Newcastle continued their stunning start to the season courtesy of a hard fought 2-1 victory over Wolves this afternoon.
The victory came about thanks to a huge slice of luck, some favourable refereeing, the sheer wastefulness of the Wolves attack, some great defending and goalkeeping plus some clinical finishing on our part.
You can sit here and pick holes in the win – of which there were a few by the way – but we now sit 3rd in the table heading into the international break having gone 12 games unbeaten and won back to back fixtures. It’s not all doom and gloom although we could and should have done much better on the day and very nearly blew it in the final stages of the game.
Alan Pardew named the same team for a third game in succession as the game quietly got under way. Chances were at a premium as both sides poked and felt their way into the game. Wolves looked decent but the pace and power of Leon Best and Demba Ba always looked like it would cause the home defence some problems.
And that proved to be the case just 17 minutes into the game when Demba Ba nodded in a superb near post Yohan Cabaye corner with Wolves ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey left blinded by the sun and obstructed by a group of players from both sides. That’s 4 goals in 2 games since Demba Ba found his shooting boots.
From then on Newcastle started to assert themselves more and managed to retain the ball for longer periods of the game. Wolves threatened a few times through Kevin Doyle and Stephen Fletcher while Jamie O’Hara forced a fine save from Tim Krul.
Ultimately it proved fruitless though as the away side extended their lead seven minutes before the break when Jonas Gutierrez dribbled from nigh on the halfway line past a couple of Wolves defenders before arrowing a shot into the corner of the Wolves net. It really was a fantastic goal that deserves all of the plaudits it will no doubt attract over the coming days.
That should have been that for the first-half, but there was still time for contentious decision number one. Steven Taylor looked to have fouled Jamie O’Hara inside the box only for referee Mark Halsey to adjudge the foul to have occurred outside of the penalty area and award a free-kick instead. We got away with that one.
Half-time: Wolves 0-2 Newcastle
The second half started off quietly, much like the first, but once again it was Newcastle who had the first real clear cut chance when Leon Best broke forward and fed the ball to Demba Ba who shot inches wide the post. At 3-0 it would have been game over.
However is wasn’t and Wolves started to push forward to try and get back into the game. Our answer to their onslaught was Tim Krul who, for me anyway, was Man of the Match. Time and again he snuffed out Wolves crosses and denied their strikers with perhaps his best moment coming when he made a double save from Steven Fletcher and Jamie O’Hara midway through the second half.
The home side continued to press for a way back into the game and Newcastle retreated backwards with the hope of stemming wave after wave of Wolves attacks. Fortune favours the brave as they say, and with our defence putting bodies on the line and throwing themselves in front of the ball you could argue that we’d earned a bit of fortune.
Wolves did get their goal two minutes from time though through Steven Fletcher who stooped low to nod in an Adam Hamill cross. That, combined with the announcement of five minutes of added time, was enough to spur on the hosts as they looked to sneak an equaliser.
To be honest I thought they managed the equaliser in stoppage time when Kevin Doyle made the most of a goalmouth scramble to prod home an equaliser that sent the home fans into raptures. Unfortunately for them their collective joy was cut short by the linesman’s flag who indicated that Adam Hamill’s cross had gone out of play before being headed back across goal by Matt Jarvis. Once again being honest, the ball didn’t look out to me. That was contentious decision number two.
Full-time: Wolves 1-2 Newcastle
In hindsight we were lucky and we very nearly paid for the decision to take Demba Ba off. Whether it was as a precaution or not, his withdrawal pretty much ended our participation as an attacking threat. Leon Best tried, but he couldn’t do it all by himself.
This victory will understandably leave the Wolves fans feeling somewhat irked, which funnily enough is the exact same feeling that I had last season when I walked away from Molineux. It’s funny how things go full circle isn’t it?
The referee and his assistants will no doubt be the subject of much anger from the Wolves contingent, and rightly so after the decisions that went against them. However one of the other questions they should be asking is just how they only managed to find the back of the net once from 25 attempts at goal.
From an NUFC perspective I’ll take it all day long. How many times have we had a decision against us? How many times have we deserved more from the game? Unfortunately for Wolves we fell on the right side of things today but in hindsight it could have been any team.
This performance should give Alan Pardew his excuse to change the team. Yes we won the game but there was room for improvement, and with players like Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux and Davide Santon sat on the bench for once we have an option of change.
It’s hard to be too down though. As I said earlier, we’re 3rd in the league with a return of 15 points from our first seven league games so in that sense it can’t get much better. Will it last? Probably not, but it is nice to head into the international on the back of another win.
Howay the lads!
Wolves: Wayne Hennessey, Ricahrd Stearman, Cristophe Berra,Roger Johnson, Stephen Ward, Matt Jarvis, Karl Henry, Jamie O’Hara, Stephen Hunt, Steven Fletcher, Kevin Doyle
Subs: Dorus De Vries, Matt Doherty, Ronald Zubar, Guedioura, Adam Hammill, David Edwards, Sam Vokes
Newcastle: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best, Demba Ba
Subs: Rob Elliot, Davide Santon, Danny Guthrie, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Peter Lovenkrands
My Man of the Match: Tim Krul. Easily.