Analysis & Ratings: Newcastle v Wolves
Typical! Just when you think that the problems in the play of Wolves has been sorted out and corrected a dip comes, and this was a big one.
There were nothing to say about the team selection. McCarthy played the right eleven – the ones I knew he would play in my pre-match article. He played them in what I picture as a 4-1-4-1-formation with Henry as the defensive inner midfielder and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake upfront.
I also knew that Newcastle would have a lot of ball in the game, but as I saw the rerun and the figures 72-28 of possession for Newcastle – I believe it was in the first quarter of an hour of the game – I was astonished. Whenever Wolves got hold of the ball they immediately made a wrong pass or just kicked it far up the pitch for Newcastle to collect and start another period of possession.
Wolves have to nurse the ball more when they have possession, in my opinion. They started to in the second half, but then it was too late. The ball was far too often in the hands of Newcastle in our area of the pitch and we could not keep it at all or keep it up the pitch for enough time to create any pressure.
That was the nature of the environment in which Newcastle created their first goal. It was bad defending, yes, but it was also a goal waiting to happen. Wolves did not fight for dominance, nor marking close enough or high up enough to hinder the Magpies from getting the upper hand in the game.
Add to that the sloppy play of everybody in the back four and you will get the recipe for disaster. After the first goal in the back McCarthy took the right decision by bringing Fletcher on for Milijas and by that changing to a 4-4-2-formation.
That gave us a little more bite going forward – Fletcher immediately made an impact by finding Ebanks-Blake with a couple of flick-ons – but the sloppiness in the back-line continued and another row of mistakes made the Wolves players go to tea two goals down.
Actually they could have gone to tea laughing, as Ebanks-Blake went very close just before the Newcastle goal and those moments were of course decisive in the game. The difference between one all and two in the back are massive.
Wolves didn’t seem to be prepared for the onslaught of Newcastle at the beginning of the second half. In trying to get forward to get a fast equaliser they left the back door open and the third by the home team – a questionable goal because of Lovenkrands in an offside position – was the last nail in the coffin for us.
Over forty minutes left of the game, but Wolves never came seriously close of challenging the Newcastle lead. We played much better now – partly because Newcastle let us, partly because we were chasing a goal – and we got one. It was beautifully mastered by O’Hara who found Jarvis on the left and he spotted the free-standing Ebanks-Blake in the area who without hesitation surpassed the ball into the net.
The difference between that successful attempt and the ones that didn’t work out was that it was made with pace from behind and before the Magpies defence had the time to close out our scorer in the middle. If Wolves could learn to counter-attack in that manner away from home much would be won, but I’ve only seen it a couple of times all season. Why?
Wolves had chances to score another, the best one by Fletcher just a minute after the 3-1 goal but he hit the post with his header. A double chance after 70 minutes was worth a better destiny as Berra blocked a O’Hara shot that was on its way into the net. A goal in either of those opportunities and we would have been in the game again.
Instead Newcastle managed to get a fourth one in on a counter-attack in the dying minutes of the game. A deserved victory for the home team, who took their chances and had a better defensive play than Wolves. A very heavy loss for Wolves, but I believe that we can take a couple of positives from the game.
Kightly came on for Hammill with 34 minutes left and did it well. Still not match-fit of course, but he looked good at times and will be an asset for the team in the seven games left to play. The cooperation between Fletcher and Ebanks-Blake looked to klick. Fletcher flicked the ball on to Sylvan in excellent positions a couple of times and the 4-4-2-formation did show its advantages. To the ratings.
Hennessey – 6 – Made a couple of good saves and managed to find both Sylvan and Steven with his kick-outs. He looked frozen in his steps on the first goal but it was mainly caused by defensive errors. Looked a little shaky at times, but who wouldn’t with that defense in front of him.
Foley – 4 – Involved in all goals in the back and could have done much better defending. This is the first match in ages that I’ve seen him lose his nerves and touch and ability to place himself right. A disaster.
Stearman – 4 – Also involved in all four. Was never in the game.
Berra – 5 – A little better than his side-kick but not at all good enough. Had problems with Ameobi all through the game, but helped Elokobi a lot as usual.
Elokobi – 4 – When he is bad he is really bad. With the body strength he possesses he should have no problems taking on Ameobi or whoever is thrown against him. But he does not seem to know how to use it. Becomes ball-watching and unaware of the threats behind his shoulder.
Henry – 5 – I know that he cuts angles, screen them off and all that. He is also an important guy in the build-up play, but far too often he is placed too far from the action, often between two players instead of marking one, leaving our defenders with two guys against one.
Hammill – 7 – Had a good game again and were very much involved in the first part of the game. Was cut down by Nolan when he had broken free to make a goal. Had some good crosses as usual but usually disappears in the game after his good starts. But now Kightly was ready to replace him.
Kightly -6 – In his first appearance for 17 months in Old Gold and Black he managed to get two shots at goal in 34 minutes. Not bad at all. And he had the best passing success of all – 94%. But he is not yet fully match-fit and made mistakes when he chased back trying to catch Guitterez from scoring their fourth.
O’Hara – 6 – Had a difficult task to try to hold up Wolves play and start a build-up play when nobody else seemed interested in holding the ball. The Magpies owned the midfield through the important parts of the game. With a couple of well taken free-kicks and the deep pass to Jarvo he gets the sixth point from me, but his overall play was not good enough.
Jarvis – 7 – Did not make himself recognised that much during the first part of the game but made a good come-back in the second when he was the best player in Wolves. He is a nationally known player by know and they are dubbling up on him to try to prevent him from breaking free and crossing in from the left. He had a couple of shots that promised more too, but no luck. With very few candidates for the price Matt Jarvis is Paddytheflea’s Star Man.
Ebanks-Blake – 7 – On the verge of getting through the Newcastle defense on numerous occasions. With a little more pace and skills he will get there, I’m sure. The goal was a well taken one touch thing, almost instinctual. More of those! He is worth the little star as an encouragement. He has big deeds in store for us. I’m sure.
Fletcher – 6 – Came on before the half hour in an attempt to catch up with the Newcastle then one goal lead. Immediately made himself known by his flick-ons that reached Sylvan in dangerous positions. That promises plenty for the future but sometimes he seems a little weak and not good enough in man-to-man play against the Newcastle defenders. And I reduce one point from him for not scoring on that open opportunity when he hit the post. Should we play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 in the future? I would go for Fletch and SEB upfront at home, but at the same time don’t want to miss out on the magic of Milijas. Most of you probably know who I would drop instead. Fletch get’s that bouncing ball price. 😆