Newcastle talking the talk - but work on the field still to be done

'It's about being calm, level-headed and believing in yourself. The way we have to think about this is would Fulham rather be in our position? They'd rather be us'
Newcastle talking the talk - but work on the field still to be done

Newcastle United's Isaac Hayden (right) and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Leander Dendoncker battle for the ball. Hayden remains confident despite his side lingering dangerously close to the bottom three. Picture: Owen Humphreys

Newcastle 1 (Lascelles 52) Wolves 1 (Neves 73)

Newcastle continue to talk a confident game but when it comes to their Premier League survival prospects, there remains a glaring gap between words and deeds.

Off the pitch, they maintain their almost trance-like mantra that Fulham's challenge to their top-flight status can be repelled. But it's an assuredness which looks misplaced when they are presented with an opportunity to put significant daylight between themselves and the London club.

This was another chaotic, seat of the pants ride from which they emerged with what could yet turn out to be a precious point, but which raised several more uncomfortable questions as to their ability to avoid a third relegation in their last 11 top-flight campaigns.

Add in concerning-looking injuries to Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron sustained in what was a fifth consecutive 1-1 draw between these sides, in addition to the absence of top scorer Callum Wilson, and Steve Bruce could well be without players who've contributed 16 of his side's 27 league goals for the majority of the run-in.

Cause for concern? Undoubtedly, certainly given the difficulty with which 17th-placed Newcastle seem able to keep clean sheets - just two in the last 18 games.

Martin Dubravka was restored to the side in place of Karl Darlow to help improve such a damning statistic, but he was at fault for Wolves' equaliser with an awkwardly rusty attempt to keep out Ruben Neves' header after Joe Willock inexplicably gave up in his efforts to track the Portuguese.

The Newcastle keeper was perhaps surprised, it being a first headed goal for his club from the midfielder. "It's something he should do more often," his manager Nuno Espirito Santo said after seeing his side's upturn in form stretch to a fifth game unbeaten.

Newcastle went ahead shortly after half-time when skipper Jamaal Lascelles gave a better impression of a forward than the woeful Joelinton ever will by heading home Ryan Fraser's cross, but it's now just two wins in 17 games in all competitions.

Isaac Hayden is one of the most level-headed footballers you could wish to meet, but the midfielder's take on the situation smacks of a dangerously false sense of security.

"The problem I have is that people go 'oh, there's no realism', but what do you want people to do? Do you want everyone to panic? Be like 'oh my god, we're in a relegation battle?' That's not going to solve anything," The 25-year-old said.

"It's about being calm, level-headed and believing in yourself. The way we have to think about this is would Fulham rather be in our position? Would they rather be chasing us or would they rather be us, with the gap? They'd rather be us.

NEWCASTLE (4-3-1-2): Dubravka 4; Krafth 6 (Ritchie 71, 6), Lascelles 8, Clark 7, Lewis 6: Willock 6, Hayden 7, Shelvey 7; Almiron 7 (Fraser 46, 7); Joelinton 4, Saint-Maximin 7 (Murphy 63, 5).

WOLVES (3-4-2-1): Patricio 7; Dendoncker 6, Coady 7, Saiss 7; Semedo 6 (Hoever 85, 5), Neves 8, Moutinho 7, Castro 6 (Ait-Nouri 90, 5); Neto 7, Traore 7; Jose 5 (Silva 83, 5).

Referee: Mike Dean.

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