Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats. Manager reaction below.
Peter Crouch pushed former club Queens Park Rangers closer to relegation as Stoke City kick-started their own battle to beat the drop with a 2-0 win at Loftus Road.
Harry Redknapp urged Rangers to keep the faith in the build-up but even he will be hard pushed to remain positive after this defeat.
As fate would have it, a player the QPR boss had hoped to bring to Loftus Road during the January transfer window did the damage in west London. Crouch, a man Redknapp has previously managed at four other clubs, put Stoke ahead late in the first half and was pulled back by Clint Hill for a second-half penalty which Jon Walters fired home.
Rangers did look dangerous in spells but whenever they found the target another of Redknapp’s former players was in the way, with Asmir Begovic in inspired form, as Stoke moved six points clear of danger.
Redknapp made five alterations to the QPR starting line-up. Robert Green came in for regular number one Julio Cesar, while Tal Ben Haim was given his first league start by the R’s. Adel Taarabt, the star of Rangers’ 2010-11 promotion season, was another recalled and was quick to make an impact and the Moroccan needed just 36 seconds to create the first chance, coming close with a fizzing drive from distance. Taarabt again threatened in the sixth minute with a 25-yard free-kick that curled just wide.
It was far from a dominant start by QPR, though, and Stoke were looking equally likely to open the scoring when they voyaged forward. Cameron Jerome’s pace was causing Rangers’ back-line a particular headache as he linked up well with Crouch. City also threatened on the break and QPR had Jose Bosingwa to thank for getting back to deny Ryan Shawcross.
Play was swinging from end-to-end, with a blocked Loic Remy header followed by a tame Jerome strike across the face of goal. Charlie Adam became the first player booked for a challenge on Remy, who was proving a nuisance for the visitors.
The France international has impressed since arriving from Marseille in January and forced Begovic into a low save after making himself room for a shot. Remy sent a right-footed snapshot inches wide moments later as the home side pressed for an opener, which would have come at the other end was it not for Green’s fine reactions. The QPR goalkeeper did well to palm away a fantastic half-volley from Crouch and, keen not to be outshone, opposite number Begovic soon stopped a goalbound Bosingwa free-kick.
One goalkeeper was to concede before the break, though, as Marc Wilson burst forward after winning the ball at the halfway line. The recalled Stoke defender sent a fine through ball to Jerome, who did well to hold play up before squeezing a cross past Christopher Samba into the path of Crouch, who simply had to slot the ball home.
Samba came close to making amends with a side-footed volley that went just wide before the half-time whistle.
Begovic had to be alert to thwart a low Remy shot 10 minutes after the restart and then pulled off an incredible save to deny Samba, only to see the offside flag had been raised.
Both sides soon lost players to injury as Taarabt and Wilson were forced off, before Samba saw a header denied. However, any hope QPR had of a comeback was extinguished in the 77th minute. After Robert Huth hit the post with a header, referee Chris Foy pointed to the spot after adjudging Hill to have tugged back Crouch in the box.
Having been made to re-take his penalty, Walters coolly slotted home down to Green’s right in front of the 1,181 visiting fans.
QPR fans streamed out after Stoke’s second but did not miss much as the match ended without much action of note. "We are staying up" chanted the relieved City fans at the final whistle.
QPR manager Harry Redknapp:
"It looks in tatters, it's very difficult. We've got to try to win a game or two, we've got to go to Reading next week and try to win. It looks almost impossible. It would take a real miracle. It’s a big disappointment. Even today in the first half I felt we were bang in the game. It was a disappointment coming in 1-0 down at half-time, we did okay first half.
“You have to keep going and prepare right for the Reading game. The supporters want to see a performance next week. You can only do what you can do. I gave everything I had but at the end of the day it has not been good enough.”
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis:
"It's an important win, but we've still got four matches to go and we've got to try and glean as many points as we can.
"We've got to carry on showing the same commitment and spirit because the lads were brilliant today.
"The pitch was very bumpy and bobbly, but the lads worked as hard as they've worked all season.
"If you look at the last five away games we have deserved to get something out of the games, but today we kept a clean sheet and if you do that you've got a chance of winning."
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|28 Apr 2013||v Reading (A)|
|04 May 2013||v Arsenal (H)|
|12 May 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Arsenal (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v QPR (H)|