Reading Vs Wolves Preview

At least Kenny Jackett saw the same performance we all did on Tuesday.

James Henry Wolves

Which is to say, awful.

Some of the comments in his pre-match interview (video below) are worth a listen.

In a typically statesmanlike manner, he alludes to the fact that it’s not easy to keep the wagon rolling, given the players sold or lost to injury.

There have certainly been times this season when I’ve felt he hasn’t picked his best team or given us the maximum chance of winning. I’d include Tuesday in that too.

But equally, I think overall he’s done as well as he could have done with the increasingly limited talent he has at his disposal.

Reading

200px-Reading_FC.svg I swapped a few thoughts with my old mucka Dan from The Tilehurst End blog this week, so here’s the Reading perspective:

Since meeting on Boxing Day, precious little has changed for Reading. Sure Nick Blackman’s gone for close to £4 million and is now showing Derby fans why for 2 1/2 years Reading fans thought him useless but style and substance wise it’s as you were.

Yann Kermorgant has also pitched up to replace Orlando Sa so that’s an upgrade but it’s still a team hoping that Matej Vydra comes good to win us games and while he’s done that with six FA Cup goals in three games, we’re yet to see him explode into life on the Championship stage.

While we’ve not won away from home since September, at the Madejski we’re pretty hard to beat and have won 4 of 6 home games since Brian McDermott returned.

Every one of his eight fixtures home or away have been settled by a single goal or less and I can see that pattern repeating itself on Saturday.

Still, I think we’ll have enough in the tank to squeak out a win so I’ll go for a 1-0 Reading win.

Wolves

This would be my team tomorrow based on what’s currently available:

Team for Reading

Although Kenny said we played 442 against Bolton, it never really felt that way to me. Joe Mason wandered around in the spaces Dave Edwards would normally occupy and Sigurdarson was often isolated.

With Tommy Rowe the only outlet down the left, we were then heavily reliant on RvLP to create from the opposite flank and after a good performance at QPR he failed to reproduce.

James Henry must play, if only for the reason he’s our top goalscorer (7) and on his day – a match winner. Much like RvLP he can be a wildcard but right now he feels integral.

I also don’t feel Siggy is quite sharp enough yet to carry the burden of leading the line. Le Fondre hasn’t impressed me but maybe we should give him a run of four or five games to see if he can produce the form he’s shown for pretty much every other club he’s played for?

The gaffer

Predictions

Not feeling overly confident about our immediate prospects, so think this one will be a defeat.

As Dan says, they’ve been solid at the Mad Stad this season and I think they’ve got the players to hurt us.

We’re a better team away from Molineux though and if we can play with the drive and tenacity we showed in the second half at Loftus Road, we won’t make it easy.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Bolton Wanderers 2

If the intent was to banish the anger surrounding the club’s transfer failings, things couldn’t have gone much worse.

Bolton celebrate

Squandering a two goal lead and being dominated at home by the league’s bottom club certainly wasn’t the plan as Jez Moxey prepares to lick the envelopes on those ever less enticing Early Birds.

An attacking trio of Rowe, Sigurdarson and van La Parra almost felt like a dirty protest from the head coach, serving to underline a crippling lack of resources and the rapid deterioration of a once talented squad.

Sure it was nice to see Joe Mason emerge from the pocket to stroke home a debut goal, but our marquee January signing was almost totally anonymous from there on out.

He can hardly shoulder the blame though.

How can a number 10 expect to thrive when the players around him are only interested in hit and hope?

We used to play the ball out from the back, looking to thread it between lines or failing that out wide to a player with the pace and skill to make something happen.

Last night was ‘shut your eyes and hope for the best’. Lash it forward and make Siggy run.

It was only thanks to overly generous Bolton defending and a fine solo goal from James Henry that Wolves somehow worked themselves into a winning position.

Quite how they managed to surrender it against a team who, for all their dominance, looked incapable of testing Carl Ikeme, is really anyone’s guess.

Yet somehow it felt right.

To have emerged victorious would have been a tonic, but contradictory to the almost unanimous sense of displeasure surrounding the events of January.

This was a more fitting climax to another episode of misery in what’s already been a season of continual disappointment.

Scratching around for positives, it seems likely there will be loan additions, Kenny Jackett can certainly select a better eleven and we’re mercifully a safe distance from relegation peril (for the moment).

But less than six months after the club defiantly stated the goal was to improve on last season, we’re all left wondering how they got things so completely and utterly wrong?

Wolves Vs Bolton Wanderers Preview

I really wanted to wait until Tuesday morning to write this blog.

Bolton Wolves

Only then will we know precisely what Wolves have and haven’t done in the transfer window.

