Newcastle United moved up to 6th in the Premier League after Leon Best’s excellent strike ensured Mark Hughes’ first game in charge of QPR ended in defeat. Best, starting in place of Demba Ba who has jetted off to join his Senegal team-mates for the African Cup of Nations, expertly finished to give Newcastle a win when they were far from their fluent best.

After Hatem Ben Arfa’s wonder goal against Blackburn last week, it came as something of a surprise that the France international again started on the bench, with Best and Shola Ameobi preferred as the front two.

However, after Yohan Cabaye was cynically chopped down by a reckless Shaun Derry challenge midway through the first half, Ben Arfa was called from the bench early and operated from a right midfield position, with Ryan Taylor partnering Danny Guthrie in the centre.

QPR’s approach to stopping the in-form Geordies seemed overly aggressive at times, with three R’s players finding themselves in referee Chris Foy’s notebook early on. Jonas Gutierrez was causing problems down both flanks; whilst Ben Arfa’s free roaming role confused the Premier League new boys.

But Mark Hughes’ men had the best chances of the first half, taking advantage of a sluggish start from the Magpies to create chances. Shaun Wright-Phillips was the first to go close, when he controlled and hit a sweet half-volley, which clipped the crossbar on the way over Tim Krul’s goal.

Minutes later, former Toon target Jay Bothroyd was also denied by the woodwork, when his curling right-foot shot grazed the outside of the post, with Krul well beaten.

The scares seemed to galvanise the home side, as well as the unusually subdued crowd, and they responded by winning a number of free-kicks in dangerous areas, which the visitors struggled to cope with. Newcastle began to slowly click into gear and turn the screw, something which QPR were powerless to resist.

The breakthrough came hand-in-hand with the stand-out magical moment of the game. Ameobi controlled a Gutierrez pass and found Taylor, who done well to control his pass into Best’s feet. But then came the magic, when Best skinned Luke Young with an excellent shimmy, before coolly slotting past Paddy Kenny to give Newcastle the lead.

QPR responded well though, and had it not been for a lack of firepower they could have scored as many as they liked. Jamie Mackie blazed a volley over the bar as the first half drew to a close, whilst Bothroyd wasted a number of chances as the visitors pushed for an equaliser.

Bothroyd’s best chance came from a Heidar Helguson header, when he found space and had the goal at his mercy, only to lash a poor volley high over Krul’s crossbar with his weaker right foot.

As QPR chased an equaliser more, the counter attacking threat of Newcastle looked like it might wield another goal for the home side. Davide Santon’s surging run ended with a shot which was deflected wide and Gutierrez almost left Kenny red-faced when his shot was cleared off the line after the goalkeeper had came out of his box to clear.

The introduction of Dan Gosling and James Perch ensured Newcastle had the steel in midfield to hold onto the one goal lead, and QPR failed to create any chances to force anything like a grandstand finish.

The win moves Newcastle up to sixth in the league, a point ahead of Liverpool and the whispers of Europa League football next season continue to gather volume. Leon Best’s performance will have pleased Alan Pardew, as the Republic of Ireland international stepped up and filled Demba Ba’s boots, if only for one afternoon.


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  1. samyd

    guthrie was fantastic in tiote's place , best scored a goal that everybody would be raving about if demba had scored it,santone was imense raylor had a good game, tim krul did well to stay awake, nothing got past colo,an all round good afternoon


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