It is said that it’s easier to retain momentum than regain it – and Newcastle may be learning that now.
A run of six wins and two draws in eight took the Magpies from the relegation zone to what appeared near-certain safety but they’ve now lost three in a row, with the manner of their latest defeat rather worrying.
Work to do
A 5-1 hammering at Tottenham on Sunday saw their previously tight defence torn apart and may have opened some notable wounds.
Perhaps the mentality among the squad was that the job had been done thanks to their remarkable turnaround of form but boss Eddie Howe will have spent time this week stressing there is still work to do.
While Newcastle remain clear of the drop zone, the gap is back down to seven points with 18th-placed Burnley having a game in hand.
To be fair, their three successive losses have all come on their travels and they will doubtless be happy to be back at St James’ Park, a ground where they’ve won their last three.
Momentum with Wolves
However, none of the visiting sides involved in those matches can match Wolves’ quality – two of them, Brighton and Everton, were (and still are) falling like a stone, while Aston Villa were also in something of a funk when they arrived in the North East.
For all Newcastle’s improvements, the fact is they have the league’s fourth-worst attack and fourth-worst defence – statistically at least – and now they must face a side with the precious commodity of which I’ve spoken, momentum.
Last weekend’s derby win over Aston Villa made it three wins from their last four for Wolves with the odd one out being very odd indeed – Wolves dominated Leeds, led 2-0 before going down to 10 men and collapsing to a 3-2 defeat.
Again, you can pick holes in terms of the opposition – Everton and Watford were the other beaten sides – but even so, a glance at the league table shows you that Wolves have clearly been a better team than Newcastle.
That sit eighth and, importantly at this stage of the season, still have plenty to play for with European qualification very much a possibility.
Even if you make the argument that Newcastle are a completely different outfit since the transfer window opened, it doesn’t wash in terms of a comparison with Wolves.
Since the turn of the year, Newcastle have won 19 points; Wolves 24. Wanderers’ eight wins have included victories at Spurs and Manchester United and across the campaign as a whole they have the fourth-best away record in the league.
Value with visitors
To me, they look too big here at 3.65 in the match-result market with Newcastle a potential lay at 2.3811/8.
Yes, the visitors will be without Raul Jimenez (suspended) and Ruben Neves (injured) but that was also the case against Villa when the former’s stand-in, Fabio Silva, earned plenty of praise from his manager.
Key to recent results has been defensive solidity, something which has been helped by the recent return to action of Jonny and Willy Boly.
They should again prove hard to beat and it’s notable that Wolves have not lost away to any of the sides currently in the bottom half of the table. They are also unbeaten in their last five visits to this ground.
With Newcastle having only won four of 14 at home, 2.546/4 about Wolves in the draw-no-bet market looks a solid play.
I wouldn’t put people off the 3.65 available about the away win but I’ll opt for the safety net of DNB.
Goal glut unlikely
In terms of goals, under 2.5 is unsurprisingly pretty short – 1.654/6 – given only 20% of Wolves’ away games have seen three or more goals scored.
In total, their 31 league matches this season have produced only 60 goals – the lowest total in the league.
The unders look a strong Bet Builder leg but it’s two other plays I’m going to combine for my other wager on this game.
Shoot for profit
Both come from the Sportsbook’s player shot markets.
Newcastle’s 6ft 6in defender Dan Burn is a huge threat at set-pieces and has managed 1+ shot in six of his eight games for his new club, while he also landed it in six of his last eight for Brighton.
For the visitors, the aforementioned Jonny (pictured) should get forward plenty in his wing-back role – he certainly did in the most recent away game at Everton.
The Portuguese has managed a shot four of his last five appearances and heads into this one with the confidence gained from having scored in his last two. As a result, one suspects he’ll be happy to try his luck again.
Throw the two together and you get a price of 2.6613/8 which I’ll happily add to the betslip.
Newcastle are winless in five home league games against Wolves (D3 L2) since a 4-1 victory in the Premier League in April 2011.