Rúben Neves earns Wolves draw and leaves Newcastle to rue costly errors

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.

Jamaal Lascelles used his captain’s column in the match programme to opine that Newcastle were in a false position. “We’re annoyed with the situation we’re in,” he wrote. “But we know we’ve got more than enough to get ourselves out of it.”

Bruce certainly had reason to be encouraged by the manner in which Lascelles and co began here. Indeed his side would probably have scored as early as the second minute had Isaac Hayden not 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 Miguel Almirón’s manoeuvres. Operating as a cross between a classic No 10 and a false nine, alternately behind and between Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin, Almirón pulled Wolves all over the place. When Shelvey’s lofted pass sent Almirón 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.

Darlow, incidentally, is understood to be deeply unhappy about the manner of his dropping which involved the news leaking out to the media on Tuesday but Bruce apparently not informing him of the decision until Thursday.

Up until the half-hour mark here Wolves’s game had all been about containment but, almost imperceptibly, they started to counterattack with menace. By now Traoré had started assuming centre stage and when the winger showed Emil Krafth a clean pair of heels he pulled the ball back adroitly for Neves but his first-time shot swerved wide.

It represented a reprieve for Krafth but the right-back looked increasingly fazed whenever Traoré ran at him.

As the interval beckoned, Almirón had run out of road, a first-half injury making it impossible for Newcastle’s best player to continue beyond half-time. On came Ryan Fraser but it was not long before Bruce’s decision to introduce him 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 Lascelles’ advance. Newcastle’s captain had dodged Conor Coady 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 to be replaced by Jacob Murphy. With their two principal torturer-in-chiefs removed from the equation, Wolves sensed opportunity.

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Neves swiftly accepted a chance to equalise, expertly losing Hayden as he met Pedro Neto’s cross and placed a header beyond Dubravka’s reach. Poor Hayden had just been relocated to right back in a reshuffle prompted by Krafth’s withdrawal.

There was still time for Joelinton to see a 12-yard shot somehow loop off Romain Saïss with Patrício beaten as Wolves extended their unbeaten run to five games.


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