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Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021

Newcastle put Best foot forward

A 37th-minute strike from Republic of Ireland striker Leon Best was enough to edge Newcastle United past Mark Hughes’s Queens Park Rangers.

Leon Best sweeps a shot into the right corner of the QPR goal.
Leon Best sweeps a shot into the right corner of the QPR goal.
Image: Steve Drew/EMPICS Sport

Newcastle United 1-0 QPR

QUEENS PARK RANGERS entered this afternoon’s fixture with Newcastle United hopeful of arresting the deterioration in form that had seen the London club collect a mere two points from its last eight Premier League outings.

Emboldened by the mid-week appointment of Mark Hughes, Rangers’ pre-game optimism was further bolstered by the knowledge that Newcastle would be without the muscular presence of Cheik Tioté in midfield and the goal-scoring prowess of Demba Ba, both of whom are participating in the African Cup of Nations.

But if consensus opinion suggests that Alan Pardew’s recent success has been built around some shrewd purchases – of which Ba and Tioté can be considered the most significant – and a rigorous commitment to tactical organisation, his side’s performance this afternoon highlighted the extent to which it is capable of relying on the latter to produce results in the absence of the former.

Newcastle looked content early on to match QPR physically and avail of the few opportunities afforded them to venture forward on the counterattack.

The contest reached fever pitch around the half-hour mark, when Shaun Derry brought Newcastle’s technical maestro, Yohan Cabaye, to ground with a what can euphemistically be described as a “robust” tackle. The Frenchman left the field of play on a stretcher soon after, while his assailant was issued with a yellow card.

Somewhat counterintuitively, the injustice of Cabaye’s injury appeared to energise both his teammates and the home support.

The result was a subtle shift in the balance of power, decisive evidence of which came in the 37th minute, when a series of passes on the edge of the QPR box deposited the ball at the feet of Leon Best. The Republic of Ireland international feinted towards the left touchline, cut back inside and threaded a gently curling shot between the challenges of two defenders and beyond the reach of Kenny in the QPR goal.

The lone moment of quality in an otherwise dour half of football, Best’s strike freed Newcastle to impose themselves with increasing confidence throughout the second half.

(YouTube credit: Goalsforyou161)

If Pardew can be thankful that his side’s tenacity appears to have survived the departure of his international stars, Hughes can feel rightly frustrated by his side’s inability to take advantage of a Newcastle line-up lacking in inspiration. The Welshman will, however, remain hopeful of bringing QPR’s dismal Premier League run to a swift end; their next match is a home fixture against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Ryan Taylor, Guthrie, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Best, Shola Ameobi. Subs: Elliot, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Perch, Gosling, Obertan, Ferguson.

QPR: Kenny, Young, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Hill, Wright-Phillips, Derry, Buzsaky, Mackie, Helguson, Bothroyd. Subs: Cerny, Orr, Hall, Campbell, Smith, Ephraim, Macheda.

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