QPR 2 Newcastle 1: There were times, in the not too distant past, when a big end-of-season match for Newcastle meant an FA Cup final, a Champions League qualifier, or even a title tilt.
Now the Geordies face the possibility of having to beat West Ham in their last match to avoid relegation from the top flight for the second time in six years.
This lily-livered defeat at already-relegated QPR summed up their plight.
Did you know? Riviere’s goal was Newcastle’s first away from home in over 450 minutes.
Newcastle were good enough to take a half-time lead against a shell-shocked London side that was booed off the pitch, but crumbled once they were challenged after the break and went home with what they deserved — nothing.
Newcastle could lose against West Ham and stay up if Hull fail to beat Manchester United at home, but it is going to be an important close season for the club whichever way they fall.
The fans look as bewildered as the players though they seem fairly united in wanting ‘cockney’ owner Mike Ashley out and could feasibly get their way if a mega-bucks offer comes out of the blue.
They seem slightly protective of caretaker manager John Carver, who encouraged them all to stay behind the team for what will be “the biggest game” this Sunday, but changes in the managerial set-up seem inevitable.
Even if Newcastle avoid the drop there needs to be a change in direction and certainly a lift for the players, who, by their own admission, have lost all self-belief.
Emmanuel Riviere gave Newcastle a 24th minute lead with a fortunate finish, amid some shocking QPR defending.
But they had only themselves to blame as substitute Reece Grego-Cox and Leroy Fer won the game for Rangers in the second half.
Newcastle’s versatile Ryan Taylor has seen it all before, experiencing relegation just months after he signed for the club from Wigan in February 2009.
And the 30-year-old is well placed to plot the reasons behind the club’s struggle this season.
He said: “It’s been a tough three months, not just this match. You look back now, nine defeats out of 10. I don’t care who you are, it does shatter your confidence. That one goal we got here, I thought ‘come on — we are going to get another one’, but we just didn’t have a great second half.
“Now it is down to the last game. We spoke about it before this match, how we could have put it to bed and got the season over and done with. But it’s going to be a tense week now.”
Taylor highlighted January’s departure of manager Alan Pardew, another one the fans wanted out, as the turning point of the season.
He revealed: “As players we had a little bit of turmoil once Alan left. We were unsure. ‘Have we got a manager? Who is in charge?’
“It took a few weeks to resolve and then John got the job. But then we just lost a lot of players to injury, we had a lot of key players out, and that effectively, over the long run, has cost us.
Newcastle don’t want to be visiting QPR next season.
Rangers striker Charlie Austin is unlikely to be at the club by then, but he was quick to defend manager Chris Ramsey.
He said: “No disrespect to Harry but it’s been a change, a change of character. He’s come in and brought new things to the table but unfortunately we just haven’t got enough points.”
Green 6 (McCarthy 34, 6), Onuoha 5, Caulker 3 (Suk-young 45, 6), Dunne 5, Hill 6, Phillips 7, Barton 5, Henry 5, Hoilett 5 (Grego-Cox 45, 6), Fer 6, Austin 5.
Krul 5, Janmaat 6, Coloccini 5, Dummett 5, Gutierrez 5, Colback 6, R.Taylor 5 (Aarons 64, 6), Sissoko 5, Cabella 5 (Ameobi 73, 4), Perez 5, Riviere 6(Cisse 63, 5).
Lee Probert 6
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