Wolves (a) Premiership
Only Shay Given will know why he came out for this one. For some reason TV
pundits seem to blame Woodgate in the post-match analysis but presumably when
Shay came out he called the ball as his. Unfortunately it wasn't - it was Nathan
Blake's and after he had lifted it over Given's desperate lunge he just needed
to steady himself before placing the ball past Woodgate who had scampered back
on the line. 0-1
Half time: Wolves 1 Newcastle 1
Full time: Wolves 1 Newcastle 1
Sir Bobby commented:
"Not many managers would have agreed to play this game today but we did and it was a commendable effort."
"I'm not saying the top three is totally conclusive but can anybody catch them? I would say realistically no.
"With all due respect to Wolves these are the games we have got to pick three points up from. But a point could be valuable in the end particularly because of having played on Thursday."
Dave Jones said:
"Is it outside or is it inside the box? Maybe that was too much for him to think about."
"We took the game to them but we ended up talking about the width of the post and the crossbar.
"At 1-0 up we started to do one or two sloppy things and we got punished for them.
"But everyone did their jobs and I can't take anything away from my players. We gave them a good game and on another day the chances would have gone in."
Another winless day for us on a ground that's
never been a particularly happy hunting ground:
The excuses for this one were reeled out immediately after the Basel game. The players always had the crutch of the Manager's and Captain's moans about how little time we'd had to prepare for it. But whose fault was it that we agreed to the fixture in the first place as we'd done with the trip to Highbury? Too many chickens being counted too early.
And anyway, fatigue had absolutely nothing to do with what felt like a defeat, as we failed to overcome an extremely poor home side that were being jeered by their own fans midway through the second period. By this time the game should have been dead and buried. Knackered players should have been able to be substituted and two professional victories in three days should have been completed.
The time for moaning wasn't two days before the game - the fixture list was set in concrete at this stage and it was actually a bonus that we'd managed to avoid extra-time and penalties in the UEFA Cup.
The players weren't being asked to do much more than they have to do each Christmas or Easter - two games in three days. Two ninety minute games of football in less than 48 hours. Tough, but we're not talking six days of 12 hour shifts at the coal face....
Omens weren't great for this one, gloomy weather conditions and some twerp belting rugby songs at us from the centre circle - not my idea of a good pre-match preparation. Saturday lunchtime is also not the right place for football - it just feels totally wrong. Traditionally this should be Football Focus time and when the nerves and excitement are only just starting to build-up.
Nevertheless, unlike the team it seems, I still fully expected us to avenge last season's FA Cup defeat
The firework incident added to the unreal feeling. To see explosives hurtling into a crowd of people, just avoiding players and officials, is an incredible sight. But at the same time it seemed somewhat inevitable. An accident waiting to happen. We slagged off the pyrotechnics last year and at other little grounds like Brisbane Road so we're not being wise after the event but the horror for those in the Family Enclosure of the Billy Wright Stand it will be a permanent scar - literally for Denise Butler whom the wayward rocket hit just below the eye.
In the opening exchanges it became obvious that Joey Gudjonsson is a nasty little get. Sneaky kicks on players and getting ballboys to throw the ball in the wrong direction are obviously his idea of gaining an advantage. I'm sure it's no coincidence that players like this are usually well below average height.... Put him with ex-mackem Alex Rae and you have a midfield for whom the ball seemed slightly incidental.
On our side some good approach work was being foiled by the linesman virtually every time. Not that it was the official's fault, LuaLua was being caught offside to a degree that even an under 10 side wouldn't tolerate. It's a simple law, really - just don't get in front of the last defender. Watch the line. Time your run. Play on the shoulder of the defender... etc. etc. When football is your profession it seems a simple enough concept to grasp. Not for LuaLua it seems. Abundantly talented. but abundantly stupid.
A couple of near misses came and went at the far end - they looked closer in real time than they did later on the box - but certainly enough to spank our backsides and wake us up. Kieron Dyer had been clattered a couple of times down our right and didn't seem to have the key to unlock the home defence but one run from LuaLua into the box found Aaron Hughes in an advanced position. The oft-maligned full-back produced a sublime drag-back and cross that found Shearer and Al's acrobatic volley cannoned back off the bar, Bowyer unable to knock in the rebound.
Much more like it. Something to build on perhaps? But that chance and a Bramble header at the far post that seemed unmissable, was the sum of our first half menace. As well as LuaLua's geometry being awry, Jenas and Bowyer showed the first touches of baby elephants. England internationals? On current form neither should be anywhere near their national sides. Is it just me or does JJ look like he's trying to control a balloon?
Strange then, that with so many of our lot off form that it was Mr Dependable, Shay Given who cost us the opening goal. Post-match criticism of Woodgate's decision-making seems irrelevant to me - he had the situation well under control before Given inexplicably charged out. Blake beat his lunge and walked the ball into the net.
The sickening feeling inspired by Tom Harks being blasted over the tannoy was all too reminiscent of last season. A swift response was essential and thankfully it was just three minutes before we equalised.
Shearer found space on the edge of the box and LuaLua's ball was inch perfect for Al to take a couple of strides before finding the opposite corner with a well-judged shot. Phew. We weren't afforded any post-goal celebration music so we danced to our own version of the Piranha's classic.
And that should have signalled the basis for a comfortable victory. We'd survived an early scare, we'd quietened the crowd and they should have been on the back foot. They were shouting at the ref and after the break their own players came in for some stick after many wayward passes, especially in the final third of the pitch.
We seemed most likely to get the next goal as the home side's threat seemed to be lessening but then Speed gave away a free-kick for a clumsy challenge some 30 yards out. Gudjonsson hit a fierce curling effort that hit the post and suddenly our limbs turned to lead.
Bobby's decision then to replace Bowyer for Solano and LuaLua for Ameobi seemed baffling to say the least. Both players had been pretty poor but no worse than most of our lot. If tired limbs was the problem then two players who hadn't played on Thursday were being replaced. It didn't help.
We had no attacking threat down our left whatsoever but the one time Bernard got forward he sent over a decent cross that caused Craddock to handle. Ref Bennett was unsighted - as he had been for their claim in the first half - and gave nothing after again receiving little assistance from his linesman.
The game seemed certain to be heading for a draw until the board for two minutes injury time was held up. Within seconds the hopeless Camara got on the end of a Rae header and hit the top of our crossbar with Given well beaten.
At the other end Ameobi got in the way of a decent cross that Shearer might have converted but the final whistle went shortly after.
A point that helped no-one, although it moved us up to 6th and still sees us in a good position to go for 4th spot. Wolves ambitions are obviously to try for fourth bottom but unless they have Birmingham-like transfer success in the January window that seems highly unlikely.
Hopefully, we can forget this horrible match and make our intentions clear with another Saturday lunchtime game next week against our likely rivals for the Champs League 4th spot - Liverpool. This encounter could then become a distant memory. Unfortunately, it'll be a long time before Denise Butler will be able to say the same.