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Newcastle defeat outlines size of task for Hughes – full match report
Newcastle defeat outlines size of task for Hughes – full match report
Monday, 16th Jan 2012 22:38 by Clive Whittingham

Leon Best’s first half strike was enough for Newcastle to send QPR crashing to defeat in Mark Hughes’ first match in charge.

Another day, another game drifts by for Queens Park Rangers. There are just 17 matches left now and the need to secure a victory grows stronger with each passing defeat.

Having managed just four wins in 21 matches so far Rangers must now find another six or possibly seven between now and May if they’re to stay in the Premier League. A combination of poor finishing and lack of cutting edge ensured that the first of those did not come at Newcastle on Sunday.

Rangers hit the outside of the post and the top of the crossbar at St James’ Park before losing to a rare Newcastle shot on target. This was the twelfth defeat of an increasingly troubled season for the R’s, the seventh by just a single goal, and the ninth time they have been prevented from scoring. They have managed a single goal or less in 19 of their 23 matches in all competitions this season, including the last five. Only West Brom have scored less at home, only Wigan have scored less in total.

None of this will be lost on the new manager Mark Hughes, a no-nonsense striker in his playing days. The first affects of his reign could be seen already at St James’ Park on a biting cold day – a more rigid structure and shape to the team, more emphasis on keeping possession of the ball, even a couple of moderately dangerous set pieces – but there were still too many players out there playing with fear in their games and there is no quick fix for that.

Why, for instance, will Shaun Wright-Phillips not take an opponent on under any circumstances? Why will he never take a player to the byline, or push it past him and test him for pace? Is this actually Shaun Wright-Phillips we’re watching at all at the moment?

Hughes switched QPR immediately into his tried and tested 4-4-2 set up. Wright-Phillips started on the left with Jamie Mackie on the right but the pair interchanged frequently. In the centre of midfield, with Ale Faurlin and Joey Barton injured and suspended respectively, Shaun Derry partnered Akos Buzsaky who enjoyed a rare start. Jay Bothroyd and Heidar Helguson teamed up in attack while the defence was made up of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Clint Hill. Paddy Kenny started in goal amidst rumours of a possible approach for Birmingham keeper Ben Foster who is currently on loan at West Brom.

Newcastle have had a terrific season so far, sitting comfortably in the top half of the Premier League after an unbeaten start to the season that stretched across 11 games, including a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road which they could easily have lost. Senegal international striker Demba Ba has been pivotal to them with 15 goals in his previous 16 matches but he, along with similarly influential midfielder Cheick Tiote, was away on international duty for this game and missed out. Leon Best, once a QPR loanee, and Shola Ameobi partnered each other in attack, just as they had done at Loftus Road when these sides last met in September.

Much is made of the effect of ‘new manager syndrome’, Sunderland have gone from relegation candidates to an outside bet for Europe since Martin O’Neill moved into the top job at the Stadium of Light, but Mark Hughes has previously struggled to feel much of the benefit. He won one of his first eight games as Blackburn manager, and was third from bottom after four months with Fulham before rallying to finish eighth – but with QPR’s fixtures falling the way they have he cannot afford not to hit the ground running. The early signs here were good as his side, finally wearing their superb red and white away kit rather than the hideous baby-sick orange monstrosity, made an excellent start to the game.

Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal made a routine save from Heidar Helguson in the first minute and then had to scramble to gather a shot from Shaun Wright-Phillips at the second attempt with Jay Bothroyd hunting for scraps in the six yard box. We even managed to keep the ball on the field for more than three seconds after kicking off. Revolutionary stuff.

After four minutes Newcastle’s giant home crowd was living on its nerves again. Heidar Helguson’s intelligent flick on tempted Krul out to the edge of his area and Bothroyd could have lobbed the opening goal of the game beyond him with better awareness of the situation. Instead he teed up first Helguson whose shot was blocked, sparking tentative appeals for handball, and then Wright-Phillips who fired wildly off target. Within 60 seconds Akos Buzsaky had drilled straight at Krul from distance meaning that in five minutes of football we’d had more shots and posed more threat on the goal than we did in the entire away match at Liverpool just before Christmas. Sadly, none of the chances had been taken, and that lack of a cutting edge meant that the outcome was ultimately the same.

