A much-needed win for Eddie Howe and Newcastle United was delivered on Sunday as the Magpies kept their top-four hopes alive with their first win in six games in all competitions.
The hosts started brightly as Howe rang the changes with Alexander Isak, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jacob Murphy, and Joe Willock all coming into the starting eleven.
Wolves had become a bit of a bogey team for Newcastle of late with nine out of the last fifteen meetings ending in a 1-1 draw, so a bright start was essential to get the St James’ Park crowd going and to put Wolves on the back foot.
Alexander Isak was finally awarded a start by Howe in place of Callum Wilson, who has been in a poor run of form since coming back from World Cup duty.
Isak gave Craig Dawson a torrid time, running him rabid for the majority of the time in which both shared the pitch. His runs in behind really stretched Wolves, his movement was clever, and everything was working for the Swede—drops of the shoulder to get by defenders, intelligent passes, sheer pace... A defender's nightmare.
It’s fair to say Kieran Trippier’s set pieces have been woeful of late, but he managed to launch a right one with a wonderful free-kick into the box, Isak rising highest and thumping his header into the bottom corner, lift off at St James’ Park.
Howe had said before the game that Isak couldn’t play a full 90 minutes—of his demanding style of football, the gaffer later clarified—consistently just yet, but the 65 or so minutes he got against Wolves will do him a World of good.
Isak makes this Newcastle side a completely different proposition, he makes them tick. At times in the first half, with Isak running at the back line and smooth passing from Newcastle’s midfield, they looked unstoppable.
Isak will surely have cemented his claim for another start when Newcastle travel to Nottingham Forest on Friday evening.
Nick Pope’s heart-in-mouth moment
Five minutes before that crucial goal, Pope had a moment of madness with a heavy touch as Raul Jimenez was pressing, leading up to Pope (appearing to) hauling the Mexican down.
Luckily for Pope, the officials adjust it to be a coming together rather than a foul which would’ve resulted in a red card and a penalty. That would have completely changed the game, and Newcastle will feel lucky to have escaped that one.
Considering the number of decisions that have gone against them this season, though, there was also a sense of justice to it.
Miguel Almiron’s wake-up call
Despite being Newcastle’s leading scorer, Almiron has been out of form over the last few weeks and found himself on the substitutes bench against Wolves. This may have been the wake-up call the Paraguayan needed to spring him back to life.
Almiron was introduced in the 68th minute in a bid to double Newcastle’s lead. Wolves had other ideas as Hwang Hee-Chan pounced on an unfortunate Trippier slip to slot one into an empty net.
Almiron was able to make a difference and had the last laugh as he finished off a brilliant Newcastle move. His quick interchange with the impressive Willock saw him enter the right-hand side of the box with a clear sight of goal. And with the help of a deflection, the ball found the back of the net.
There could have been a third late in the game as Sven Botman blazed over from close range after Almiron’s mazy run. Thankfully, a third goal was not necessary as Newcastle returned to winning ways after three successive 2-0 defeats.
Newcastle travel to Forest next hoping they’ve turned the tide and can now chase down Spurs in the hunt for a top-four spot. No more games after that one and for the remainder of the month with an international break coming.