It wasn’t easy on the eyes on was a frustrating watch in the main, but a brilliant late free-kick from Jacob Murphy rescued us a point in a disjointed yet much improved defensive display for Steve Bruce’s Mags.
Many Newcastle fans stared at the team-sheet before this afternoon’s clash v Wolves at Molineux with very wide-open eyes. Not only were both Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almiron in the starting line-up but a certain Jacob Murphy also came in from the cold – coming in at right wing-back!
Some of it was forced upon Manager Steve Bruce with Jonjo Shelvey out injured and Isaac Hayden not fully fit, But the choice of Murphy was one that was the biggest gamble and one that could well have backfired.
However, the former Norwich City player came up trumps for Bruce with a Man of the Match performance and a superb free-kick equaliser with barely two minutes left on the clock after Raul Jimenez had fired the home side in on 80 minutes.
Was it a point Newcastle deserved? It matters little what the answer to that question is, the fact that they got one was a point taken off a side that always threatened to take the win and are one of the best organised sides in the division.
The problem for United though is that the formation may have been more attacking but the performance was very much one that once again saw them on the back foot for much of the game conceding possession and giving their opponents lots of space.
However perhaps the telling factor was that the vast majority of that space was well away from Karl Darlow’s goal and Wolves goal attempts were always seemingly from distance. When they did get in the box there always seemed to be a Newcastle body in the way blocking the home side’s path to goal.
In truth it wasn’t pretty once again from Newcastle but it was slightly more effective and there’s no doubt that many of those selected putting in a shift that got them a share of the spoils.
Some very solid performances across the back “five” and from Darlow again – although he will be frustrated he didn’t get a strong enough hand to Jimenez’s opener:
Murphy though was the pick and played as well as anyone has in recent times in the right wing-back role. His defending was in the main solid enough, he got forward and created some of our best moments and he definitely fancied the free kick.
Newcastle’s formation looked strange and certainly felt strange and disjointed in the first 15 minutes when Wolves dominated the game. Daniel Podence looking lively and his sharp 20-yard left foot shot saw the first on target effort of the game with Darlow getting down well to parry.
Podence again hit one well over and then Jimenez blazed wide when well placed as Wolves pushed The Magpies back. When Newcastle finally got into the game, they actually created the best chance on 17 minutes.
A superb curled ball down the line from Murphy saw Callum Wilson get the wrong side of Max Kilman and into the box. But Kilman did well to get back goal-side and block Wilson’s effort with the resultant corner coming to nothing.
Halfway through the first half there were signs that Newcastle were getting to grips with the formation and whilst they never looked threatening, they never really looked threatened either. Wolves were spreading the ball wide but every time the ball was crossed in a Newcastle head got the ball clear.
On 38 minutes United had another chance when a breakaway saw Almiron find Allan Saint-Maximin wide on the right but the Frenchman fluffed his lines and a decent opportunity was squandered – a moment that summed up a rare off day for the Frenchman!
Podence was causing problems for us and he turned Murphy brilliantly on the right but once again his dangerous cross was headed away by a Newcastle centre-back, this time Lascelles.
Wolves had undoubtedly had the best of the opening exchanges as we approached half-time without really creating a clear-cut chance whilst at the other end Saint-Maximin showed good skill to wriggle free and get a deflected shot on target that was well held down low by Rui Patricio.
All-square at half-time it was the home side who once again started the brighter. Jimenez fired well wide from range and then on 50 minutes they missed their best chance of the game. Wilson gave the ball away and Podence did well on the left to pull the ball back to Paulo Neto.
But the Portuguese star didn’t compose himself well enough and from 14 yards fired narrowly over the top. After another long range Neto effort was wide Newcastle had a real scare on 55 minutes.
Podence got inside the box and worked a great shooting chance but Fredrico Fernandez threw himself in the way to block brilliantly. VAR had a quick look as the ball did hit his arm but no penalty was the right decision.
Wolves were well on top now but a sporadic United break saw Murphy do well to find Wilson inside the box who laid off to Almiron whose attempt was blocked. It was a brief respite as the home side set-up another couple of long-range efforts that Darlow got down well to save.
Then from a tricky cross from substitute Adam Traore, Jamaal Lascelles got a great header in to deflect the ball away. It fell to Neto who smashed it goalward only for the skipper to make an excellent block.
Then with ten minutes to go the breakthrough came. A Wolves free kick from the left was headed away by Fabian Schar and fell to the edge of the box where Jimenez had pulled away too. His vicious volley flew through a crowd of players and although the unsighted Darlow got a hand to it he couldn’t keep it out.
It seemed as though that was going to be it and another disappointing end to the afternoon from a Newcastle side that worked hard but offered little up front but, Murphy had other ideas. Two minutes from time he became the hero.
A long ball from Schar aimed towards Wilson saw the striker pushed off the ball by England’s Connor Coady. The free-kick was in a dangerous position and with Rui Patricio not setting his wall up well Murphy stepped up and curled the ball around the defenders and into the bottom corner to make it 1 – 1.
Perhaps it wasn’t what Newcastle deserved but they’ll take it and there’s no doubt that the man Bruce trusted to play a part in Jacob Murphy was definitely the man that saved his bacon with the late strike!
My marks out of 10: Darlow – 7, MURPHY 8, Lascelles 7, Schar 6, Fernandez 7, Lewis 7, Hendrick 6, Fraser 5, Almiron 6, Saint-Maximin 5, Wilson 6. SLongstaff 5 Joelinton 5, Carroll 5.