6 mins Christophe Berra was dispossessed by Yohan Cabaye and his cross was almost
back-flicked in by Demba Ba at the Leazes End, but when the ball was cleared, Cheick Tiote's deflected
shot was turned in by the lurking Papiss Cisse for his second successive home goal.
18 mins Danny Simpson forced Wayne Hennessey into a
fine save with a rasping drive at the expense of a corner. That came to
nothing, but the ball eventually fell to Jonas Gutierrez on the left edge of the box,
who promptly unleashed a stunning volley to double our lead 2-0
Alan Pardew may have looked
forward to fielding his "A Team" after an eight game interlude, but
hopes that his big hitters would take up where they left off against Manchester
United in January looked forlorn indeed by full time, as home cheers turned to
Those fans who had marched on the ground with a coffin in memory of St.James'
Park pre-match were presumably engaged in praising rather than burying after an
opening 18 minutes in which Newcastle had created three goalscoring chances -
and resoundingly converted two of them.
At that point this really did look to be a case of how many times the visitors
would concede and how many times the cameras would focus on the anguished
managerial debutant in the away dugout, whose appointment had overtones of our
initial decision to promote Chris Hughton.
"We'll do it for Mick" had been the inexplicable battle cry from
Wolves players in the run up to this game, begging as it did the question of
why they couldn't achieve enough in the name of Mr M.McMackem over the
preceding 25 Premier League games to keep him in post.
In fairness though, much of the Molineux malaise this season has been exactly
that: continued failings on home soil leaving the natives restless, with those
who follow them on the road seeing draws at Spurs, Arsenal and Bolton plus
victory at QPR in their four away games before today.
Whatever spirit, discipline and energy that had propelled Wolves to those
heights though was conspicuous by its absence in the opening stages of this
game and the straw-clutching talk from their hierarchy of managerial continuity
for maximum effect had a distinctly hollow ring to it.
A small reminder of our defensive frailty had been provided by Kevin Doyle's
solo run in the opening seconds of the game and the alarm bells should have
been ringing when the same player glanced a header wide of Tim Krul's goal from
a Matt Jarvis cross on 20 minutes.
However none of that seemed to matter at that point and although the Ba / Cisse
partnership was only fleetingly sighted, the latter made ground to head
narrowly past the goal. And with Tiote and Cabaye seeing a fair bit of the ball
in centre field, the lack of forward momentum and consequent pressure on
Hennessey's goal was evident but not of great concern at that point.
Gradually though the visitors climbed out of the pit they'd dug themselves and
began to maintain possession better - something that Newcastle increasingly
found to be beyond them.
Terry Connor may have been rendered almost speechless by the demands of the
previous week, but he was able to impart something of note in the dressing room
at half time. Reminding them that they could hardly play worse but were only a
retrievable two goals behind, or perhaps threatening to resign and abandon them
to the Corbridge pie eater - whatever he croaked made a difference.
Wolves raised their game, pushed bodies forward and were quickly
rewarded with a fortunate goal, our previous positive vibe steadily ebbed away
and a crowd that had almost fallen silent became to become audibly more
restless and impatient. Neither that nor the subsequent pressure from Wolves
acted as a kick up the
backside though and the air of apprehension was tangible.
Looking to vary his stagnating forward and midfield options, Alan Pardew made a
double change but added Danny Guthrie and Hatem Ben Arfa to the mix just as
Wolves shaped up to take a free kick, breaking that unwritten law of football
seeing his reshaped side restart in need of a goal rather than trying to eke
out 25 minutes of play to hang on to a lead.
Demba Ba's frustration at being continually held back by Wolves players
manifested itself only in moaning to the unimpressed officials when the
temptation to exact his own punishment via fist or elbow must have been strong.
However he was unable to exert any influence on the game and it took until the
belated entry of Shola for the ball to start sticking anywhere near the Wolves
Our set pieces meanwhile had become increasingly sloppy, culminating in a
self-induced panic when rather than launching the ball forward from the halfway
line we played a ludicrous short free kick and promptly conceded possession. At
the risk of over-reacting, that action seemed at the time to be symptomatic of
a team-wide drift that nobody was willing or able to arrest, the shouting and
cajoling of a Nolan-like figure noticeably absent as we looked like eleven
Guthrie was almost grotesquely inept, while Ben Arfa was his usual mixture of frustration
and inspiration, squandering possession but also working two half-chances only
to flash shots wide on both occasions. If he was a cat, another of his nine
lives would have been used up today....
Wolves meanwhile may reflect that they could have left with all three points
had they continued their unsettling pushes through midfield. Once back at 2-2,
their instincts seemed to lead them towards running the clock down and inviting
us to attack them, despite adding Michael Kightly to the mix but never really
setting him away to take on our defence - James McClean may pursue that
particular avenue more thoroughly this coming Sunday.
day reminiscent of the two points dropped here last May when we turned a 3-0
lead over West Brom into a 3-3 draw ended with similar grumbles from some
spectators, who seem to believe that buying a ticket means that a home win is
guaranteed. If we lose next week then presumably they'll be ringing those
no-win/no-fee compo companies that advertise on the telly. Grow up.
Liverpool's League Cup success does potentially open the door to another
top-flight team qualifying for Europe, but that's no more than a meaningless
aside given our woefulness today.
Without retreating into the mass media mentality that makes every Premier
League game of hideous over-importance, failing to collect three points here
makes next Sunday a genuinely pivotal point in this season. Win and the
bandwagon is off and running again; lose and the manager's office could be a
lonely place. Like us, Alan Pardew will just have to wait and see which
Newcastle United turn up.