Newcastle's plight deepens as relegated QPR earn comeback win
LONDON -- Three points on QPR's 2-1 win vs. Newcastle in the Premier League
1. A new low for Newcastle
In a season packed with poor performances and dreadful results, this was another low for Newcastle.
It was their 10th consecutive game without victory but, even more embarrassingly, it was a defeat to a relegated side who had absolutely nothing to play for. Newcastle should have confirmed their Premier League survival here, but instead it will go to the final day.
Newcastle's squad has been weak this season and it quickly became apparent that, however highly John Carver rates himself as a coach, he was unlikely to be a tactical mastermind.
What you do expect from a figure like Carver, however, is for the side to be united, motivated and up for the challenge. On the basis of recent weeks that clearly isn't the case, and the decision not to appoint a permanent manager has backfired spectacularly at St James' Park.
Only three players can be spared from blame at Loftus Road. Jack Colback worked his socks off in the centre of midfield and has proved to be an astute capture from rivals Sunderland, while Jonas Gutierrez was also faultless, mixing brave defending with mazy dribbling. Ayoze Perez's work rate should also be commended.
Elsewhere, it's difficult to find many players performing at an adequate standard -- even club captain Fabricio Coloccini, often spared from blame, has been dreadful.
Newcastle have one final match to haul themselves out of danger, at home to West Ham next weekend. However, considering their abysmal form, their supporters might as well turn their attention to Hull's final game of the season against Manchester United.
Newcastle are far more likely to survive because Hull fail to win rather than because they help themselves to three points. If you can't beat a side that has already been relegated, there's no reason to suggest you can beat a mid-table side with little to play for.
2. Ramsey changes prompt fightback
QPR were revitalised for the second half, with Ramsey making two changes: Reece Grego-Cox replaced Junior Hoilett, while Yun Suk-Young came on for Caulker and played at left-back with Hill moving inside. Having already been forced to bring on Alex McCarthy for the injured Green, it was a bold move.
However, it worked. QPR immediately played much better, partly thanks to the increased involvement of Charlie Austin, the only player in the squad who can look back at this season with some sense of pride.
The striker had been unusually subdued in the first half against a side repeatedly linked with his signing this summer, failing to make runs to invite good passes and remaining static in the centre of the pitch.
For the second half, though, he started working the channels. In the first couple of minutes he burst down the left and floated a delightful cut-back to Matt Phillips, who connected well but found Gutierrez making a heroic last-ditch block to divert the ball just wide. It was so close to a goal, in fact, that QPR's PA system erroneously played music for a couple of seconds, prompting jeers from both sets of supporters.
Just as Newcastle's opener had been foreshadowed, this incident also suggested a goal was coming. This time Austin burst down the right flank, but again clipped a wonderful cross to Phillips, who made no mistake -- and the goal music sounded correctly.
The equaliser galvanised the crowd, Newcastle started to break forward more in search of goals and the game opened up. There was a huge amount of space in midfield which saw Leroy Fer start to dominate from an advanced role, and the Dutchman's absolute thunderbolt into the top corner from 25 yards put the hosts into a surprise lead.
Carver went for it from there, introducing Papiss Cisse, Rolando Aarons and Sammy Ameobi into a 4-2-4 system that left the visitors even more exposed in midfield. Perez was lively and Aarons played a couple of decent passes but Newcastle still had little goal threat.
In stoppage time, Cisse had the perfect opportunity to contribute to Newcastle's survival bid, having recently missed a couple of months because of a ban for spitting. However, from a left-of-centre free kick 25 yards out, he curled a horrendously tame shot into the arms of McCarthy.
It was an incredibly weak shot -- presumably he was determined not to miss the target -- and Newcastle's day ended in somewhat fitting circumstances.
3. QPR show defensive failings again
Around the ground before kickoff, QPR supporters were in good spirits considering their relegation had been mathematically confirmed with last week's thrashing at Manchester City. Then again, demotion to the Championship had seemed likely for months, so perhaps it came as something of a relief.
On a sunny day, this was a pressure-free afternoon for the home fans, though manager Chris Ramsey had urged his players to take the game seriously for the "integrity" of the Premier League.
It's questionable whether they paid attention in the first half. The defence was the main problem, with QPR's players repeatedly either getting in the way of one another or completely failing to challenge for balls.
They had defended a long ball abysmally in the opening minutes, with Clint Hill and Steven Caulker each expecting one another to head away Tim Krul's long clearance. They let the ball bounce, then both went for it and collided, all of which forced Rob Green to rush from his line to deny Perez.
That fiasco foreshadowed the game's opening goal after 24 minutes. Again, a long Krul clearance was allowed to drop with no QPR player in sight, allowing Emmanuel Riviere to bring the ball down and finish under very little pressure.
It was a peculiar goal for three reasons. First, Riviere struck the ball with his right foot, and it looped off his left and over Green. Second, it was the Frenchman's first goal in 18 hours of Premier League football. Third, it was the first time a goalkeeper had registered an assist in the Premier League this season.
In a game between a relegated side and a team so badly out of form, perhaps such a basic route one goal was inevitable.
Michael Cox is the editor of zonalmarking.net and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Zonal_Marking.