Stoke leave QPR on BPL precipice
Stoke City won 2-0 at Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Saturday to ease their relegation fears and all but condemn their rivals to the drop.
Peter Crouch and Jon Walters struck late in each half to send Stoke up to 15th, six points above the bottom three, and leave Harry Redknapp's QPR 10 points adrift of safety with only four games to play.
QPR could be relegated on Monday if Aston Villa win at Manchester United, but it seems more likely that their fate will be decided next weekend, when they visit bottom club Reading.
With both managers desperate to arrest damaging runs of form, there were several changes in the two starting line-ups.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis put his faith in a new-look strike pairing of Crouch and Cameron Jerome, while Redknapp brought five new faces into the QPR team.
Rob Green was chosen instead of Julio Cesar in goal, while Tal Ben Haim, Shaun Derry, Stephane Mbia and Adel Taarabt also came into the side.
The home team shaded the early exchanges at a sun-kissed Loftus Road, with Taarabt twice fizzing shots over the Stoke bar.
QPR striker Loic Remy then worked visiting goalkeeper Asmir Begovic with a low shot, before Green narrowly avoided embarrassment at the other end.
The former England international allowed a swerving long-range effort from Walters to squirm out of his grasp, but the ball bounced to safety.
The action flashed from end to end, and after Remy bent a shot wide of Begovic's left-hand post, Green reassured himself by clawing away a dipping 25-yard volley from Crouch.
Begovic had to be alert to repel a Jose Bosingwa free-kick in the 31st minute and the visitors' resistance was rewarded three minutes prior to halftime when Crouch put them in front.
Pleasingly for Pulis, the goal was created by Jerome, who powered onto a pass down the inside-left channel and reached the byline before cutting back for Crouch to find the net from close range.
Shortly beyond the hour, Charlie Adam spurned a good opportunity to double Stoke's advantage when he lashed a volley over from a Walters flick.
Fortunately for the Scot, it was not a miss he would have cause to regret.
Referee Chris Foy pointed to the spot after Clint Hill manhandled Crouch and although Walters had to re-take his 77th-minute penalty after taking his first attempt at goal too quickly, he made no mistake with his second effort to secure a much needed first win in eight games for Pulis' men.