GOAL! Newcastle 1-0 Wolves (Lascelles, 52 mins)
The breakthrough! Saint-Maximin dances around on the left for a while, and though his cross is headed clear the ball runs to Fraser, whose centre finds Lascelles running clear in the area to guide a header inside the near post!
50 mins: Traore passes to Neves, who has a very poor shot from 25 yards.
48 mins: Wolves kicked off the second half and have pretty much had the ball since.
The players are on their way back out, and Miguel Almiron isn’t one of them. Perhaps because of the knee issue he got some treatment for in the first half, Ryan Fraser is coming on to replace him.
A pretty good half, as goalless halves go. Two teams with a pretty similar array of strengths and weaknesses, and most promisingly with wide forwards who like running with the ball and defenders who go wobble-kneed when someone runs at them.
Half time: Newcastle 0-0 Wolves
45+3 mins: Newcastle bossed the opening half-hour, Wolves threatened more in the last 10 minutes or so, and there’s been plenty of positive play from both sides, but it’s goalless at the break.
45_1 mins: We’re into stoppage time, of which there’ll be a couple of minutes. They start with Neto sending in a low cross from the right which runs across the face of goal and out the other side.
44 mins: Neves runs over the free-kick, Moutinho backheels it, and Neto sends a 25-yard left-footer into the arms of Dubravka.
43 mins: Now Traore cuts infield, where a panicked Clark brings him down and gives Mike Dean the easiest booking decision he’ll ever make.
41 mins: Traore is having all sorts of fun on the left now. He ghosts past Willock’s laughable attempt to stop him and chips beyond the far post, where Neto attempts an unlikely volley, miskicks it horribly, and misses the target by a distance.
38 mins: Ruben Neves heads the ball into Clark’s oustretched hand, leading to penalty claims and a VAR check, but it’s not a penalty because don’t be so silly.
35 mins: Traore sprints down the left, makes Krafth look like he’s wading through cream of mushroom soup, and pulls back to Neto, who sidefoots wide from the edge of the area.
34 mins: “A few years back I read a story about a cat who lived in a care centre for seniors,” writes Mary Waltz. “The cat had a sixth sense when a patient was going to pass away and the cat would spend time with the patient shortly before they died. I think that cat is visiting Newcastle.” Perhaps that’s why they seem to be purring tonight.
31 mins: Now Wolves hit the post! Neves clips a first-time cross to Traore, whose header is pushed onto the post by Dubravka, bounces back out, hits Dubravka again and rolls behind for a corner.
29 mins: Miguel Almiron slides in to dispossess Traore, goes down clutching his right knee, and Newcastle’s physio is back on.
26 mins: Saint-Maximin, who really hadn’t done much before setting up that Willock chance, goes on another lovely run, absolutely humiliating Joao Moutinho with a drop of the shoulder, but his shot from 18 yards is rubbish.
26 mins: Newcastle have completely dominated, have made two or three half-chances and one full-fat one, but still no goal.
24 mins: Now it’s in the net, but Saint-Maximin is offside! It’s a lovely run from Saint-Maximin, dancing into the area, past four players, and then squaring to Willock. He really should score but instead shot too close to Rui Patricio, who pushes the ball back out to Saint-Maximin, who tucks it into the empty net but is two yards offside!
22 mins: Now JoeLinton has a shot, this time from just inside the penalty area, and again Rui Patricio keeps it out. Really he should have caught it, but instead beats it away. Either way, it’s not in his net.
21 mins: Emil Krafth thumps in a low, hard shot from about 30 yards, which Rui Patricio saves.
19 mins: The good news is that Hayden has recovered and rejoined the fray. The bad news is that he’s just been booked for fouling Adama Traore.
17 mins: The physios are on and looking at Hayden’s ankle, which just had a bit of Neves boot land on it.
15 mins: Almiron chips the ball from the left to the far post, where Rui Patricio jumps against Joelinton and unconvincingly flaps clearish.
12 mins: Newcastle hit the post! Shelvey’s first-time pass over the defence releases Almiron down the right, and he cuts in, waits for the keeper to come out, and curls the ball left-footed past him but into the woodwork!
11 mins: Newcastle have started brightly, and they work the ball down the right, cross hopefully and unsuccessfully, win it back again and work it down the left, but this time Nelson Semedo wins it off them. Wolves had their penalty area pretty much under control throughout.
7 mins: Pedro Neto surges down the right, gets past Jamal Lewis, then takes on Ciaran Clark for pace and loses.
5 mins: Now they win a free-kick on the right, from which they deliver 80% of a training-ground routine, playing it back, chipping it in, and Hayden wins the header but sends it straight at Rui Patricio. They’re very much heading in the right direction, even if Hayden was not.
2 mins: Newcastle win an early free-kick from the left, from which they deliver two-thirds of a training-ground routine – back to Shelvey, chipped into the box for Lascelles – but not anyone for him to head it on to, and Wolves clear.
1 min: Peeeeeep! They’re off!
Out come the players! Newcastle know that defeat could see them end the weekend in the bottom three, Wolves know that winning would be, um, better than not winning. Let’s go!
Steve Bruce on his goalkeeping switch:
Well listen, in management sometimes you have to make a decision which is sometimes cruel. He’s done so well, Karl, but I think the influence of Martin and his experience, and results haven’t been great for us … I can’t stress how good Karl has done for us, he’s done nothing really wrong, but I think the change can maybe help us.
Steve Bruce has cleverly coached his players to form the shape of the number of points they expect to get from tonight’s game during their pre-match warm-up.
Newcastle make one change and it’s in nets, where Martin Dubravka makes his first league start since the last day of last season. Wolves are are unchanged.
Team news is in and tonight’s cast list looks like this:
Newcastle: Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Willock, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin. Subs: Dummett, Carroll, Ritchie, Gayle, Hendrick, Fraser, Murphy, Darlow, Sean Longstaff.
Wolverhampton: Rui Patricio, Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss, Nelson Semedo, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Jonny, Pedro Neto, Traore, Willian Jose. Subs: Hoever, Ait Nouri, Silva, Gibbs-White, Vitinha, Ruddy, Kilman, Otasowie.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Wolves may have won their last two games – “We are playing good, we’re trying to improve our game. This is what it’s all about,” says Nuno Espirito Santo – but their form isn’t exactly terrifying. It’s still twice as good as Newcastle’s, who can boast of two wins in their last 14 outings and in their last 10 have won six points, precisely half as many as today’s opponents (third bottom in that form table, above only Newcastle and Southampton, is Liverpool).
“I always say when the daffodils are up, that’s a sign that the real crux part of the season is upon us,” said Steve Bruce ahead of this one. “There are six or seven [teams fighting relegation]. Can we finish above the six or seven? That’s the aim and I’m quietly confident we can do that. We’re not alone, I must stress this. It just seems as though Newcastle are the only one in it – we are not alone. There are six or seven teams all in and around us who are still nervously looking over their shoulders.”