Newcastle United stagger to Premier League safety

Posted by Marc Duffy

Ian Horrocks/Newcastle United/Getty ImagesThey may have taken years off the lives of supporters, but Alan Pardew's Newcastle finally ensured their Premier League survival with their Sunday win at QPR.

The Government tell us that Tyneside has one of the lowest life-expectancy rates in Great Britain. They tell us that this is because of poor diets, too much alcohol and smoking. I beg to differ -- the number one life span reducer in the region has to be watching Newcastle United football club.

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Today's 2-1 win away to Queens Park Rangers guaranteed that Newcastle's Premier League status would be preserved. This game alone took a year or two away from me!

Newcastle went into the game knowing that a win would ensure that they couldn't go down although Alan Pardew did not know that was the case until he was told on Friday. Failure to win and it would have been only the third time in the club’s 121 year history that they would have managed only one away win in a season.

Despite knowing this, Newcastle went into the game very slowly. There were long periods of play in which if you had only just woken from a coma you would have assumed that it was the Londoners who had all to play for, not the Geordies.

The fact that Lee Probert was refereeing the game concerned me -- Newcastle had not won any one of the seven previous games that he took charge of. Fears were heightened when ten minutes into the game he awarded an absolutely outrageous penalty to Harry Redknapp's relegated Hoops. Matthieu Debuchy needlessly pulled at Junior Hoilett's shirt and, just like his unnecessary challenge at Aston Villa, a penalty was awarded. The thing is -- in this instance Hoilett was not even in the penalty area. It was a bemusing call that could have been very costly. The penalty was converted by Loic Remy -- the man who opted to join QPR over Newcastle earlier in the season.

With the poor start and terrible away record, Newcastle fans would have been forgiven for fearing the worst but it only took them eight minutes to pull level with a penalty of their own. Hatem Ben Arfa beat Jose Bosingwa in the QPR penalty area and the Portuguese defender almost ripped the shirt from Ben Arfa's back. He took the penalty himself and absolutely smashed it home.

Papiss Cisse had a header disallowed for a very tight (but correct) offside and Stephane M'bia charged around catching Newcastle midfielders late too frequently as Newcastle enjoyed their best spell of the game.

Yoan Gouffran put Newcastle ahead on 35 after some calamitous defending from Redknapp's team -- a glimpse of why they were relegated a few weeks ago. Rob Green passed the ball out to Bosingwa who returned the ball to his keeper immediately. Bosingwa's pass was underhit and Jonas Gutierrez closed Green down brilliantly. The keeper’s attempted clearance fell to Gouffran who finished first time into the empty net. As the travelling Newcastle fans celebrated wildly, the QPR fans turned on Bosingwa with a loud chorus of booing.

Bosingwa was taken off at halftime and I would be very surprised if he is ever seen at Loftus Road again.

Then the Pardew second half effect took over yet again. Newcastle came out for the second half and made no attempt whatsoever at attacking despite the fact that this regular tactic had seen Newcastle concede 23 goals in their previous 18 second halves (the equivalent of nine games).

QPR pressed onwards but rarely tested Rob Elliot, while at the other end Newcastle's one and only chance, a tame header from Gutierrez, was cleared off the line by Sean Derry.

As the minutes ticked towards Newcastle safety, a moment of absolute stupidity from Elliot saw Newcastle reduced to ten men. The keeper, already booked for kicking the ball away earlier in the game, was sent to the stands for needlessly catching the ball outside of the box. Steve Harper came on to replace Ben Arfa and take his place between the sticks.

The game carried on apparently in slow motion for Newcastle fans -- especially on 91 when an Andros Townsend shot flew just wide.

QPR failed to find the equaliser, the final whistle blew and Newcastle confirmed their Premier League status with only one game to go.

The inquest starts here.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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