Rúben Neves scored his first headed goal for Wolves, Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin limped off far too early and Joelinton was involved in yet another costly miss. All in all, it was not Newcastle’s night.
Steve Bruce’s side played well but they have won only two of their last 17 games and remain in the thick of an unwanted relegation skirmish which could yet prompt a changing of the managerial guard at St James’ Park.
Granted, Newcastle are now four points clear of 18th-placed Fulham, who visit Crystal Palace on Sunday but Bruce was left rueing missed chances. “A point is a point,” he said. “It could be enough, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
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He was most concerned about Almirón’s damaged knee. “It’s too early to tell and he needs a scan but we fear the worst,” said Newcastle’s manager. “He was distressed at half-time. Until Miguel’s injury we were excellent – but we didn’t take our opportunities.”
Indeed, Bruce’s side should probably have scored as early as the second minute but Isaac Hayden headed straight at Rui Patrício after Jonjo Shelvey’s short free-kick and Joe Willock’s cross unhinged Nuno Espírito Santo’s defence.
That backline had already been softened up by Almirón’s manoeuvres. Operating as a cross between a classic No 10 and a false nine, alternately behind and between Joelinton and Saint-Maximin, Almirón pulled Wolves all over the place. When Shelvey’s lofted pass sent him accelerating behind the visiting backline, Nuno’s bench probably feared the worst but Almirón’s angled, curving shot crashed off the base of a post with Patrício beaten.
It was not long before Saint-Maximin had the ball in the back of the net after connecting with the rebound from Willock’s parried shot but Saint-Maximin was a couple of yards offside.
With Almirón very much to the fore, Newcastle were so utterly dominant that more than 30 minutes passed before the returning Martin Dubravka was required to make his first save. If some slightly suspect early footwork had betrayed Dubravka’s nerves as he made his first Premier League appearance of a season interrupted initially by injury and then a long struggle to oust Karl Darlow, the Slovakia goalkeeper reacted smartly to palm Adama Traoré’s header around the post.
Until that point Wolves’s game had all been about containment but, almost imperceptibly, a side now unbeaten in five games started to counterattack with menace. By now Traoré had assumed centre stage and when the winger showed the increasingly fazed Emil Krafth a clean pair of heels, he pulled the ball back adroitly for Neves but his first-time shot swerved wide.
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As the interval beckoned Almirón had run out of road but it was not long before the introduction of his replacement, Ryan Fraser, looked inspired rather than enforced.
When Saint-Maximin’s cross was only partially cleared, the ball fell to Fraser and he unleashed another, rather fabulous, cross – picking out Jamaal Lascelles’ advance. Newcastle’s captain had dodged his marker and was well placed to power a scoring header beyond Patrício.
Yet the home celebrations had not long subsided when Saint-Maximin pulled a hamstring and hobbled off. With Newcastle’s two principal torturer-in-chiefs removed from the equation, Wolves sensed opportunity.
Neves swiftly accepted a chance to equalise, expertly losing Hayden as he met Pedro Neto’s cross and placed a header beyond the reach of Dubravka, who touched but could not hold it. If the goalkeeper might arguably have done better, poor Hayden had just been relocated to right-back in a reshuffle prompted by Krafth’s withdrawal.
There was still time for Joelinton’s 12-yard shot to loop off Romain Saïss on the line with Patrício beaten, and for Dubravka to redeem himself by performing wonders to scramble Fábio Silva’s stoppage-time header to safety.
“We played very well but gave away a bad goal,” said Bruce. “My team are frustrated.”