Wolves 0 Newcastle United 1

In summarising QPR’s home defeat to Huddersfield yesterday, Ian Holloway was only too happy to offer up his usual soundbite for the boys in the press office.

“Unfortunately, this league is about taking your chances, and we created more than enough. That’s what a venomous snake does to you. It bites you – and we got bitten twice.”

It’s fair to say Newcastle were less venomous more python-like in their performance, strangling the life out of any attack Wolves could muster and moving in for the kill when their punch-drunk opponents had run out of ideas.

We can probably feel hard done by in the sense that their goalscorer shouldn’t have been on the pitch to tap in his 44th minute winner.

Aleksandar Mitrovic had already been booked when he chose to ‘leave one’ on Carl Ikeme after the goalkeeper had taken possession. It was a definite second yellow if not a straight red in it’s own right.

But that doesn’t forgive what felt like a soft concession to the league leaders, which gave them something to hold onto in a game where they barely exited second gear.

Rafa Benitez is an outstanding coach and his team looked comfortable in their shape and nigh-on impossible to breakdown.

Helder Costa was tightly marked and barely involved, save for a few cute passes in the first half that almost opened things up.

And without the Portuguese winger conjuring any real moment of quality in the final third Wolves were far too one dimensional in and around the box.

Bright Enobokhare was enjoying a good game, quite often slaloming away from tackles and picking out good passes.

Once he was inexplicably taken off on the hour in favour of playing two up front things only got progressively worse.

Both Dicko and Bodvarsson offer moments of promise in their all round play, but neither look capable of finding the net with anything like the consistency required.

I just hope that not signing that natural finisher we’ve been crying out for this season won’t come back to bite us come May.

The general performance of the team wasn’t too bad. There was some good spells of possession and some decent incisive passes through the middle third of the pitch.

Jack Price was central to most of those good moments so it was disappointing to see him go off with an injury at half time. Lee Evans didn’t have the same influence.

But ultimately it’s those same frailties that continue to haunt us – the dreaded lapse in concentration when defending routine balls into the box and not nearly enough venom when circling our prey.

Wolves vs Newcastle United Preview

I really didn’t see us losing at Burton.

And Paul Lambert was right about the importance of taking a point when we can’t win tight matches.

In the Championship that’s probably the key difference between sides in the top and bottom halves of the table.

Now we go into this difficult fixture once again fretting about what a couple more negative results could mean in the context of our season.

The performance up at St. James’ Park in September was one of the best we’ve managed all year and certainly the high point of Walter Zenga’s brief time in charge.

Newcastle

Jonjo Shelvey can expect a hot reception after being found guilty of racially abusing Romain Saiss in that 2-0 defeat for the Magpies.

There’s no excuse for his actions, even in the heat of the moment. Hopefully the players involved will just get on with it, but the fans certainly won’t be as forgiving.

Newcastle are still setting a brisk pace at the top of the table, well ahead of the standard 2 point per game average normally required for automatic promotion.

They’ve lost 7 times, but racked up 20 wins in 29 matches. Whenever they wobble, they seem able to readjust and stay on course.

Rafa Benitez is an exceptional coach and has good depth in the squad.

Top scorer Dwight Gayle might miss this one but they can still call on Aleksandar Mitrovic who more than held his own in the Premier League.

Wolves

Still really anyone’s guess about the starting eleven, but this would probably be my best effort:

Much of the team remains interchangeable and I’m still deciding whether that’s a good or bad thing.

It’s certainly very useful to have options, but most teams that are successful at least have a nucleus of 7 or 8 players who start most weeks providing a consistent platform.

Our nucleus consists of about four players (Ikeme, Doherty, Costa & Edwards) and I feel that has to increase if we’re to ever challenge in the top half.

For the moment, we can be more relaxed about going week to week and trying to eek out the wins that will keep us out of strife at the bottom.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

This looks a really tough fixture.

Newcastle have outscored everyone by a considerable distance, averaging just under 2 goals per game. They have one of the best defensive records too.

Wolves seem to thrive on the big occasion at present so there’s an argument that being underdogs plays into our hands.

On balance, I think we’ll score, but probably not as many as them. Hope to be proven wrong.

1-2.

Up The Wolves!

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Newcastle United 2 Wolves 0

If Saturday was about the collective team performance, the positives to take from this tame League Cup exit were all about individuals.

Silvio being one such example, appearing on the teamsheet after a month and a half in the wilderness and turning in a steady seven out of ten.

