager, Chris Hughton, made his final change for Newcastle shortly afterwards, taking off Danny Guthrie, who had worked hard all evening, and brining on defender Peter Lovenkrands in his place on 88 minutes.
Leigertwood then earned himself a yellow card with a mistimed tackle on Andy Carroll, who had just nipped the ball past him. There followed a free-kick, taken by Jose Enrique. But before it could be taken, Buzsaky was booked failing to retreat 10-yards from the free-kick - told you Shoebridge was being finicky. Then finally the free-kick was taken and the ball ended up safely in Cerny`s hand, as Steven Taylor was adjudged to have unfairly challenged Ben Watson.
Smith then gave away a free-kick and QPR went on the attack. Lovenkrands conceded a Ranger`s thrown-in but Shoebridge adjudged Borrowdale`s throw-on to be a foul! It seemed that Shoebridge was determined to be noticed tonight! Rangers tried to keep the ball up the Newcastle end, but Newcastle broke with some of our players still up at the Newcastle end! Stewart was able to chest clear and Rangers went on the attack again, only for Harewood to win the ball back. Wow - this was really end-to-end stuff right at the death, neither side giving up until it was no longer possible to go on any more and I was getting more and more exhausted following it. Thank heavens the referee Shoebr1dge blew the final whistle when he did!!
Rangers hadn`t rolled over. We`d played good football - more than matching and even bettering Newcastle for long periods of the game. It was good stuff to watch - an exciting game overall. But most importantly, we went north and came away much the happier of the two sides, I`d say, as we drove back south with a very valuable away point in our pocket and having ended the Toons` 100% home record. That`s two away wins in the league now followed by an away draw - I think we might just have buried our "away-day voodoo", don`t you? - and an unbeaten run in the league stretching back to mid-August. Not bad!!
Full Time: Newcasle 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Steve Harper, Sanchez Enrique, Kevin Nolan, Danny Guthrie (Peter Lovenkrands 88), Danny Simpson, Zurab Khizanishvili, Alan Smith, Nicky Butt (Jonas Gutierrez 46), Andrew Carroll, Steven Taylor, Nile Ranger (Marlon Harewood 61).
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Martin Rowlands, Ben Watson, Akos Buzsaky, Rowan Vine (Alejandro Faurlín 86), Jay Simpson (Adel Taarabt 72).
Watson was equal to just about everything thrown at him and his partnership with Rowlands is getting better and stronger with each game. Who'd have thought he's only played 3 games for us - it is 3, isn't it?
Let us hope that the powers-that-be have their wallets out in January - this is a player we have long tried to bring to Loftus Road. Now we've got him, let's make it permanent, as he is quickly and effortlessly showing us all why we went after him in the first place!
However, I think Hughton was over-optimistic, when interviewed by Sky Sports News in saying he thought Newcastle could have gone on to win the game - they had 20 minutes after they equalised and failed to break us down - how much more time did he think they'd need to get a winner?!
There can be no complaints about the timing of the substitutions tonight as, to be honest, it is a moot argument to say that making earlier substitutions may have afforded us greater success in the final third. Who knows?!
The ghost referee didn't miss a thing tonight - more's the pity as, particularly later on, his interference did make an enjoyable, free-flowing game rather stop-start.