Transfer window closed, gap below us closed, but Rafa and his men were very much open for business again tonight knowing that a win would take Newcastle United back to the top of the league.
With no additions to the squad this window Newcastle will need to see out the season with the squad we started it with. Back tonight though was Diame, who started on the bench, after his unsuccessful ACON campaign. And whilst there was much talk to Townsend over recent days his non arrival would mean Ritchie would continue on the right flank, a player in a rich run of form.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Gouffran, Perez (Diame, 85), Murphy (Ameobi, 66)
A rare league start for Murphy tells us a lot about not just his form when called upon over the last few weeks due to injury but also about Mitrovic’s lack of form when given a chance.
The man who had been at the centre of the Sky cameras focus before the game was our playmaker Jonjo Shelvey however and boy did they pick that one right.
Picking up the ball in his own half his sprayed ball to the left flank would be picked up by Gouffran, and whilst the cross would eventually come in from Hayden his cross would be cleared by a backtracking defence the clearance would only drop to Shelvey once more. His finish…..sublime! 40 seconds gone. 1-0 Newcastle and just the start Rafa and his men were looking for.
After losing the reverse fixture 6-0 earlier in the season you’d have forgiven QPR for dropping their heads even that early in the game, but to their credit the visitors settle reasonably well after that keeping the Newcastle defence honest in their early work. One long ball would set the visitors sprinting clear on 12 minutes but Wszolek would hesitate when all he really needed to do was strike the ball and his delay would allow Ritchie to poke the ball away and safe of the danger zone.
The next clear chance would also go to QPR but Luongo’s point blank header would be well saved by Darlow.
On 19 minutes there would be a worrying clash of heads resulting in Ciaran Clark left reeling on the pitch with blood pouring from his head. When our number 2 did get back to his feet he managed to take a rather groggy walk down the tunnel to be assessed by the medical team. Newcastle would play 5 long minutes with only 10 men as a result but with three stitches just above his eye the big man would end up back on the pitch.
The first half hour would be a pretty scrappy affair really with QPR having good spalls with the ball whilst some of Newcastle’s play would be sloppy whilst QPR would go hunting in packs keeping the pressure firmly on the home side.. More than ever it felt like the next goal would be vital.
Whilst the usual sections of the crowd were loud and supportive in their backing of the lads in black and white the mood of many of the home faithful was by now getting pretty nervy and you could sense the anxiety around the ground.
Just before half time it would take another intervention from a Newcastle player to keep their advantage in tact. This time some great tracking back and strong but fair play from Paul Dummett would see the ball go safely behind when for a moment it looked like QPR had broken free again.
Perhaps no surprise then that the QPR would indeed nick the equaliser before half time. This time it would be Newcastle’s turn to fail to clear their lines properly and after the ball was fired back into the Newcastle box a lovely touch from Washington would then allow the striker to prod home to make it 1-1.
No more than QPR deserved and Newcastle needed to do something quite different in the second half.
Not good enough, especially after such a fantastic start.
What ever was said at half time made the lads at least come out fighting and with the game now far more even as a contest, and with 5 minutes gone of the second half Newcastle nudged themselves back in front again. A lovely flighted cross from Hayden once more this time was met by a wonderful far post jump from Matt Ritchie who, rising above his defender, headed over the keeper and into the opposite corner of the goal. Another cracking goal.
Things were heading up now and there seemed to be some discussion in the press box that Shelvey had kicked out at Makie although on reviewing the incident it felt more like the press looking for something rather than anything daft. Jog on haters!
Que an Ameobi. Sammy obviously. And within seconds of him being on he was involved in an incident that could have seen QPR’s Lynch send off. After a tussle for the ball that left Sammy on the floor there was more than a suspicion that the foot in the back of the Newcastle player when on the floor was a stamp. Only the player himself will know the intent. Not nice either way.
Newcastle looking much better now could have doubled their lead after a lovely turn and run from Hayden would lead to a cross to an unmarked Gouffran. Our number 20 did everything right from 6 yards out but Smithies in the QPR goal was equal to it with a great save.
On 74 minutes though Newcastle should have had their third. Hayden once more the creator would set Perez free and completely unmarked the Spaniard would hit his shot straight at the keeper when a ball square would have seen a tap in for Matt Ritchie. Poor selection. Poor finish. Another sign that Perez just doesn’t seem to be consistently taking his chances.
Newcastle looked in control now but with ex Mag LuaLua on as a sub and with QPR leaving players forward the last 10 minutes or so would promise to be a nervy affair.
Perez once more could have killed the game, and after shooting when he should have crossed last time this time he did the opposite. Again the wrong decision as his cross went to no one when he had a clear sight of goal.
That would be pretty much Perez’s last action of the game with Diame afforded the final 5 minutes.
Disaster. With a minute left, well, what can you say. One hopeful ball into the box. Darlow comes. Clark get a head on it. Own goal. Horrible, horrible moment for NUFC and their promotion hopes.
You couldn’t make it up.
And whilst 4 minutes of added time would be shown there would be no way back from that hammer blow.
Not much you can say really. Gutter!