Harper relief as Newcastle stay up
Newcastle favourite Steve Harper is delighted he can enjoy his final match for the club with survival already assured.
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22. Steve Harper
After a fifth-placed finish last season, the Magpies have struggled this campaign and went into their penultimate match at QPR just a place above the drop zone.
Newcastle endured a tense end to the match after goalkeeper Rob Elliott received a red card, but experienced replacement Harper helped ensure they would leave the already relegated west Londoners with all three points.
With Elliott suspended for the final game and Tim Krul injured, the 38-year-old will rather fittingly start against Arsenal in what will be his last match for the club.
And, having endured relegation with the Magpies four years ago, the long-serving goalkeeper is relieved to be able to enjoy the occasion.
"It might not have been the prettiest game, but it was a particularly pretty result because it means we're safe," Harper said.
"That was the mission for the day and that's what we've done.
"The relief in the dressing room was obvious. To come from behind as well was a real show of determination. It was a big, big result.
"It was one thing having the possibility of relegation at Villa Park [in 2009], but to have the possibility of relegation at St James's Park was unthinkable. It's not something that can happen."
Sunday was Harper's first appearance since the Europa League tie with Club Brugge in October but he was ready as ever, just as goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman knew he would be.
"Woody always says I'll flip the autopilot on," Harper said.
"I've sat there too many times - everybody knows that - and I've probably got on a dozen times now.
"The lads in front of me really protected me. It was a bobbly pitch and pouring down.
"The lads really stood up and got a massive result.
"I think [Elliott's red card] it was pretty harsh having seen it on the video. The ball bounces on the line into the box.
"Yes, Robbie's feet might be outside the box, but it wasn't his feet that needed to be outside the box.
"The linesman didn't give it initially. He seems to have reacted to the home crowd. It's disappointing for Robbie. He's done really well for us.
"He's a great lad, he's worked hard and he's shown what a good goalkeeper he is. Fortunately, it hasn't cost us."
For QPR, the defeat epitomised a miserable campaign as they squandered a lead for the umpteenth time.
Too many high-profile players have underperformed this term, leaving manager Harry Redknapp with a squad he feels would struggle for a top-half finish in the npower Championship.
The Rs boss has made reinforcements a priority but concedes that will only be possible if they can get rid of a few first.
"How do I know who's going to go?" he said. "You need to shift people to bring people in.
"It's difficult to shift players you want to shift. We'll always shift a few that other teams want."