QPR were much the better side of the opening 15 minutes and could have made that count on the quarter hour when Shaun Wright-Phillips waded into a piece of broken play on the corner of the Newcastle penalty area and lashed a powerful shot past Krul but away to safety off the top of the crossbar. Wright-Phillips just can’t buy a goal for QPR and this is the third time I recall him striking the woodwork this season after similar bad luck against Wolves and Stoke – he’s at risk of becoming our version of John Jensen. It’s clearly affected his game and confidence as well because he now point blankly refuses to take on a defender, constantly choosing a safe pass back and inside instead.

That near miss preceded the turning point of the game. Shaun Derry began the season surprisingly well at the higher level but has looked his age recently, although like the doting owners of an incontinent old family pooch the fact that his time may have come is an elephant in the room as far as QPR fans are concerned. Derry’s magnificence last year is buying him a hall pass from supporters at the moment who prefer to direct their ire at Jay Bothroyd instead, but the limitations of the veteran midfielder shone through in the nineteenth minute on Sunday.

After miscontrolling a routine ball in the middle of his own half Derry then attempted to retrieve the situation in what can only be described as a fool’s mission. He lunged, wildly, on Newcastle’s French midfielder Yohan Cabaye as he stole in to retake possession for his team. Derry caught his man flush on the ankle, sending him flying into the air, and although Cabaye initially bounced straight up to attempt to start fighting Derry over the challenge it quickly became apparent that something was wrong and he slumped to the ground before being removed from the field on a stretcher – pointing and swearing at a non-plussed Derry as he went.

Cabaye had every right to be furious. This was a dreadful tackle, far worse than the Vincent Kompany and Glen Johnson efforts that attracted so much publicity last week, and actually caused a serious injury. Referee Chris Foy sent Kompany off in the Manchester derby last week for cleanly winning the ball with two feet because it could have caused injury had it been mistimed, and yet only showed a yellow here to Derry because he went in with one boot despite him being wild, reckless out of control and actually causing an injury. The law, and Foy, is an ass. Kompany’s was never a red card in a month of Sundays and Derry was extremely fortunate to stay on the field here.

Long term Cabaye’s injury, if serious, will be desperately bad news for Newcastle because he has been in fantastic form this season. Short term though it turned the game in their favour because Alan Pardew was forced to introduce French winger Hatem Ben-Arfa earlier than he otherwise would have done and QPR’s early domination drained away thereafter.

Of immediate concern to Hughes was keeping 11 men on the field. Immediately after being booked Derry was penalised again for a foul on Gutierrez, although not for the first or last time on the day the Argentinean’s keenness to fall to ground the second any meagre contact was made was obvious to all expect the match officials. He was down again 30 seconds later, although this time there clearly had been a foul by Danny Gabbidon. Ryan Taylor planted the set piece onto Gutierrez’s head in the six yard box but he guided the ball over the bar.

On the half hour Rangers were left cursing their poor fortune again when Jay Bothroyd cut in onto his right foot in the corner of the Newcastle penalty area and beat Krul with a curling shot that struck the outside of the post and flew out for a goal kick. Bothroyd continues to be the subject of mindless abuse from QPR fans at games and while I wouldn’t for one moment suggest he’s playing well, and certainly doesn’t do himself any favours with his lackadaisical playing style, I can’t see how he’s playing any better or worse than anybody else at the moment. I thought he was improved on Sunday, and was desperately unlucky not to score with this chance.

Anger turned back onto the match officials moments later when Clint Hill was shown a yellow card for nothing more than a routine trip on Danny Simpson tight to the touchline. Given that Foy wasn’t initially going to award a free kick only to then belatedly change his mind on the advice of his assistant on that side of the field one has to wonder how he then reached the decision that it was a yellow card.

Ben Arfa took hold of the resulting set piece after Newcastle worked the ball to the edge of the area and curled a low shot to the far corner which seemed to miss the base of the post unaided with Kenny struggling to get across but Foy, guessing, awarded a corner all the same.

Rangers weren’t happy about that decision, and appealed for both handball and offside when Newcastle then took the lead ten minutes before half time. Both shouts, rightly, fell on deaf ears and Leon Best was left to toast his first goal in 12 appearances after picking up Shola Ameobi’s chest control, turning Luke Young inside out and then finishing into the far corner with Kenny already committed in the other direction.

With QPR’s lack of cutting edge you sensed that that maybe it. And you’d have been right. Although Jamie Mackie could have equalised almost immediately when he turned well in the Newcastle penalty box, saw an initial effort blocked and then hacked a very presentable chance over the bar.

Anton Ferdinand was forced to clear the goal mouth in four minutes of added time at the end of the half when Danny Simpson reached the byline and cut the ball back but Newcastle did indeed lead at the break.

