A WIN. By hook or by crook.
That was all Alan Pardew asked for before Saturday’s game.
And that’s what he got on a sodden afternoon at St James’s Park which will only be remembered for one fleeting moment of class from Shola Ameobi in the 81st minute.
Ameobi’s scored some important goals in his long career at Newcastle United.
Ordinarily, a late strike against Queens Park Rangers on a wet and bitterly cold December afternoon wouldn’t be celebrated so wildly.
But the significance of Ameobi’s 75th career goal for the club wasn’t lost on anyone inside St James’s Park, bar the 922 travelling fans, who had become increasingly vocal high up in the Leazes End in the belief that their team could somehow hold on.
They’d seen a disciplined and organised defensive performance from Harry Redknapp’s side.
Try as they might, Newcastle just couldn’t break a stubborn QPR down.
Blocks, tackles and interceptions denied United time and again. They were as relentless as the rain that lashed the stadium, but one thing was lacking for Pardew’s team – a final ball.
For all their dominance – Newcastle had their visitors pinned back for much of the game – they couldn’t conjure up a clearcut opportunity.
They lacked the kind of ball only Hatem Ben Arfa or Yohan Cabaye – both sidelined until next month through injury – are capable of playing in the last third of the pitch.
What United didn’t lack was spirit and character, and players and fans alike had to be patient as attack after attack broke down.
Pardew set out his team in a 4-3-3 formation, with Demba Ba again at the tip.
Chances, however, were few and far between, and Ba was wasteful with the set-pieces that came his way.
Papiss Demba Cisse, on the right side of Newcastle’s front three, also struggled to trouble goalkeeper Rob Green until his 61st-minute withdrawal.
Cisse, reluctant to leave the field, didn’t hide his frustration as he headed for the dugout, the striker barely touching Pardew’s outstretched hand as he shuffled past him on the touchline.
Amid boos from around the stadium, Ameobi was sent on – but 20 minutes later, his chance came.
And thankfully Ameobi only needed one chance. Davide Santon played the ball to Sylvain Marveaux, who in turn rolled it to Ameobi, bursting into the box from right.
Rather than shoot with his right as Adel Taarabt, a peripheral figure, slid in, he skipped past the challenge and took it on his left, creating a better angle.
The finish, beyond a helpless Green and into the far corner of the net, was neat and precise.
And the pent-up frustration of the previous 80 minutes was released, with Pardew embracing his staff as supporters celebrated what could be one of the season’s defining moments.
Defeat, given the festive games coming up at Manchester United and Arsenal, was unthinkable.
The three points lifted United up to 14th in the Premier League table.
While the club is far from safe from relegation, the lift that the result gave Pardew and his side is immeasurable.
Christmas, for once, came early on Tyneside.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 7; Simpson 7, Williamson 7, Coloccini 7, Santon 7; Anita 7, Perch 7, Tiote 7 (Marveaux, 77); Cisse 6 (SHOLA AMEOBI, 61, 8), Ba 5, Gutierrez 7 (Obertan, 60, 7). Subs not used: Harper, Ferguson, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Green; Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill, Fabio; Mackie, Granero (Wright-Phillips, 56), Mbia, Faurlin (Derry, 78), Taarabt; Cisse (Hoilett, 64). Subs not used: Murphy, Traore, Onuoha, Diakite.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Shola Ameobi. The game needed moment of class, and he provided.
HIGHLIGHT: The celebrations on and off the pitch that followed Ameobi’s goal – it’s importance wasn’t lost on anyone.
LOWLIGHT: The needless booking which means Cheik Tiote will miss the Boxing Day game at Manchester United.
Goals: Ameobi 81
Bookings: Ferdinand 42, Tiote 63, Hill 86, Perch 88, Ameobi 90
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Attendance: 50,180 (922 QPR)