It was as well as they have played in the 19 months Bruce has been manager and if there had been fans inside the stadium they would have roared their approval and St James’ Park would have throbbed with noisy encouragement. There have not been many times you can say that this season – and the noise directed at Bruce would not have been complimentary for several months – but this was a night the black and white hordes were certainly missed.
Instead, Wolves somehow held on as the shouts of praise and appreciation from the Newcastle bench echoed and bounced around the empty glass and steel stadium. But the hosts, as they had done losing at home to Crystal Palace and Leeds, did not take the chances they created.
Isaac Hayden missed the first after just five minutes, a free header from eight yards out, from Joe Willock’s cross. He had either side of the goal to put his header towards but instead directed straight at Rui Patricio. Next came an even better opportunity for Miguel Almiron. Sent in on goal by a lovely floated pass over the top by Jonjo Shelvey, the Paraguay international had been played onside by Nelson Semedo.
The angle was fairly tight but he only had the goalkeeper to beat, which he did, but the shot came back off the far post.
Wolves were being overrun, even allowing right back Emil Krafth, yet to score for Newcastle, forcing a save. Joelinton, who has rarely scored either despite costing £40 million and playing as a striker, also kept Patricio busy with a sharp turn and shot.
But the best chance of them all fell to Willock, set up at the end of a dancing, bobbing weaving dribble into the area by Allan Saint-Maximin, he should have scored, but again put the effort too close to the goalkeeper, who got a hand to it. The loose ball came out to Saint-Maximin but he was in an offside position before tapping home.
Wolves were better after that and a header from Adama Traore was kept out by the recalled Martin Dubravka before the winger pulled a ball back for Pedro Neto but his first time shot went wide.
The warning signs were there for the hosts.