Wolves secured a vital point with a late late goal against Newcastle on Monday. It was the 14th time this season that Wolves have scored in the final quarter of an hour this season and only Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool can match that record. But no team can match Wolves record of scoring 6 goals in injury time at the end of the second half.
The point earned was probably deserved as Wolves had 60% of the possession, 22 shots to the visitors 9, and 13 corners to Newcastle’s 1. But it wasn’t a night where we saw Wolves play with great fluency as the Geordies were well organised, as Rafa Benitez’s sides usually are, and there was little space in the midfield or final third for Wolves to find any space to operate. And once Newcastle took the lead and had something to hold on to, then it looked likely the points would be heading to the north east until Boly took advantage of some uncertain goalkeeping to head in a looping Traore cross in the 95th minute.
There were plusses and minuses in the Wolves performance. Patricio would have to be considered at fault for the Newcastle goal although it was disappointing that the left side of the Wolves defence opened up to allow Hayden through on goal. In the first 40 minutes, Wolves were much the better team with Moutinho and Jonny behind most of the best build-up play. But on the night Wolves were not able to find many clear cut chances although Dubrovka made good saves from Jimenez and Jonny, while Doherty headed over from close range when put off by the threat of a boot in the face from a Newcastle defender.
The point keeps Wolves in 7th and they are 2 points ahead of Watford in 8th, and 6 ahead of Everton in 9th. So 7th place and a potential Europe League place next season is certainly a realistic target now. The next two league fixtures are both away, at Bournemouth on Saturday, Feb 2 and then at Huddersfield on the following Tuesday. That will take us to the end of Feb and leave only ten league matches remaining. A top half position now looks more likely than not and a finish of 7th and 8th would represent a fantastic first season back in the top flight.
Before those two away league games, Wolves have another away game in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. Their opponents Bristol City are in sparkling form in the Championship. Back in November they were 14th in the table and much closer to the relegation positions than the playoffs, But they are now 14 games unbeaten, have won all of their last 8 games, and now sit 24 points away from the relegation positions and only 3 points below Albion in 4th.
This looks a game that Wolves would be unlikely to win if they put out a much weakened team, and such is the feeling that a trip to Wembley, at least for a semi-final, is a real possibility, and a strong eleven will surely be sent out to try to keep the cup run going. With Man Utd playing against Chelsea, another one of the top teams will go out at this stage, and it will only be the winners of that tie plus Man City (barring a Newport County miracle) that will go into the 6th round draw as a higher placed team than Wolves. If they can get a result on Sunday lunchtime, and there will be no replay here so it will be decided on the day, then there will be many thousands of Wolves fans glued to the 6th round draw to see who their number 1 gets drawn against.
After so many seasons as Championship also rans, it’s remarkable the Wolves enter the final third of the season with two doors still open to European football returning to Molineux next season. 7th place in the league would probably get them into the Europa League, winning the FA Cup certainly would. Getting into Europe would be the icing on the cake really because a top half finish in the Premier League, and to be a wee bit greedy a Wembley trip for a semi-final, would be a great first season back in the top flight. And then we will have to settle for the next home game against Cardiff to be a sampler for playing against foreign opposition further down the line.