BAD luck, bad planning or bad management? Apportioning blame for Newcastle United’s escalating injury crisis is not an easy task, but until it is adequately addressed, any talk of meaningful progress will have to be shelved. At the minute, simply getting 11 players onto the pitch is something of an achievement.

The Magpies travelled to Molineux on Saturday morning with nine injury absentees, and left with another three walking wounded added to the treatment list. Dwight Gayle, making just his second start of the season, suffered what appeared to be a recurrence of the hamstring problem that has been plaguing him for the last few weeks. Paul Dummett, sidelined since before Christmas, suffered his second hamstring problem in the last month, but this time it was his other leg that was affected. Joelinton hobbled through the second half despite having injured his groin and will not be risked in tomorrow’s FA Cup replay against Rochdale.

Steve Bruce regards the current injury crisis as “easily the worst” of his 22-year managerial career, which inevitably begs the question of why it is become so chronic. As some supporters have been quick to point out on social media, this wasn’t happening last season under Rafael Benitez, with the Spaniard having boasted of how few of his players were succumbing to muscular problems.

Yet as Bruce was at pains to stress in the wake of Saturday’s setbacks, the fundamentals of Newcastle’s medical set-up have not changed since Benitez departed. The staff are the same, the way they monitor the squad’s fitness levels is the same, the way they treat injuries has not altered and the rehabilitation programmes they adopt have also remained unchanged. Benitez repeatedly bemoaned a lack of investment in the physical infrastructure at the training ground – Newcastle continue to be haunted by a picture of a paddling pool outside one of the main doors at their Benton base which hardly smacks of supreme professionalism when compared to the cryotherapy units that have become commonplace at other clubs– but the facilities were not contributing to a glut of injuries last season.

Is Bruce rushing his injured players back too quickly? That charge appeared to have some merit when Allan Saint-Maximin’s hamstrings gave way at Tottenham at the start of the season, but it is hard to legislate for Dummett’s muscles on his uninjured leg giving way. Gayle has suffered a succession of issues this season, but Bruce has tried to be patient with him over the last few weeks. At some stage, you have to throw him in and see what happens, yet as he reflects on his decisions over the past few matches, perhaps the Newcastle boss will eventually concede he has taken a few too many risks.

He could probably claim some were enforced, but that is what happens when you sign players with a track record of suffering injuries. Start the season with Gayle and Andy Carroll as two of your four strikers, and it is hardly a surprise when they are missing for long periods and you are unable to give someone like Joelinton a rest.

Bruce has tried to pin much of the blame on the festive fixture list, but as an excuse, that does not really wash. All clubs have a busy Christmas, and given his vast experience, Bruce should have known what was coming. True, the more absentees you have, the more you have to ask of the players that are available, but Newcastle’s squad is at its 25-man limit, so the players are there.

“Look, I’ve got exactly the same medical staff as last year and the year before that,” said Bruce. “Nothing has changed. The training we do is monitored. I’ve been going a long, long time and I’ve never had anything quite like this. We are all about recovery and preparation, that’s what the game is now, sports science. We’ve got frigging more sports scientists than you know what to do with I will have an in-depth look at it, of course, but I genuinely believe it is playing people tired.”

“You talk about players being in the ‘red zone’, but listen, they’re all in the red zone now. If I measured the two Longstaffs today and (Miguel) Almiron, they’ve ran a million miles. I can guarantee you that, so to ask them to go again on Tuesday is the same thing, you run the risk.

“That’s why we do a rotation but I’ve got no choice. I can’t rotate. We did it slightly against Man United, I left out Isaac (Hayden) and (Jonjo) Shelvey in the midfield areas, but then Shelvey got injured at home the next game. The numbers we’ve got is the concern.”

With that in mind, Bruce would have been satisfied with Saturday’s result, which came courtesy of the kind of spirited, resilient display that has become Newcastle’s trademark in the last few seasons.

Leading through Almiron’s third goal in the last six matches – the South American, who was bright, energetic and effective throughout, curled home a superb first-time finish after Gayle laid the ball into his path – perhaps the Magpies would have been a different proposition had they been able to keep their starting line-up on the field.

As it was, Gayle departed shortly before the half-hour mark, and Joelinton was soon needing treatment on the groin problem that severely restricted his mobility in the second half. The Brazilian was unable to make any kind of impact in the final third, but having been criticised for a lack of application in the FA Cup game at Rochdale, it is only fair to praise his willingness to continue playing when he could easily have thrown in the towel and forced Bruce to make his third and final change before the break.

Wolves had already equalised by the time Gayle hobbled off – Leander Dendoncker lost Federico Fernandez in the penalty area and was left with the simple task of volleying home Joao Moutinho’s corner – but while the hosts dominated possession for most of the game, Newcastle defended resolutely and restricted them to a handful of chances.

Jetro Willems just about kept tabs on the dangerous Adama Traore, the Longstaff brothers beavered away diligently at the heart of midfield and Florian Lejeune made a decent fist of containing Raul Jimenez, who has established himself as one of the most dangerous forwards in the Premier League.

True, Martin Dubravka had to make two excellent saves to keep the scores level – his first, a point-blank stop with his leg from Jimenez’s header, was a remarkable effort, while his second, a scrambled stop from Pedro Neto’s header, was almost as good – but given the obstacles they had to overcome, the Magpies more than merited their point.

“You thank your goalkeeper because he’s made two great saves, but with the problems we’ve got, I think they deserved that,” said Bruce. “They’ve run a million miles and the resilience was there for everybody to see. We lacked that bit of quality at the top end of the pitch again, but I couldn’t fault their effort and endeavour.

“We scored a great goal, a really top-class goal. But unfortunately after that, we didn’t really carry the threat we had at the start of the game. We lost Dwight and Jo is basically lame, but he carried on. He should have come off but we couldn’t really make the substitution because of what happened the week before and the threat of going down to ten men.”