Mark Hughes believes strongly in his methods and systems. Don’t expect to see QPR deviate much from this team shape and style of play regardless of new additions or results good and bad over the coming weeks. Predictably there were no changes at half time and Rangers went on the offensive straight from the restart with Bothroyd intelligently teeing up Wright-Phillips for a weak shot straight at the goalkeeper.

There was nothing intelligent about Bothroyd’s finishing five minutes later though when Buzsaky chipped a fine cross to the back post, Helguson showed great awareness to nod it back to his strike partner, but unmarked and with time to pick his spot Bothroyd shot pathetically into the crowd. QPR’s best chance of the match hopelessly wasted. He went closer two minutes later, testing Krul with a powerful shot at the near post after Helguson had again showed an admirable touch of the ball to lay a fine pass in behind the defence for Bothroyd to run onto. He should have gone across the keeper, but after his previous attempt I was just glad to see it pose some threat to the Newcastle goal.

Newcastle responded with a long range shots from defenders Simpson and Santon – the former barely kept his in the ground, the latter drew a desperate last ditch block from Luke Young. On the hour Rangers survived a very loud handball appeal when Clint Hill turned a situation where there appeared to be no danger whatsoever into one where he was at the mercy of a notoriously erratic referee by taking a needless, and somewhat lazy, risk in bringing the ball down in his own penalty area.

Hughes sent on Tommy Smith for Helguson and Federico Macheda for Akos Buzsaky, both no doubt fitness related with Helguson not getting any younger and Buzsaky short of match minutes, but neither change had any great positive effect on the match. I seem to be writing that on a weekly basis about our substitutions – a squad of 37 players, only a handful of them actually good enough for the level we’re playing at.

As happened in the first half, Chris Foy forced himself on the game for ten minutes or so before growing weary and disappearing from view again. First he refused Danny Guthrie’s free kick appeal on the edge of the area despite the former Bolton man writhing in apparent agony. When play finally stopped Guthrie refused treatment, got straight to his feet and was magically ok again.

Then Foy allowed play to go on when first Macheda and then Gutierrez appeared to be fouled – a situation that bred frustration and immediately produced another foul from Macheda who was booked. Had Foy done his job properly and awarded the first foul it would never have happened.

Newcastle were much the better team in the closing stages of the game, just when QPR could have done with pushing on to search for an equaliser. Leon Best’s cross shot was hacked at by Gabbidon in the six yard box and then Shola Ameobi embarrassingly swung and completely missed at the resulting loose ball at the far post. Rangers responded with a slick move with Macheda at its heart but the Italian waited too long to cut the ball back into the area by which time the angle had almost completely disappeared and Krul was able to claim – unbelievably Clint Hill was the closest man to getting to it.

Pardew sent on utility defender James Perch for Leon Best, which seemed a rather needlessly negative change, and later introduced Dan Gosling for Ryan Taylor. But the path of this game had long since been set and I found myself thinking that had I been sensible and stayed at home to watch from the comfort and warmth of my living room, rather than travelling 600 miles on a Sunday to sit in the freezing cold 3,000 feet up in the air and watch what looked very much like the old Sensible Soccer computer game I’d probably have dozed off during the second period.

For most of that second half QPR were almost Swansea City like in their approach to the game. Possession was treated with far more care and respect than it has been previously and there was a lot of ball being moved sideways along the halfway line without ever really going anywhere. The team was also much more disciplined about its shape and individual duties than it has been for some time.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Certainly I’d prefer to see QPR retaining possession and shape than turning it over and melting away. But as well as implementing the new style and shape, and adding some much needed quality in the transfer window, Mark Hughes has to deal with two urgently pressing issues: firstly adding a cutting edge to the attack, and I’m not convinced that can be achieved with the current personnel he has available to him; and secondly instilling some confidence and belief in the current players. Shaun Wright-Phillips in particular could be doing so much more to unlock opposition teams for us, but for whatever reason doesn’t feel able to even try and take on a man at the moment.

And all of this needs to be achieved two weeks ago. Time is not a friend to QPR and Mark Hughes.

