Queens Park Rangers 0 Newcastle United 1

THE Coca-Cola Championship has been a good friend to Newcastle United, but we have always known it was the sort you have to leave behind to get on in life.

DO NOT REUSE PIC: Newcastle vs QPR, peter lovenkrands

THE Coca-Cola Championship has been a good friend to Newcastle United, but we have always known it was the sort you have to leave behind to get on in life.

Hang around in their company for too long and you are bound to end up in trouble.

After the misery of the drop, has come the joy of promotion.

It is a campaign which has wiped some of the slate clean, for players, management and owner, but for many it will still only ever be a successful damage limitation exercise.

Regardless of your view on that one, there is no doubt it has been a surprisingly refreshing stint in the second tier in which a new sort of Newcastle team has been forged out of the fires of relegation.

Whether it has the steel and the cutting edge to cope back in the Premier League remains to be seen, but they have done everything that has been asked of them this season and a little extra beside.

So we wave goodbye to the Championship with plenty of fond memories and fresh cause for optimism that the blunders of the past can give way to a brighter, positive future.

Not that this trip to Loftus Road will be one of the cherished ones. Newcastle played badly, rarely strung more than a few passes together and rarely created a clearcut chance, while the fans were more interested in carrying on the promotion celebrations in the stands.

Yet they still managed to win, the three points here taking them to 102 for the season. Like a Premier League sports car cruising in third gear, they have always seemed to have more behind them than the saloon cars of the Championship.

Ruthlessly efficient. Those two words perhaps sum up the nature of United's campaign better than any others and a club which was once renowned for the style of its football rather than the substance of their achievements should be absolutely delighted about that.

It is a season, though, that ended with a whimper rather than a bang. Forget pre-season friendlies, this had all the meaning and excitement of an end of season one as both sides appeared to lack the drive, desire or determination to do anything more than go through the motions.

If anything QPR were the better of the two, particularly in the first half, but they were unable to make any of their half-chances count and, as we have seen so many times this season, if you do that against Newcastle you will pay the price.

Tamas Priskin and Akos Buzsaky both snatched at efforts in the opening exchanges, before Tim Krul was called on to make a save from Dusko Tosic and another, grabbing the ball at the second attempt, from Buzsaky.

A brilliant last-ditch tackle from Mike Williamson on Jay Simpson protected the young goalkeeper from having to make another, while all Newcastle managed in response was a half-volley on the turn from Shola Ameobi which flew just over the bar.

QPR should have taken the lead in first-half stoppage time, but Simpson failed to control the ball just as it looked as though he had been given a clear run in on Krul. It symbolised the home side's half.

Thankfully some strong words from Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood at half-time brought more purpose to Newcastle's performance and when Peter Ramage was sent off after just 30 seconds, tripping Ameobi as he threatened to run clear, there was only really going to be one winner.

The former Newcastle defender and lifelong supporters left the pitch in tears, but in truth referee Darren Deadman did not have any choice but to show him red for a professional foul.

It took the Magpies until the 71st to make the extra man count, a delightfully weighted through ball from Joey Barton springing the offside trap. Peter Lovenkrands still had plenty to do with the finish, but he made it look incredibly simple, dinking the ball over the out-stretched arm of Radek Cerny after feigning to hit it low from a tight angle.

There was still time for Barton to waste a good chance when his low shot was comfortably saved by Cerny while promising youngster Harris Vuckic almost found the far corner with a curling shot.

Krul also did nothing to damage his burgeoning reputation with two sharp saves, first rushing off his line to block a Simpson shot with his body and again when he instinctively stuck up a hand to top Priskin's header over the bar.

QPR: Cerny, Leigertwood, Ramage, Gorkss, Tosic, Ephraim (Rose 77), Faurlin, Buzsaky, Cook (Parker 49), Simpson, Priskin. Subs (not used): Putnins, Balanta, Brown, Oastler, German.

Sent Off: Ramage (46).

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Ryan Taylor, Routledge, Barton, Smith, Guthrie (Vuckic 79), Best (Lovenkrands 54), Ameobi (Carroll 79). Subs (not used): Harper, Nolan, Pancrate, Donaldson.

Booked: Williamson, Ryan Taylor.

Goals: Lovenkrands 71.

Att: 16,819 Ref: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire).

 
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