Former Benfica team mate Ola John also got his debut and impressed in a 45 minute cameo, showing pace and flair in an otherwise toothless attacking effort from Wolves.

Jed Wallace squandered the team’s only meaningful effort, running through on goal but shooting tamely at the goalkeeper. His wastefulness against Barnsley proved costly and so it proved again last night.

To Newcastle’s credit the two goals they scored were Premier League quality. First Matt Richie’s neat one-two opened the door for a neat finish before the winger laid on the cross for Yoan Gouffran to let rip with an unstoppable volley.

I suppose after that double blow it has to be considered a positive that Wolves stuck at it and didn’t go to pieces.

And after John’s introduction, there was some hope of finding a way back into the contest, albeit fleetingly. But he’ll be a weapon in the weeks and months to come.

More disappointing was Paul Gladon, who again tried his very hardest to impose himself on the game but struggled to lead the line with anything like the effectiveness of Jon Dadi Bodvarrson.

With the Dutch man failing to impress and Joe Mason playing deeper, that puts a lot of pressure on the big Icelander, meaning Nouha Dicko’s return can’t come soon enough.

He scored for the U23’s on Monday and looked close to match fitness judging by the highlights. I wonder how much longer it will be before he’s considered ready for first team activity?

You probably won’t get a direct answer out of Walter Zenga, who continues to talk in riddles and metaphors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody will be second guessing Wolves while he’s in charge.

Least of all, any of us.

* Highlights of the game can be viewed here.

Newcastle United Vs Wolves Preview

I was wrong.

In the post-Barnsley discussion thread and my preview for Saturday’s game I felt Wolves would lose, regardless of the team selection.

Perhaps I was giving Newcastle too much credit or Walter Zenga and his players not enough, but could you blame me after Tuesday’s collapse?

Prior to the first leg of the St. James’ Park double header, I felt the most important thing was to at least see the emergence of a team. And boy did we get that and more.

Hopefully it’s the start of something and not just the first of many high points in a topsy-turvy season.

Newcastle

newcastle_united_logo-svgThe Magpies had most of the ball and forced Carl Ikeme into a couple of worldies, but I didn’t hear anyone begrudging Wolves what turned out to be a comfortable away win.

Rafa Benitez perhaps paid the price himself for rotation, as the likes of Mitrovic and Gouffran were dropped after featuring in the blitz of QPR.

Or maybe they were tired or maybe they thought they’d win comfortably. Whatever the reason, Wolves were well on top and that won’t sit well with the Toon supporters.

You’d expect the manager to ring the changes again and much like Wolves, it’s hard to know whether their supposed second string will even be inferior to the team we faced on Saturday.

Newcastle fan Jake hosts a Championship Podcast (which I’m due to be on early next week) and he sent me a few Tweets ahead of this one:

“Wolves looked to be a good team on Saturday, but previous results suggest a lack of consistency. Play-offs the ceiling? We have recovered well since bad start. Saturday was a reminder that we won’t be able to win every match. I’m not sure what team we will put out on Tuesday. That said, I can’t see you winning twice at SJP, so a home win this time!”

Wolves

Since Kevin McDonald’s absence and subsequent sale, we haven’t had any matchwinners in the middle of the park. Hopefully Romain Saiss can be that man.

team-for-newcastle-cup

The Moroccan was a key performer on Saturday and given how flaky we looked against Burton and Barnsley, he must be nailed on to start against Brentford.

As for tomorrow, I can see Zenga going big and changing the entire side. The above represents a completely different XI to Saturday, save for Doherty at full-back.

Speaking of full-backs I’m not sure how far away Silvio is from getting a game or Ola John. Zenga has been fairly tight-lipped on their status but would be great to see them back fighting for a shirt.

Predictions

I wanna go to Wembley baby. It’s long overdue and we haven’t even got anywhere close in the last 10 years and more.

This is a tough tie, but you would hope that whatever the team selection we’ve got a few players that can produce a moment of magic to help us progress.

Newcastle will be fired up after getting turned over at the weekend, so expecting a tough test, but with the residue of optimism still in the air from Saturday I’ll back us to squeak through.

2-1.

Newcastle United 0 Wolves 2

It was almost 25 years to the day since Wolves last won at St. James’ Park.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Walter Zenga was still between the sticks for Inter Milan in those days and I doubt few victories back then tasted as sweet as this one.

Bludgeoned by Barnsley, it was difficult to foresee any combination the Italian selected emerging on top against a team who’d won their last five.

Yet that’s exactly what they did, sprinting from the traps, winning all the second balls and putting Newcastle on the back foot throughout.

