Connor loses his voice but discovers belief
Newcastle United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
Perspective is a strange and ever-moving beast in football. By five to five on Saturday evening, the bonhomie belonged to those in old gold. In the directors' box, Steve Morgan was not quite high-fiving his entourage, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers owner was engulfed with handshakes and hugs. Terry Connor, the former No 2 given the reins until the end of the season, talked, with his faltering vocal chords, of a new beginning and Kevin Doyle, whose goal had rescued a point, was rallying a football club.
"We've been written off as if we're 10 points adrift," he said. "We're out of the bottom three after this result and we believe in ourselves, but we need to reproduce that kind of form between now and the end of the season," Doyle said. "The last week has been tough for everybody. Everyone got on very well with Mick [McCarthy]. Once they got yesterday out of the way and appointed the new manager, we wanted that to happen and we got it.
"Terry has been the manager for the last two weeks anyway, as he's been taking training and dictating to us what we've been doing. It's been a transition, but at least it's been a smooth one. We're delighted he's got the job. Can we survive? Yes, definitely. Before the game we were only in the bottom three on goal difference and we were in a worse state than this last year at the same stage.
"People are very quick to write you off, but they're also quick to big you up – we just need to remember that we've given ourselves a chance."
It was also worth recalling that after an horrendously messy period in Wolves' recent history, ever since Morgan clumsily walked into the home dressing room after a defeat against Liverpool, which culminated in a shoddy attempt to find a new manager after McCarthy's sacking, this has, or indeed had, been a club written off. Wolves were going down all week, and what looked a stop-gap appointment further justified the reasoning.
Strange then how quickly that turned. Connor had just about lost his voice by the time his team had recovered from losing two goals to Papiss Cissé and Jonas Gutierrez inside the first 18 minutes to launch a brave second-half fightback. Matt Jarvis's deflected shot in the 50th minute gave them belief and then came Doyle's equaliser.
"I think I enjoyed it," said Connor. "It was tough, especially early on, but I have been there before under Mick so I understand the emotions and what the manager goes through. No, I was well-versed in it to be honest. It didn't feel particularly different because I wanted to win as No 2. The only difference was making the subs because that was on my head.
"People are saying we are favourites to go down, but we know we have done it for two years and I have asked the lads to refocus and to treat it like the first 12 games of a new season."
Both men paid credit to McCarthy, who had called Connor before the game to wish him good luck. Yet he did not need fortune. Wolves were good value, which leads onto Newcastle, who are at the crossroads in their season. They sit sixth, their campaign could end in glory with an unexpected European qualification, but defensively they need to regroup. Finding a role for Hatem Ben Arfa in the closing stages of the season may be one of the biggest tests Alan Pardew has faced. They also have a Tyne-Wear derby on the horizon, an unforgiving fixture for the team that loses.
"Sometimes we know he [Ben Arfa] can do things other players can't do," said his manager. "He's just got to learn when to do it in the right areas.
"I think there was a bit of after- effects from the Spurs game [which Newcastle lost 5-0]. Cheick Tioté and Yohan Cabaye will be better for this. We need them.
"They are top players, we know that. You've got to understand that this is the Premier League, it's a different level than the African Cup of Nations for Cheick, and for Cabaye he's been out for three weeks."
Newcastle: KRUL 6/10; SIMPSON 5; WILLIAMSON 5; COLOCCINI 7; SANTON 7; R TAYLOR 6; CABAYE 6; TIOTE6; GUTIERREZ 7; CISSE 7; BA 6
Wolves: HENNESSEY 7; WARD 6; BERRA 6; STEARMAN 6; ZUBAR 7; JARVIS 6; HENRY 6; EDWARDS 6; FOLEY 6; O'HARA 7; DOYLE 8
Scorers: Newcastle United Cissé 6, Gutierrez 18. Wolverhampton Wanderers Jarvis 50, Doyle 66.
Substitutes: Newcastle Guthrie 6 (R Taylor, 66), Ben Arfa 6 (Cissé, 66), Shola Ameobi (Tioté, 81). Wolves Kightly (O'Hara, 71), Hunt (Jarvis, 86), Milijas (Foley, 90)
Booked: Newcastle Shola Ameobi. Wolves Berra.
Man of the match Doyle. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Newcastle 51% Wolves 49%.
Attempts on target: Newcastle 8 Wolves 6.
Referee P Walton (Northamptonshire) Attendance 52,287.
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