Given Arsenal are the only one of the what may be termed "top sides" they have played, it is too early to gauge Newcastle's chances of breaking up the usual Premier League party.
On this evidence it can be said that Alan Pardew's Magpies – unbeaten and now third – are an improving but by no means formidable side because, having gone two up and been in total control against a Wolves team heading for a fourth straight defeat, they were fortunate to leave here with the points.
They would not have done so had what Wolves believed to be Kevin Doyle's added-time equaliser not been ruled out for the ball having gone out of play in the buildup. It was a marginal decision, and given Wolves should also have had a first-half penalty when the referee, Mark Halsey, wrongly decided Steven Taylor had fouled Jamie O'Hara outside rather than inside the area, it added to Mick McCarthy's sense of injustice.
"We gave two goals away, but when you're having a tough time you rely on people getting decisions right and clearly they didn't," said the Wolves manager. "O'Hara was a good yard inside the area, and the ball wasn't out at the end. Newcastle got away with one today."
Pardew acknowledged his side had been fortunate to get both decisions. "We got really nervous towards the end, we're a young team and need to learn to see games out better," he said. "But we also showed we have different sides to our game, and it has set us up for a Blue Riband match against Spurs in two weeks' time."
Wolves began brightly, forcing two smart saves from the impressive Tim Krul, before conceding a ridiculously simple goal. As a former centre-half McCarthy must have found it hard to believe how easily his defenders allowed Demba Ba to escape their attentions and steal in to steer Yohan Cabaye's near-post corner past Wayne Hennessey from inside the six-yard box.
Wolves responded with some purpose, and again Krul saved well from Doyle, but such was the home team's uncertainty at the back that Newcastle looked capable of scoring with every attack. Shortly after missing a sitter when left unmarked to attack Danny Simpson's cross, Jonás Gutiérrez made no mistake when the Wolves defence parted, allowing him to run into the penalty area and drive the ball beyond Hennessey.
Had Wolves then been awarded the penalty they deserved they would have taken encouragement going into the break, although given Newcastle have the best defensive record in the League this season, their chances of getting back into the game appeared to be slim. Krul made a double save to deny Steven Fletcher and Christophe Berra, but Ba should have extended Newcastle's lead before the introduction of Adam Hammill and Adlène Guedioura gave the home team some momentum.
With a couple of minutes left Fletcher finally beat Krul, heading home Hammill's cross, and Wolves thought they had snatched the point they deserved when Doyle poked the ball in from close range, only for the linesman to intervene.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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