But with my own deadlines to meet, I can only comment on a dreary Sunday evening about what’s been a disappointing January.

And as much as I want to be measured and patient in my assessment of new recruits, right now it feels like the squad is regressing.

We’ve lost shed loads of pace and devilment through departures and injury and done nothing to address the issue.

It’s the same old Wolves really – lots of investment in potential and stars of the future, but little to enthuse about the here and now.

Bolton

bolton logoThe Trotters haven’t won a single away game in the Championship all season, losing 11 and drawing 3 of their 14 matches to date.

But then again, they hadn’t beaten anyone until Wolves rocked up at the Macron back in September and they secured a routine 2-1 victory.

It then took them another three months to win again, when Blackburn finally saved us from being an embarrassing name check in their miserable season.

Financial woes, a fire sale and the threat of liquidation hasn’t stopped Neil Lennon keeping them in touch with safety though and they come into this game with a chance to further reduce the arrears.

They’ve still got some useful players knocking about too, several of which have been linked with Wolves this month, and have very little to lose in their current situation.

Wolves

With Edwards, Zyro and new signing Mike Williamson beefing up Tony Daley’s treatment room, Kenny Jackett will be happy to at least have Joe Mason fit and raring to go.

Wolves team for Bolton

There’s an immediate slot for our new striker/number 10 to occupy with Dave Edwards out for the foreseeable so no reason he won’t get his Molineux debut.

Funnily enough, Mason and Le Fondre know each other well from their time together at Bolton (and Cardiff) where both enjoyed successful loan spells.

If the remaining 10 are good to go, I can’t see the manager making too many changes. They were impressive in the second half at Loftus Road, showing there’s still an appetite to compete and the ability to do so.

Predictions

Surely we’re not going to get doubled by a team who’ve only won two other league matches? They’ve long been a bogey team but that would take it to a whole new level.

I might sound all doom and gloom, but I really liked what I saw against QPR. Coady and McDonald are getting better the longer the season goes on and if van La Parra keeps hitting the heights, we’ve always got a chance.

Instinctively, I reckon this might be a draw but to counter balance my negative outlook, I’ll back us to secure the maximum.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

* Our very own StuWolf is joining Sky TV’s presenter Jeff Stelling on his “Men United’s Walk” for Prostrate Cancer on 26th March 2016 and I encourage you to support him in his efforts. You can learn more and sponsor Stuart on his JustGiving page here.

QPR 1 Wolves 1

In many ways, Rajiv Van La Parra is the ideal emblem for our current side – undoubtedly talented but perennially inconsistent.

Woves celebrate QPR

Today the occasionally flying Dutchman enjoyed one of his better days in a gold and black shirt.

A constant menace to a laboured Paul Konchesky, he gave the team a focal point that allowed them to grow in confidence after a disastrous start to proceedings at Loftus Road.

Danny Batth’s needless foul gave the home side a chance to put our defence under pressure. It was an opportunity that the gargantuan Sebastian Polter accepted gleefully, heading crisply past a helpless Carl Ikeme.

That set the tone for a first half that highlighted our dearth of resources, with our main tactic comprising of aimless long balls to a vertically challenged striker.

To be fair to Adam Le Fondre, he was only asked to play the fruitless lone striker role that Benik Afobe occupied before his recent departure.

Speaking of Afobe, unsurprising to see that we’ve yet to reinvest any of the healthy profit we made from his sale. One can’t help but wonder if that would have been the case if we were still flirting with relegation?

Given the way that the club has been run since our brief foray into League One, it seems fair to assume there’s no intention to spend now that safety has been all but assured.

In some respects, a transfer market splurge during the financially imprudent month of January could be considered ill advised.

The squad is crying out for reinforcements – of that there can be no doubt – but we’re unlikely to land our top targets (whoever they may be) at a time when most teams still have something left to play for.

If waiting until the summer means seeing some quality additions being made to our already promising side, then I’m all for it.

But the realist in me says that the only place the Afobe money’s going is into another admirable but ultimately ill advised real estate project such as the recently opened The Way.

Considering there hasn’t been a whiff of interest from prospective buyers of the club, that’s a sobering outlook for the immediate future.

Still, best to concentrate on the positives and our second half performance certainly fits that description.

Other than a late scare, we controlled the game against much more experienced opposition and would have won comfortably were it not for the stellar defending of Grant Hall and Nedum Onuoha.

A crumb of comfort to cling on to until we reconvene against the league’s bottom club, who’ve already beaten us once this season.

Here’s hoping we’ll be cheering at least one new signing onto the pitch by then – let’s not hold our breath though.

QPR Vs Wolves Preview

I really don’t want to labour the point, but I still don’t get why Benik Afobe was allowed to leave so early in the transfer window.

