By David Bateman
Newcastle couldn’t follow up their 6-0 victory over Aston Villa with a similar performance or score-line, but a 1-1 draw with in-form Wolves will have satisfied the Magpies.
Although they could not gain three points, a draw is far from a poor result, especially considering Wolves are unbeaten so far this season, having held Everton to a 1-1 draw before this game.
The home side continued their good form into this match, taking the lead in the 43rd minute with a brilliant goal from striker Ebanks-Blake. He controlled a lofted ball into the box exquisitely, before rippling the net with a powerful strike. The game could then have been put beyond Newcastle’s reach when Perch brought down Wolves’ Matthew Jarvis inside the penalty area, but the referee opted not to point to the spot.
Then Newcastle’s latest home-grown no.9 struck again, as Andy Carroll (photo) rose to direct a great Joey Barton cross from a free kick on the left into the net with a powerful header.
The away side then had some chances to snatch a victory, especially when Carroll’s replacement Shola Ameobi headed another Joey Barton free-kick goalward, looping over the keeper and nearly into the net.
They may not have managed to win, and could well have lost should Wolves been awarded the penalty they deserved, but Newcastle fans will take solace from the positive display on show again.
Their chances to win the game came mostly via Kevin Nolan, who once again put in a sterling display in his attacking midfield role. His surging forward runs from midfield caused the opposition problems, and he could well have scored several if he had been more composed in front of goal. That was on show when he couldn’t get a clean strike away after Andy Carroll knocked the ball down to him inside the box.
Carroll himself suffered from poor composure in front of goal, when himself and Nolan reversed roles. Nolan become the provider and slotted Carroll through one-on-one with the Wolves goalkeeper, only for the striker to blast the ball over from just a few yards. Despite that miss, Carroll once again put in a confident performance, causing unrest with his aerial prowess.
Nolan and Carroll were not the only two to continue their good form, however. The direct running of wingers Wayne Routledge and Jonas Gutierrez were once again pivotal in most Newcastle attacking moves. The signing of Hatem Ben Arfa will not only gives them more competition, but should add even more class to the side.
The other midfielders, Alan Smith and Joey Barton, played reasonably, but did not have their usual snarling spirit. Although, that says more about the tenacity of Wolves midfield, particularly Karl Henry. Within the first few minutes of the game, he had clattered into Joey Barton. 45 minutes later, at the beginning of the second half, Barton was left on the grass again following a crunching challenge. With not long remaining, Henry once again punished Barton, this time with a very Joey Barton-esque challenge that he earned a yellow card for.
The most perplexing part of the game though, was not that someone was putting in more dangerous tackles than Joey Barton. That was the reaction of Barton himself: he never once lost his temperament, never once retaliated. At the end of the game, he even managed to share a joke about his treatment with Wolves manager Mick McCarthy.
Newcastle will hope Barton can continue to remain calm in similar situations, because he is an integral part of their formation. Newcastle manager Chris Hughton has devised tactics perfectly suited to masking his team’s weaknesses while accentuating their strengths. In central midfield, he has two tough midfielders who can pass a ball accurately; on the wing, he has players who can beat an opponent and cross a ball, both of whom are blessed with considerable pace; his third central midfielder is very attack-minded and capable of breaking forward to score many goals, and his striker is well suited to capitalising on the crosses that the wingers get into the box.
However, there is one glaring weakness in the team that Newcastle must fix to become a top side like they used to be. Their defence is prone to mistakes, and struggles against good strong strikers. Sol Campbell and transfer-listed Steven Taylor are still currently injured, though, so the problem may not persist for long.
Regardless of their defensive frailties, Newcastle look more than strong enough to survive the rigours of being a newly-promoted club in the Premier League.