Newcastle 1 Wolves 1 Match Report – “And I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the rest”
On the basis of results between the two clubs, there hasn’t been a lot between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers over the past few years.
Neither side has dominated in the last five games, which have all finished 1-1.
On one occasion I can remember NUFC were denied victory with a lucky and probably illegal goal with seconds to go, earlier this season Wolves shaded a game at Molineux before Jacob Murphy scored a free kick which depending on your view, was either inspired engineering or a goalkeeping howler. Generally though, these are always even games which neither team looks like winning.
Other than during these times of ninety minute equality, the difference between the teams over the season has been obvious.
Wolves have finished seventh twice, United thirteenth twice.
Even this season with similar ups and downs for both teams, Wolves are well clear of relegation, with Newcastle in real danger of it.
Wolves will be looking to finish in the top half again, NUFC will be praying to finish in the top seventeen.
Some of the reasons for that are easy to spot.
Firstly, Wolves have a plan on and off the pitch. They don’t let injuries or results change their way of playing much, they don’t let injuries change their buying policy at all. I don’t like the influence Jorge Mendes has over clubs like Wolves but it has been successful for them. They also have a good manager who knows what he is doing. He isn’t at the top of his tree but he is a progressive manager who has done well at his previous clubs except perhaps Porto, certainly Rio Ave and Valencia have missed him, even if he fell foul of an owner even worse than Mike Ashley in Spain. If he has the spirit of the saints on his side, then presumably Steve has the tenacity of Robert the Bruce on his. He’s going to need it.
Perhaps it is ownership where the real difference lies. In a completely pointless statement this week, Mike Ashley was reported to have said that NUFC aren’t one of his business priorities right now. I think we already knew that but that attitude of “it doesn’t matter” seems to be dripping into all aspects of the club.
On Saturday, it was a lack of communication passed on to and then from oncoming substitute Matt Ritchie which cost United points but that is not the first time a lack of organisation has cost Bruce’s team. After the game Jamaal Lascelles said:
“A lot of positives but we need to stop talking and put the points on the board.”
Quite right, except when making substitutes. Next time the management changes the team around, why not tell the Captain what the tactics are, instead of telling the substitute, one voice, the loudest and most commanding voice and all that.
Wolves’ 71st minute equaliser was as much a product of a re-organisation after the substitution of Emil Krafth as it was a disaster for returning keeper Martin Dubravka. Neves well placed but tame header should have been kept out by the Slovakian’s right hand but wasn’t. Dubravka did make a sort of amends later on, stopping Silva’s point blank 92nd minute header with a fine positioned collar bone onto the bar but who knows what would have happened had Dubravka kept the score at 1-0 twenty minutes earlier. I could hear the whispers, “Darlow would have saved that.”
‘Matt Ritchie: The boss says no one at right back’
Last minute defeat would have been hard on United who had again played better. The midfield generally dominated the game, Jonjo Shelvey had been dropped back to the base of the diamond with Hayden pushed further upfield and it suited both players. Shelvey was able to get on the ball more and reduce his combat area to a more manageable patch, something he seems to prefer after stating during the week that he couldn’t play for Leeds because they run all day.
Shelvey, supposedly 29 years old on Saturday despite having a body which Geremi would put to shame, was in the media all week lauding Steve Bruce, slamming Liverpool and generally making it sound like he was happy in his comfort zone. He at least backed his words up with a better performance. His influence putting Miggy through on goal after eleven minutes, the Paraguayan hitting the post from a tight angle when again he probably should have scored. Shelvey continued to dictate play for most of the match. I have been a big critic of his in the past but his team need him now and he will be integral to a United recovery.
Maybe Steve Bruce is the man to get the best out of him, as the saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher appears. In the bottom six his quality is vital, if you want to finish higher than that, find someone who can play and run. Or at least wants to.
Isaac Hayden, much more athletic than his bald colleague, was able to cover more ground higher up the pitch which resulted in the game’s first chance, heading ASM’s free kick straight at Wolves keeper Rui Patricio when he really should have scored. Hayden undoubtedly found his new position to his liking, all smiles while scything Traore down to get his now customary early booking, but he wasn’t alone in that, Ciaran Clark suffered a similar fate moments later and Shelvey escaped the same despite several nibbles at the winger’s ankles. Only Krafth really dealt with Traore comfortably, never getting near enough to him to foul him, instead relying on his teammates to do it for him.
Elsewhere in midfield, Willock was largely anonymous but had the best chance of the first half, after 23 minutes his limp shot from twelve yards was spilled by Rui Patricio, ASM burying the rebound from an offside position.