It may have taken an own goal to force the breakthrough, but Wolves should have been ahead long before Chancel Mbemba planted one in his own net with half an hour gone.

Roman Saiss headed just over on an impressive debut, the fantastic Costa saw a shot blocked and Bodvarsson smacked the top of the bar as the away side probed and pressed.

Newcastle stepped on the gas in the second half but it was Costa who struck the decisive blow capping one of many driving runs forward with a fine curling finish to double the advantage.

Bodvarsson and Cavaleiro could have added further gloss as the Magpies became stretched and ragged in the final moments, but that wastefulness mattered little.

Comfortable in the end, but it could have been so different if Carl Ikeme hadn’t produced a world class save in the first half, palming away Ayoze Perez’s sweetly struck drive to keep his team on level terms.

Wolves’ undisputed number one also prevented a grand stand finish, repelling Aleksandar Mitrovic who raced through on goal and looked certain to score.

He wasn’t the only member of the old guard stepping up their game either. Matt Doherty was back to his best and a constant thorn in Newcastle’s side.

Batth, Iorfa and Edwards all turned in typically consistent performances to lay the foundations for the new intake to finally shine.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that this was the first league victory of the season from a team primarily made up of our summer recruits.

Six of the fresh faces made it onto the pitch and such a cohesive team performance bodes well for the season ahead.

Individually, all were steady to outstanding, with Helder Costa just about edging home for Man of the Match.

But Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was again instrumental, occupying the Newcastle back four with aplomb and routinely battering his way through.

It was his run that created the all important opener and he should again have scored a couple himself. Goals will come for the Icelander if his performances maintain this level of consistency.

New boy Saiss was impressive in the middle of the park, planting himself in front of the back four and helping to keep things tight. With the midfield looking flaky in recent times he could be the pivotal addition.

Rotation seems inevitable for the Groundhog Day League Cup fixture, but this XI must be considered our strongest in the immediate and at the forefront of Zenga’s thoughts for Brentford.

Although second guessing our head coach or the collective performance of this group of players isn’t something you want to waste your time worrying about.

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride.

* Highlights of the game can be viewed here.

Newcastle United Vs Wolves Preview

Harrowing would be a good adjective to sum up Tuesday night.

 

Ragged would be similarly appropriate to describe Wolves’ performance even before they capitulated in the final 20 minutes.

The team selection, the shape of the side and the way in which they attempted to break Barnsley down were all wrong and the blame must fall squarely at the feet of the manager.

Still, like my old man said walking away from the ground, ‘one performance like that isn’t a massive problem, it’s when it’s repeated we should worry’.

Here’s hoping for something positive to come from our St. James’ Park double header.

Newcastle

newcastle_united_logo-svgIt’s a horrible time to be playing the Toon after they spanked QPR 6-0 to make it 5 league victories in a row.

I don’t know if anyone else saw the highlights, but they could have had double figures at Loftus Road.

Tails will be wagging on and off the field after that, which will make their giant stadium a more formidable arena than usual.

Perez and Mitrovic, two of their better players from last season are back firing now and with the likes of Shelvey, Ritchie and Gayle, they’re well stocked with quality.

Having Rafa Benitez in the dugout remains the biggest coup. He’s an intelligent and versatile coach, underlined by the smart transfer business he conducted over the summer.

Wolves

As Ben pointed out in his match report there haven’t been more disappointing back-to-back home performances since Ipswich and Peterborough in the Solbakken relegation year.

team-for-newcastle

It was predictable in many ways with expectation levels through the roof, but still hard to fathom when you consider the level of investment.

But money alone doesn’t guarantee anything and it certainly didn’t provide solidity in the midfield against Barnsley.

That’s why I’d pack it with workhorses tomorrow, keep some genuine width and outlet balls and hope our fantastic lone striker can bring others into play.

I think Zenga is damned whatever he does as defeat feels almost inevitable, but we don’t want another drubbing.

Predictions

From what you’ve read thus far, you’ll have a good sense of where I’m going. It’s a definite defeat for me.

2-0.

Regardless of the result, the most important thing is to see some shoots of recovery and the semblance of a team taking shape.

Up The Wolves!

* Received this from Mark (theDOOGooder) earlier in the week and wanted to share: Hi Thomas, I hope you are well and not working too hard. I was at the match on Saturday and at The Park View I met an American couple who had a Wolves fan for a son. Poor buggers! They were a really nice bunch and as the guy was so enthusiastic I did a bit of filming and have put together a silly little video. Here’s the link.

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