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Newcastle: Krul 7, Simpson 6, Coloccini 7, Williamson 6, Santon 6, Ryan Taylor 6 (Gosling 81. -), Guthrie 6, Cabaye 6 (Ben Arfa 25, 7), Gutierrez 7, Best 7 (Perch 76, 6), Shola Ameobi 5

Subs Not Used: Elliot, Abeid, Obertan, Ferguson

Goals: Best 37 (assisted Ameobi)

QPR: Kenny 7, Young 6, Gabbidon 6, Ferdinand 7, Hill 6, Wright-Phillips 5, Derry 6, Buzsaky 6 (Macheda 76, 6), Mackie 5, Helguson 6 (Smith 64, 6), Bothroyd 6

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Orr, Hall, Campbell, Ephraim

Booked: Derry (foul), Hill (foul), Bothroyd (foul), Macheda (foul)

QPR Star Man – Anton Ferdinand 7 QPR weren’t particularly good, or that bad, so picking a star man out of a pool of mediocrity is quite tough. Go on, Anton Ferdinand, why not.

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside) 6 No major decisions wrong, but for two separate ten minute spells either side of half time he descended into a confused, mushy mess. Shaun Derry was lucky not to be sent off, Clint Hill was unfortunate to even be penalised, Federico Macheda was booked in a situation created by the officials and so on. Just seems to lose the plot quite easily, and frequently.

Attendance: 49, 865 (1,500 QPR approx) Credit all round is in order here I think. For a televised Sunday lunchtime match in tough economic times to get 50,000 to a game like this is really quite something. For 1,500 of them to travel 300 miles from London and back again is also excellent. The away fans seemed a little quiet, although there is a pervading sense of pointlessness about supporting your team from that away end because you’re so far away they clearly can’t hear you.

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N12Hoop added 22:51 - Jan 16
Fair report but derry's challenge was never a red card and i don't think anyone other than you thinks it was. Unfortunately the incident turned the game although whether we would have scored is doubtful to say the least.
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MelakaRanger added 22:53 - Jan 16
"This was the twelfth defeat of an increasingly troubled season for the R’s, the seventh by just a single goal, and the ninth time they have been prevented from scoring"

Above all else we need to get one or two proven goal scorers - our position would be so much better of we had just scored a few more goal!
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Northernr added 22:54 - Jan 16
This referee sent a player off last week for a challenge because it could have injured somebody had he mistimed it (he didn't). Here a yellow card is awarded for a challenge that was mistimed and did injure somebody. I thought he was fortunate.
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Myke added 23:48 - Jan 16
Hi Clive, very good report, and an accurate summation of the challenges facing us. I agree with you about Derry, it was a dreadful challenge, Torres got sent off in very similar circumstances a few months ago. I watched in on TV so obviously had a better view than you hardy souls who were actually there, but just a few pedantic corrections. It was Mackie's great run and pass that set up Bothroyd's shot that, as you rightly say, should have been fired across Krul. I t wasn't just old age that saw Helguson replaced, he had got a nasty bang on the ankle shortly before (which naturally went unpunished). My last hope of an equaliser went with him and I was dissapointed not to see Campbell replace him. Smith will always be remembered as the man who scored the goal which guarenteed our promotion last season, but like Derry and Hill is not a prem player. Finally, Hill's 'handball' was in fact comfortably taken on his chest and cleared and was more indicative of the toon army's nervousness and frustration than lazy play on Hill's part. He is certainly out of his depth in the premier league, but always fully committed I think
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Northernr added 23:49 - Jan 16
Hi Myke, excuse the mistakes, we were two miles up in the air. The Clint Hill incident was at the far end to us but didn't look like a penalty to me at the time.
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shooters47 added 07:51 - Jan 17
Do people who read this report just do it to correct Clives mistakes? Sad!!
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JB007007 added 07:51 - Jan 17
Thanks Clive,
You're right, games are sliping by fast and we need more quality simple as that.
Personally I thought Mackie was worthy of a better mark than 5. Sure he's a bit of a headless chicken at times, but he caused them a few problems with his willingness to have a go at their defense and his work rate was first class. I've thought for some time SWP has been a wasted signing. Hope I proved wrong for the remainder of the season.
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shooters47 added 07:54 - Jan 17
Oh forgot to say, Clive, I think we were about 3 miles up and not 2!!
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W7Ranger added 10:24 - Jan 17
Surprised by Mackie's mark of 5. Always running, always willing, forcing mistakes, and he has been creating chances and proving more of a handful for opposing defenders than SWP for a number of games now. His fantastic run from our half into theirs before sliding a perfectly weighted pass to Bothroyd was one of the brighter moments of the game from a Rangers perspective imo.
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qprmick added 10:39 - Jan 17
People are starting to realise that Mackie is not a bad player. He was a favourite of Warnock but that shouldn't work against him. SWP, I knew he would asked to do a lot in midfield because the midfield is a little sparse.It wasn't pretty football, bloody boring really, I thought we were worth a point.
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W7Ranger added 11:02 - Jan 17
I thought we were too Mick. Some of the reporting of this game in the press has been quite shocking to be honest. Some reporters making out that even with Newcastle missing 2 star players, they beat us comfortably!! Hang on a farking minute! We're missing Traore, Taarabt, Barton and Faurlin! All of them first teamers! We've been truggling for 2 months and we're playing away to a top 7 team who have had an excellent season so far. We manage to limit them to one shot on target all game. We have 6 shots on target, 2 hit the woodwork and another 2 chances fell to Bothroyd of which he should've scored at least one of them! A 2-1 win WOULD NOT have flattered us at all! So for some reports to say that Mark Hughes has a huge struggle ahead is a massive over exaggeration based on that performance, which all things considered was not that bad at all!
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RangerKIK added 12:14 - Jan 17
We all know football these days is a lot of huffing and puffing decided by a moment of fantastic skill, a terrible reffereeing decision or a massive piece of luck. That summed up Sunday. They had one chance and scored. We had 4 really good chances and missed. Low confidence, or we just don't have the quality, I do not know for certain but the latter methinks. Watching us I thought 'this is not us playing badly, this is just as good as we can play'. The only player who's match fitness can improve is Akos and I hope he now gets a run in the team. But let's be honest we do not have match winners in the team. That's why for all his faults we need to keep hold of Taarabt and play him every week. Yes he is lazy blah blah but at least he does have the class to turn a tight match. He won't do much for two games but he has the class to win some games too which is something we desperately need. Hopefully he's back from ACN very soon. If I was the manager I would say to him 'do whatever you want, just like you did last year'. Even if it only paid off every 4 games we would still be 6 points better off!