Further ahead, both Almiron and Maxi ran at the Wolves defence with some success. Both of United’s flair players were on fire early on, but Miggy’s influence waned early with injury, and the emphasis fell to Maxi. He didn’t let the Toon down, a constant wriggly threat to the Wolves defence but after he went off on the hour with a groin problem, the width of Fraser and Murphy was less of a worry for Wolves. Both substitutes did their best, Fraser put a fine cross in for Jamaal Lascelles to head in after 51 minutes, Murphy later set up Joelinton for a match winning chance with ten minutes to go. We’ll just leave it there shall we. No one expected him to score anyway.
‘ASM: We will miss his wriggly threat’
By that point in the match, Wolves were on top, ending both halves in the ascendancy. Traore who had been less oily early on, slipped to life after half an hour, running our right side ragged for fifteen minutes. He hit the post with a weak header which Dubravka looked uncomfortable with, before setting up two chances for Neto who was also turning Lewis inside out on the left.
Traore moved inside as a tactical switch for Wolves in the second half, it was unclear why, maybe he’d run out of lotion. For all his electrifying runs on the day, he wasn’t the major shift in momentum for those in gold. It was more United’s injuries and mental state that let Wolves back in. For all the black and white dominance, it is always a fragile dominance at 1-0.
Neves’ goal frayed the nerves even more and Wolves could well have taken the points home in the last few minutes. They had a calm and concentrated approach which you rarely see at NUFC. They look stable both on and off the field and whilst I have never sought stability at NUFC, I mean that would be asking far too much, that consistency brings with it knowledge of achievement.
As Einstein once said:
“If you do what you have you have always done you will get what you have always got.”
In Wolves case, that consistent application seems to lead to consistent results. In NUFC’s case, who knows. Perhaps Einstein can change it to:
“If you haven’t got a clue what you are doing you will always have no idea what you are going to get.”
It was pretty good from United though.
The spotlight will be on Dubravka but he had to come back sooner rather than later, he is one of NUFC’s best players.
At the back it was a mixed bag for United. Captain Lascelles looked like the player that Rafa Benitez trusted so much for the first time in a long time. His goal was a fine header from the Captain which capped a much more impressive game from potentially our best defender. With Ciaran Clark again putting in a solid shift the two centre backs really held NUFC together, more so given the continued struggles at full back.
Wanderers main strength now is probably their ability down the wings, Traore is always a threat and Krafth was no match for him, even though the Swede never hid, until he went off with an itchy shin. I was more than impressed by Semedo and Neto on the right, both fine players and again young Lewis was left to cope on his own. He couldn’t. Neto destroyed him regularly, not with pace and strength like Traore but with guile and skill, a fine player. Bruce needs to consider his full back options for the remainder of the season, if he has any. They are undoubtedly the team’s weakest link.
It is up front that provides both managers’ biggest headache. Both teams have missed their main strikers this season. Wilson and Jimenez are both good players, both good target men and fine examples of players who can play up front on their own. Wolves struggled when Jimenez was injured and it has taken them a while to overcome his absence. For a few weeks it looked like they were in freefall and possible relegation contenders but a combination of finding their defensive resilience, Traore’s renaissance and the loaning of William Jose from Real Sociedad has given the team back its balance and focus.
Wilson’s absence for United has been much harder to overcome. Unlike Wolves, NUFC do have other ready-made strikers who can step in, but neither plays in the same way and both are very different. The Steves + 1 must now decide how to change the diamond with injuries to Maxi and Almiron meaning there is little natural width left in the squad. Perhaps Gayle and Carroll will both come in and the diamond will flatten out a bit.
Whichever way they choose, playing Joelinton as a striker is asking for trouble. Not that he had a bad game against Wolves, by his own standards at least he did ok, but his 81st minute miss shows that he isn’t going to score the team out of trouble. He might miss them into trouble though.
After the game Nuno and his saintly spirit summed up Wolves season with a little bit of frustration for obvious reasons:
“It’s not difficult to beat our best run of this season. Our expectations are high. We expect good things from the players.”
Steve Bruce meanwhile said:
“As you know, I never ever really look for excuses…”
And I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the rest.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Wolves 1 – Saturday 27 February 8pm
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Wolves 53% (68%) Newcastle 47% (32%)
Total shots were Wolves 14 (7) Newcastle 19 (8)
Shots on target were Wolves 4 (2) Newcastle 7 (4)
Corners were Wolves 5 (1) Newcastle 3 (0)
Referee: Mike Dean
Dubravka, Krafth (Ritchie 72), Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Willock, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin (Murphy 63), Almiron (Fraser 45), Joelinton
Darlow, Dummett, Carroll, Gayle, Hendrick, Sean Longstaff
(Steve Bruce throws Newcastle players under a bus – Blames individuals for not beating Wolves – Read HERE)
(Nuno rues 50,000 Newcastle United fans not there to see ‘thrilling game of football’ – Read HERE)
(Steve Bruce confirms what kind of injuries 3 Newcastle United players suffered against Wolves – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 1 Wolves 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(After 1-1 draw Steve Bruce insists Arsenal and Wolves are still in relegation battle – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 1 Wolves 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday night’s draw – Read HERE)
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