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.