Other things I noticed Sunday is that Tommy Smith seems out of his depth at this level and also if you are thinking of passing to Clint Hill you may as well just boot the ball straight to their left back and cut out the middle man!
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AshteadR added 13:37 - Jan 17
Thanks for the report Clive - an enjoyable weekend spoilt once again by the result!

Unfortunately, it's all a little predictable - we play reasonably well, but we don't look like keeping a clean sheet and we spurn the relatively few chances that we have!
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R_Madrid added 20:26 - Jan 17
Great truths revealed as also Clive...

Your stark fact that we need to win 6, possibly 7 of the remaining 17 games to stay in the Prem is a body blow to me, I kind of felt it hadn't got quite that far yet. To be honest, I had been pessimistic from the moment the fixture list was published, we were going to struggle to survive this year, such a difficult run in! My hopes were raised a little with the Fernandes take over. I was down on the 0-4 to Bolton first game up, a totally outclassed Championship champions by a "mid table" Prem side (No comments please mid table ha ha, but thats what we thought at the time). Up on the 0-1 at Everton (You criticises Derry here rightly for the most part recently [but like some others above, I don't agree with your hint that he "deserved a red card" etc, yes it was late, yes he caught him, yes the French man squilled like a stuck pig for a full 5 minutes and waved his finger/ arm/ tongue/ cock lots, but the whole subject is a can of worms at the moments, I'm not getting into it further!] but Derry was magnificent in that pre-take-over fixture, great distribution, 2 goal saving tackles and even made a huge effort to score his 1st QPR-goal ever, MOTM by a country mile!). I was wavering with the draws at home to Newcastle and Villa when we were clearly the better team (if you don’t take your chances...) We played "difficult to go to" Stoke at a lucky time and managed a magnificent away win that finally put a smile on my face, up into 9th and "it felt good to be a QPR fan".

But since then, as you put last week (roughly like its not a quote!) "its been a combination of lack of quality and bad luck - a combination guaranteed for relegation". We saw the same on Saturday. Bring on Wigan, I may have a dumb half smile on my face if we beat them, but anything less and I reckon its close to all over, what with Hughes "slow starts" and all, needing 7 wins from 16 against top draw opposition... Maybe Hughes has a master plan to beat Man City on the last day of the season, saving us from relegation and denying City their 1st Prem league crown at the expense of United... Do you think he'd like that? The facts are becoming clearer that we’re not even going to get close to that opportunity are we…? And for Hughes? No one will think the worse of him, bag the 2-3 million quid cica, and move onto the next ambitious challenge...
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