Fortune favours Newcastle but stiffer tests await against top dogs

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 2
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The Independent Football

Not only did Newcastle United have the Premier League's best defensive record to sustain them in this endearingly open contest, they underlined that a good slice of fortune also never goes amiss.

Where the brilliance of their goalkeeper, Tim Krul, couldn't save them in their rise to third place in the table two highly debatable decisions by the officials did, on the second occasion Kevin Doyle having an equaliser disallowed in stoppage time.

Wolverhampton Wanderers, already seething from the referee Mark Halsey's first-half refusal to award them a penalty, were in very high dudgeon when an assistant in a baseball cap looked into a setting sun and decided that Adam Hammill's cross had drifted fractionally out of play before Matt Jarvis headed back for Doyle to force in.

Even the visitors' manager, Alan Pardew, admitted his side were lucky. "It was a really tight one," he said. "We had a few fortunate calls." His counterpart, Mick McCarthy, was less equivocal. "When you are having a tough time, you rely on people getting decisions right and clearly they got them wrong. When it happens, it rips the heart out of you. That ball isn't out and the penalty decision is a yard inside."

It's not just the fact that New-castle haven't yet played any of the elite that should keep Tyneside feet grounded. The inroads Wolves made in an attempt to avoid a fourth successive League defeat added another cautionary note.

Given that McCarthy's side went two down in the first half for the third consecutive game, they made an awful lot of chances. Krul was magnificent, though, and the likes of Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor threw themselves in the way of anything to extend Newcastle's best start since 1994-95.

"It was all hands to the pump," Pardew added. "We're a young team and got nervous towards the end. We need to see games out better than that."

In the end, Newcastle's first top-flight win at Molineux since 1958 was down to the obliging way Wolves' defence parted for them, last weekend's hat-trick hero, Demba Ba, heading in a near-post left-wing corner by Yohan Cabaye in the 17th minute.

If that goal was soft, the second bordered on pantomime. Karl Henry left a pass short on their right flank and Jonas Gutierrez followed up his signing of a new four-year contract this week by squeezing between Stephen Hunt and Richard Stearman, evading Roger Johnson's most token of challenges and scoring on the run.

McCarthy was scathing about his defence, a mood not lifted when Wolves were given only a free-kick for Steven Taylor's challenge on Jamie O'Hara. TV replays showed the offence to be a yard inside the area rather than a yard outside.

Newcastle had already been far from alarm-free. In the first two minutes, O'Hara's curling free-kick eluded its intended targets and Krul, having to react late, saved brilliantly low to his right. Shortly afterwards the goalkeeper rushed towards the edge of the area to deny Doyle's attempt to lob him at close quarters after Steven Fletcher had headed on Wayne Hennessey's long kick. With Krul using his boot to save a Doyle shot that deflected off Steven Taylor, and Ryan Taylor producing an excellent block from Jarvis in the aftermath, it was apparent Newcastle had by far the more resilient of the defences.

Gutierrez might well have had another and Ba steered wide a good opportunity, but Wolves found another yard after a double substitution. Fletcher, remarkably, and the introduced Hammill were denied by Krul's double save. The home side knew it wasn't their day when O'Hara's goal-bound strike thundered against Steven Taylor. They did pull one back three minutes from time, Hammill crossing for Fletcher to head home his eighth goal in 12 League games.

Newcastle survived one lasttime when Doyle hit the post and then the net. Happy days on theGallowgate, but stiffer tests await.

Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward; Jarvis, Henry (Hammill, 58), O'Hara, Hunt Guedioura, 58); Doyle, Fletcher.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor; Obertan, Cabaye (Guthrie, 88), Tioté, Gutierrez; Best, Ba (Lovenkrands, 71).

Referee Mark Halsey.

Man of the match Krul (Newcastle)