Newcastle 1 QPR 0: Hughes has to find Rangers' missing spark and fast
If Mark Hughes is hoping to establish himself as a managerial great, this would have done little to convince him it is possible at Queens Park Rangers.
He will take comfort from the fact that much can change. New players will arrive at Loftus Road and current ones will return from injury and suspension. Yesterday, Hughes certainly could have used Joey Barton, the club captain missing after his red card against Norwich.
But major surgery is required and this would have succeeded only in highlighting the hard graft ahead for the Welshman and his staff.
Leading the line: Leon Best (second left) scores Newcastle's winner against QPR
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Ryan Taylor (Gosling 82), Guthrie, Cabaye (Ben Arfa 25), Gutierrez, Best (Perch 77), Shola Ameobi.
Subs not used: Elliot, Abeid, Obertan, Ferguson.
Goal: Best 37.
QPR: Kenny, Young, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Hill, Wright-Phillips, Derry, Buzsaky (Macheda 76), Mackie, Helguson (Smith 65), Bothroyd.
Booked: Hill, Derry, Bothroyd, Macheda
Subs not used: Cerny, Orr, Hall, Campbell, Ephraim.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Clearly, confidence is an issue. QPR went into this match having taken just two points from a possible 24 under Neil Warnock and a major part of the problem was scoring goals; just 19 in 22 Premier League games now.
Here yesterday they did go close to improving on that statistic. Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the crossbar and Jay Bothroyd clipped a post. But Bothroyd was chief among those guilty of squandering the opportunities QPR did create and the Newcastle defence never really came under any great pressure.
It was disappointing for Hughes, particularly when his previous three Premier League jobs had started both without losing and without conceding a goal. But this was always going to be tough when his new side were looking for their first win in nine games.
They started as one might expect when they had a new manager to impress, with spirit and determination.
But there are reasons why they now sit in the bottom three and distinctly average performances from too many players are among them.
Matchwinner: Best is congratulated by his Newcastle team-mates after scoring the only goal of the game
The contrast with a Newcastle side above Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League table would have concerned Hughes.
They too had key men missing, not least in the form of Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote. And, when they then lost Yohan Cabaye to a nasty challenge from Shaun Derry, there seemed little left of the side that toppled Manchester United at the same ground earlier this month.
But manager Alan Pardew must have taken great encouragement from the desire being displayed by players who want to step up and take an opportunity when it presents itself.
A perfect example of that yesterday was Leon Best. He performed admirably for Newcastle in the second half of last season to ease the sense of loss that came with Andy Carroll’s departure to Anfield, and in the absence of Ba he was just as impressive on this occasion.
I've got a big job on my hands: New QPR boss Mark Hughes organises his side from the touchline
Best might not have scored for 10
games prior to this contest but he marked an excellent performance with a
super first-half goal, a flash of skill and a marvellous finish
securing victory and, with it, the points that lifted Newcastle to sixth
in the top flight.
The contribution that came from Hatem
Ben Arfa would have also pleased Pardew. The Frenchman started on the
bench, coming on when Cabaye disappeared on a stretcher in the 25th
minute. But he was excellent on the right wing, giving Newcastle a
threat they had lacked prior to his arrival.
QPR were probably the better team prior to that, with a watching Barton no doubt cursing his exclusion from the game. With Tiote away on international duty he would have fancied himself to make an impact in central midfield against his former club.
Even without him QPR started brightly, Heidar Helguson and Akos Buzsaky both testing Tim Krul.
Late one: Shaun Derry's challenge on Yohan Cabaye (above) forced the Newcastle midfielder off injured (below)
The challenge that then left Cabaye
nursing a foot injury was a bad one. Not two-footed and therefore not
bad enough, in the view of referee Chris Foy, to warrant the punishment
he considered Vincent Kompany worthy of the previous week.
Derry received a yellow rather than a
red card but it was bad enough to leave Cabaye incensed as he left the
field on a stretcher. He cursed at Derry before throwing his gloves in
the direction of the fourth official.
Pardew moved Ryan Taylor into the
middle as part of the reshuffle. Taylor did well, as did the impressive
Danny Guthrie. But it was Ben Arfa who gave Newcastle an extra
dimension, even if he had nothing to do with the goal.
Changing faces: Hughes was content before kick-off but soon looked worried as his QPR side fell behind
That arrived in the 37th minute, a
marvellous touch with his left foot enabling Best to escape Luke Young
before a right-foot shot curled beyond the reach of Paddy Kenny. QPR
offered little in response, even if Bothroyd forced a decent save from
Krul and blasted over from close range when he should have scored.
Newcastle were much the better side
after the break, with Jonas Gutierrez almost capitalising on Kenny’s mad
dash to the touchline with a long-range effort that Anton Ferdinand,
QPR’s skipper for the day, cleared to safety.
Progress: Ryan Taylor tries to launch a Newcastle attack as he is closely watched by QPR players
Going nowhere: Danny Guthrie stops Shaun Wright-Phillips from starting another QPR attack
Hughes had two strikers on the bench,
and he turned to Federico Macheda. But if the former Manchester United
forward thought a current one could make the difference, the young
Italian on loan at QPR offered nothing.
‘There are areas where we need to improve,’ said Hughes afterwards. ‘That’s obvious.’
It certainly was here, and while QPR might be an exciting project, it is a difficult one, too.