Team: Cerny, Tosic, Ramage, Gorkss, Leigertwood, Cook (Parker), Faurlin, Buzsaky, Ephraim (Rose), Simpson, Priskin.
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Brown, Oastler, Balanta, German.
A wet day in West London, and the match was subject to a pitch inspection beforehand. Fortunately, it got the go-ahead, and we lined up against a Newcastle side that were already champions, chasing 100 points, containing a ¬£10m Argentinean, two ex-England internationals, arguably our player of the first half of the season and two strikers who would (despite our jeering) walk into our team. Despite all this, we were certainly a match for them.
Before kick-off, there was a minute’s applause for Tony Ingham, which was very well kept by both the Rangers fans and all the Newcastle fans too. I’ve never been to St. James’ (or sportsdirect.com or whatever it is now) but if the atmosphere is like that, but with sixteen times the supporters, it must be an immense spectacle. They were singing throughout the match, but I can imagine it’s not such a great place to go if you’re Mike Ashley and you’re being relegated ! The 1st half passed with little action and not a lot distracted me from my “burger”, other than the fact that it was really quite chilly. Half-time arrived, but not before all 22 players (and even the referee) started to walk off following a half-time whistle from the School End. The ref had the sense to start with a drop-ball (not contested however) instead of a free-kick for hand-ball against Faurlin.
The 2nd half started quickly and a few thousand in the South Africa Road Stand (plus no doubt countless others) would’ve missed Ramage’s red card. He could tell as soon as he made the challenge that he was a goner, and lay on the ground holding his head. Eventually, he walked off in tears to the applause of all 16,000+ fans, although he only applauded the Geordie contingent ! Ten minutes later, Simpson broke free of a challenge (for which Williamson was booked afterwards), and played the ball through for Priskin. Unfortunately it seemed he learnt the offside trap at Watford and thus was a good yard offside (although the entirety of the Loft disagreed). On 75 minutes, the deciding goal arrived. Lovenkrands chipped Cerny from the left-hand side of the six-yard box, the class and 10 men eventually paying its toll.
At the end of the match, the Newcastle players went over to clap their fans and celebrate reaching 100 points with them. As they started to walk off, most of the R’s fans clapped them too and they all clapped back (except Routledge, who was booed for the entire game ?) Ten minutes later and the Super Hoops re-emerged from the tunnel for a lap of honour. It was good to see Rowley and Gavin Mahon walking around un-assisted. But Quashie and Bent (along with Matt Hill) were nowhere to be seen (unsurprisingly).
Cerny: 6/7 – Solid performance, he couldn’t really have done any better with the goal.
Leigertwood: 6 – Did fairly well against the pacy Routledge. He went to centre-back after Ramage’s dismissal early in the 2nd half and coped alright.
Ramage: 7 – Good 1st half, on any other day would’ve had no complaints, but seeing as it was the last day of the season and there was nothing to play for, it was un-necessary.
Gorkss: 6/7 – Good finish to the season.
Tosic: 7 – Sign this lad up. Good game again.
Faurlin: 7 – Player of the Season, and deserves it.
Buzsaky: 6/7 – Better from the “White Pele”.
Cook: 7 – A couple of Geordies had commented to me on his good performance, and it was a shame he made way for Josh Parker after Ramage’s dismissal.
Ephraim: 6 – He went a little un-noticed at times, but did nothing wrong.
Simpson: 6 – Perhaps he held on to the ball a little too long when Priskin was caught offside, but otherwise okay against what is after all, an Argentinean international.
Priskin: 6 – It was by far his best game for Rangers. I had to use two hands to count the amount of times he jumped, made a couple of challenges and generally looked a bit more threatening than usual. If he’d played like that for the whole of his loan spell, I’d actually have considered signing him as a squad player.
Parker: 7 – Did well at right-back, good to see him get 40 minutes or so. Hopefully he can kick on from this and play more often next season (and not disappear into the shadows a bit like Balanta).
Rose: He had one good run up the left wing, but not on long enough to make an impact.