QPR Wolves

Even if the intention was always to sell, surely the club should have stalled him until they’d circled in on a viable replacement?

Because they didn’t, the last fortnight has felt like take two of the infamous post-McCarthy managerial debacle.

And with every passing day you fear the end result will be another Terry Connor – an also-ran from the squad hailed as the answer to all our problems.

Even Dave Edwards reckons we’re lucky to be 10th with the players we’ve got and that says everything about the club’s rapidly deteriorating ambitions.

QPR

512px-Queensparkrangersfclogo.svgQPR sold Charlie Austin last weekend and less than three days later had wrapped up a deal for reported Wolves target Conor Washington as his replacement.

We all know QPR haven’t been the most responsibly governed club in recent years, but on this occasion they appear to have employed a much smarter game plan.

They enter this contest three points and five places behind Wolves, but buoyed by their first victory under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink last Saturday and the arrival of their new striker.

Loftus Road has hardly been a fortress this season, with only four home victories so far, but they have only lost twice there in 13 games.

They’ll need Washington to produce the goods as without Charlie Austin’s goals, they’ve often looked shy at the business end of the pitch.

Karl Henry remains a regular in the Hoops starting lineup and he’ll be hoping to make it a league double over his old team.

Wolves

With Michal Zyro ruled out, Kenny Jackett will have to decide between Adam Le Fondre and Bjorn Sigurdarson. There’s also the gaping hole left by Jordan Graham’s season ending injury to resolve.

Wolves team for QPR

Although Siggy might be consider the more like-for-like replacement, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Le Fondre given the nod, possibly with van La Parra dropping back to fill Jordan Graham’s position.

James Henry would then be the logical selection on the opposite flank but Nathan Byrne might also enter the manager’s thinking. He’s yet to be given a sustained run out.

Personally, I’d like to see Wolves being more compact and difficult to breakdown again on Saturday. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think if we go there more open, as we did against Cardiff and Fulham, it will suit the home side better.

The gaffer

Predictions

If I was feeling dead pessimistic, I’d go for a 2-0 defeat with a debut Washington strike and a late 30 yard scorcher from Karl, but surely life isn’t quite that cruel?

I do think we’ll lose though, just taking everything into equation.

I’ll go for 2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Cardiff City 3

At the very point James Henry flashed a ball across the face of the South Bank goal without a striker on the pitch to tap home, I thought back to one Kenny Jackett comment at the Fans’ Parliament the other month.

Wolves Cardiff

‘You’re only as good as your centre-forwards.’

At the very moment an open goal was presented on a dinner plate at a critical phase of our Cardiff defeat, you wondered what our head coach was thinking.

His team, cobbled together with two wingers as a front two, bereft of a single centre forward with that innate inclination to position himself where the ball might eventually arrive.

As it was, the chance went begging, the score stayed at 1-3 and we remain a team pretty much proportionate to Kenny’s repetitive message at the Fans’ Parliament meeting.

With Steve Morgan making a token appearance, presumably out of morbid fascination, he could at least see where we’re coming up short for himself, with a poacher of a Gary Hooper ilk more than sufficient to propel this team up the league.

If Morgan even cares enough to offer up some cash, he’ll probably tuck it back in the treasure chest for the summer anyway, once he saw Jordan Graham substituted with a knee injury, signalling the end of any slim play-off chance at the very moment a stretcher appeared.

Probably best to revert back to type, tootle back off to Carden Park and take another squint at it all through the gaps in his fingers when he absolutely has to, rather like me and my bank statements.

It’s not that Wolves didn’t play well on Saturday, or offer encouragement to the fans, as we were pretty impressive, particularly during the first half.

We just served to underline what we’ve known for the entire duration of the season…

…We’re two or three players away.

Three incredible Cardiff strikes put paid to any hopes of a result in a grim flashback to our days in the Prem, where ruthless finishing underlined our own lack of quality.

Craig Noone’s two goals were things of sheer beauty (as good as I’ve seen in years), while their third was another long range fizzer into the bottom corner, the strikes of which we just can’t live with. Few teams can, in fairness.

Unlike the Bluebirds, we made poor decisions in the final third, electing to pass when we should have shot (McDonald), shooting instead of passing (RVLP and Coady) or fluffing our lines when presented with glorious chances (Ebanks Landell first half, RVLP in the second).

As such, we won’t go up, nor will we go down.

When we’ve sold Stearman and Afobe, lost Sako and suffered an injury to Dicko – with a negligible sum spent to offset these losses – we surely knew what was coming…

…I’m pretty sure Kenny Jackett did when James Henry fizzed that ball across an empty goal.