Like him or loath him, there is no doubt that the Premier League has missed Joseph Anthony Barton.
Barely a week after sporting the worst facial hair since the hey-day of the Bee Gees, Barton was displaying remarkable resilience to keep his notorious temper in check, in what was a testing afternoon for the Newcastle midfielder. In a game containing 12 bookings, four of the cautions were for fouls on Barton, and it was a compelling duel between the 27-year-old and Karl Henry, the Wolves captain.
Maturity has not always been a quality Barton can lay claim to, but he displayed it in spades at Molineux, refusing to react despite extreme provocation. Admittedly, he trudged off the field complaining about his treatment to Mick McCarthy but his performance was a clear sign that he may have learned from his previous misdemeanours.
Henry, however, was still less than impressed. "He seems to think he's a bit of a player who puts his foot in but I certainly didn't see any of that from him," he said. "I saw a lot of shoving players around off the ball. That's how it goes.
"I knew with Alan Smith and Barton it was going to be a physical battle, and we were certainly up for it as much as they were. I've got a lot of time for Smith, he loves a tackle, but Barton was moaning in the referee's ear all the time and not happy about getting put to the floor.
"Is his bark worse than his bite? I think so – no, I know so. There was a lot of talk, a lot of moaning as usual. Not a lot to back it up with though."
Neither Wolves nor Newcastle looked like relegation fodder on the evidence here. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake arrowed in a half-volley two minutes before half-time to stun the visitors, who had dominated the opening stages. But the outstanding Andy Carroll registered his fourth goal in two games in the 62nd minute to earn Newcastle a deserved point. Carroll was at times unplayable and even if he did miss out on England's senior squad last night, recognition from Fabio Capello is surely not too far away.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Foley, Craddock, Berra, Ward; Jarvis, Henry, Jones (Guedioura, 72), Van Damme (Zubar, 56); Ebanks-Blake, Doyle (Fletcher, 72). Substitutes not used: Edwards, Stearman, Hennessey (gk), Mancienne.
Booked Berra, Doyle, Guedioura, Henry, Jarvis, Van Damme, Zubar.
Newcastle United (4-5-1): Harper; Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Enrique; Routledge, Barton, Nolan, Smith, Gutierrez; Carroll (Ameobi, 80). Substitutes not used: Lovenkrands, Taylor, Krul (gk), Vuckic, Ranger.
Booked Ameobi, Barton, Carroll, Nolan, Perch.
Man of the match Henry.
Referee S Attwell (Warks)
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