x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Stoke City ease relegation fear after win over Queens Park Rangers

Peter Crouch put Stoke City ahead and then a Jonathan Walters penalty kick sealed a 2-0 victory while QPR took another unfortunate step toward relegation, writes Johnathan Wilson.

Stoke City’s Peter Crouch, right, and Jonathan Walters each found the net in Stoke City’s 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers yesterday. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Stoke City’s Peter Crouch, right, and Jonathan Walters each found the net in Stoke City’s 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers yesterday. Glyn Kirk / AFP

Queens Park Rangers 0 Stoke City 2
Stoke City Crouch 42’, Walters (pen) 77’

LONDON // For Queens Park Rangers, relegation is all but assured but for Stoke City there is, at last, a gleam of hope in the darkness.

When Jonathan Walters rolled in a 77th-minute penalty effectively to settle the game, their fans celebrated wildly, spinning shirts above heads and dancing topless in the English spring sunshine.

Chants hailing Stoke as by far the greatest team the world has ever seen might have been wildly optimistic but after a run in which they had won just one of their previous 14 games, a little exaggeration could perhaps be forgiven.

They are not the greatest team the world has ever seen, but they were the better side in an anxiety-ridden game that made the pitch look even bobblier than it actually was and the win will no doubt give the entire club a lift as they seek to preserve their Premier League status.

QPR have taken just a single point from their past five games, and just 20 from 21 under Redknapp. Relegation will be confirmed should Aston Villa win at Manchester United on Monday.

Harry Redknapp described QPR's situation as "almost impossible now", although he insisted bad luck – with injuries in particular – had undone them.

"It's a big disappointment. Even today I thought first half we were bang in the game. Without [Bobby] Zamora we lack a forward ball – we have no real target up there," said Redknapp.

"Other than Liverpool, who came here and battered us, I think we've been in every game. I can't look back and say I've not worked hard or tried hard."

Redknapp has two years left on his contract but whether he remains next season is up for debatable.

"I'm not in a position to say where I'll manage," he said.

"I'm lucky to have a job."

He then spoke of the job in the past tense, implying he thought he was off, before speaking of the difficulty of the Championship and how he would "have to bring a couple [of players] in" to get the right character in the side while achieving "the hardest job in the world" – offloading players on lucrative contracts – suggesting he thought he would stay.

Both teams looked desperately short of confidence leading to lethargic movement and a slew of poor decisions. Again and again QPR attempted outrageous efforts from range, forced into speculative strikes because of a paucity of invention and incisiveness. At one point in the second half, a Christopher Samba shot was blocked by his teammate Loic Remy; there were times when this felt like a masterclass in haplessness.

Stoke were not especially good, but they were nowhere near as bad as their hosts. Direct and predictable they may have been but at they appeared to play with greater desire.

Tony Pulis' s side took the lead at Loftus Road three minutes before half time. Marc Wilson dispossessed Andros Townsend, played the first penetrative ball of the afternoon through to striker Cameron Jerome, who squared for Peter Crouch to convert just his second goal in 26 games.

Stoke were guilty of wasting a couple of decent second-half opportunities, while they had a good claim for a penalty ruled out when QPR captain Clint Hill tripped Crouch as a Ryan Shawcross header came back off the post.

It was not pretty, it was not slick but, from Stoke's point of view, it was just good enough.

Man of the match Peter Crouch (Stoke City)

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