Monday, May 13, 2013

Aaaaaand relax

QPR 1 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Swansea and Chelsea had written the script for us and while we may have tried our hardest to do what comes naturally and fluff our lines, conceding an early penalty and later getting a man sent off, ultimately we couldn't fail to beat QPR, picking up the three points required to guarantee we wouldn't be joining the hapless Hoops in the Championship next season.

The most instrumental and influential players in our successful bid for survival haven't been those in black and white stripes: first the excellently named Dwight Tiendalli, then "Super" Frankie Lampard, and finally Jose Bosingwa , a man who yesterday couldn't have turned in a more clownish performance if he'd been wearing massive shoes and a squirty flower.

With Saylor missing (presumably injured), Mike Williamson was somewhat surprisingly picked as his deputy, the Silver Fox overlooking Perchinho. Our only other change was also in defence, where the suspension-free Mathieu Debuchy can consider himself exceedingly fortunate to waltz back in despite his schoolboy-like and ill-disciplined display against Liverpool and understudy Danny Simpson's solid performance in achieving the clean sheet at West Ham.

For his part, 'Appy 'Arry looked set to inflict serious pain on us once again by not only selecting a dreaded old boy in the shape of Jermaine Jenas but also Loic £emy, and typically it was the mercenary striker who drew first blood. Debuchy tugged Junior Hoilett's shirt and then made a slightly clumsy challenge on the lively QPR forward, but neither offence took place in the area - so when referee Lee Probert prodded his digit in the direction of the penalty spot we could scarcely believe our misfortune. £emy sent Rob Elliot the wrong way and our backs were immediately against the wall.

Thankfully, though, Portuguese full back Bosingwa - a hate figure at Loftus Road - soon intervened to even things up. He had actually made himself a nuisance earlier, denying Dreamboat a goal with a block, but then remembered his designated role as QPR's self-destruct button and attempted to swap shirts with HBA in the home side's penalty area. 'Arry may have moaned that it was a soft decision, but it was as blatant a foul as you'll see. HBA himself took the spot-kick, lashing home via the underside of the crossbar in a fashion that briefly had hearts in mouths.

Both sides then had presentable opportunities to forge ahead, Hoilett foiled by Elliot and Cisse by the linesman's flag - not for the first time this season, though on this occasion the officials were right to rule out his excellent header from Debuchy's right-wing cross.

Given the extraordinarily brittle nature of the two defences on display, it was only a matter of time before a calamitous cock-up took place, and mercifully it was to our benefit rather than our detriment. Rob Green rolled the ball out to Bosingwa, who rolled it back with less pace to his 'keeper. The latter's hurried and deflected clearance, under pressure from Spidermag, fell perfectly for Goofy to knock into the unguarded net from distance.

Bosingwa, like Stephane Mbia, was put out of his misery at half-time, much to our disappointment - but we remained in command after the interval, even when Mr T had to be replaced by Perchinho (a dubious choice when the Silver Fox once again had Vurnon Anita at his disposal). Spidermag had a header cleared off the line following more calamitous home defending and one-time Toon target Hoilett continued to carry a threat, but chances were at a premium and we were strolling towards victory when, with less than ten minutes remaining, potential disaster struck.

Elliot had already picked up a needless booking for booting the ball away after Probert's whistle had blown and was then left trudging off the pitch when adjudged to have handled outside his box. A furious Silver Fox disputed whether the incident took place outside or inside the area - as far as I could tell, his feet definitely strayed out but it didn't look as though the whole of the ball was carried over the line.

That meant a surprise appearance for Steve Harper, at the expense of HBA, and an extremely nervy finale in which Bobby Zamora and Andros Townsend both had efforts that had us momentarily terrified but then sighing with relief. We made it through to what was just our second away victory of the campaign, though, and with it Premier League safety. With 5under1and held to a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton, we're suddenly rooting for Wigan to capitalise on the momentum of their against-the-odds FA Cup triumph and beat both Arsenal and Villa this coming week, and for Spurs to continue their pursuit of Champions League football and deliver the Mackems a knockout blow at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

No doubt the recriminations and post-mortem inquest into how a top-five side can only escape relegation on the penultimate weekend of the following season will begin in earnest soon. For now, though, let's just take a deep breath and savour the fact that we won't be having to dig out the maps to find our way to Doncaster and Bournemouth next year, at least.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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