Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Terry's All Golds not to our taste

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Wolves

On an afternoon when some fans staged a pre-match mock-funeral for St James' Park, the team contrived to give an indication that our Champions League hopes may not be long for this world either. The first home game since Jabba's act of "corporate vandalism" was confirmed with the ripping down of the famous stadium name saw our lowly visitors, under the stewardship of Terry Connor for the first time, profit from a thoroughly disspiriting display to plunder what had seemed like an unlikely point.

That deflected Will Buckley goal down at Brighton had given us the luxury of a full fortnight to recover from being blown away at White Hart Lane, and certainly hopes were raised by the return of both Mr T and Dreamboat to central midfield. Danny Guthrie was one of those unlucky to miss out as a result, while the Silver Fox sprung a surprise by naming a fit-again Raylor on the right flank.

It all started promisingly enough too. Just six minutes had elapsed when Dreamboat picked Christophe Berra's pocket and crossed for Demba Ba, whose stylish backheel was pushed out by Wayne Hennessey. Wolves frantically tried to clear the danger but, when Mr T's shot was deflected, Papiss Cisse was on hand to mark his first home start with another goal, diverting the ball over the head of the defender on the line who had played him onside.

The lead established, we toyed with Wolves before deciding to be more proactive about doubling our advantage. Hennessey had not long tipped over a ferocious Danny Simpson drive when a defensive header fell to Spidermag in an inviting amount of space 25 yards out, the winger taking a touch before lashing it into the net. For someone who isn't as regular a goalscorer as he should be, that's now three in three successive fixtures against our West Midlands opponents - and all of them beauties.

Might a mauling be on the cards? Doyle came perilously close to reducing the arrears with a header that Tim Krul was grateful to see bounce just past his far post, but otherwise Wolves looked incapable of mustering much in reply. At half-time we could reflect on having not played well but certainly well enough.

With nothing to lose, Connor roused his beleaguered troops and the second half was a different prospect entirely. Wolves played like a team with belief and determination, while we were complacent, careless and - at times - simply atrocious.

Admittedly it was a stroke of cruel fortune that handed the relegation-threatened visitors a foothold in the game, Matt Jarvis' shot deflecting off Simpson and arcing painfully over Krul's dive. We had unforgivably ceded control, though, and worse was to follow. Guilty of the cardinal sin of making changes when defending a free-kick, the Silver Fox had to watch as Mike Williamson made a hash of a clearance (not for the first time) and Doyle bundled in an equaliser from point-blank range.

The tiring Mr T had been replaced by Guthrie, but it was to HBA - on for Cisse, ineffective other than for that instinctive early finish - that we were now looking for salvation. There was to be no repeat of the Frenchman's solo heroics against Blackburn, though, as he prompted a near-full-house crowd to groans of frustration time and again by squandering possession cheaply and shooting weakly when working an opportunity.

With Ba out of sorts (though also coming in for some rough treatment from the Wolves defence) and Dreamboat still feeling his way into the game, arguably our most incisive attacker was Davide Santon. On at least a couple of occasions, though, our left-back fatally delayed or elected to pass when a shot looked a better option.

Neither was third substitute Big Lad able to make any impression, and when the final whistle came it was greeted by a chorus of boos - faintly ridiculous in the wider context of our league position, but not entirely surprising at the conclusion of as poor a performance as we've put in all season.

If the shellacking by Spurs was hard to take, then at least we had the consolation of knowing we'd come up against a very good side in electrifying form. The only real crumb of comfort to take from Saturday afternoon - especially given the eye-catching wins for Chelsea and Arsenal - was the fact that the Mackems' preparations for this weekend's derby went even worse, as they suffered a 4-0 stuffing at Wolves' Black Country rivals West Brom...

A Wolves fan's perspective: Wolves Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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