Wolves Vs Bristol Rovers Preview

I’m desperate for Wembley, so a home tie against the lowest ranked side left in the competition felt rather dreamy.

That is until someone pointed out that drawing Spurs away would have made the path considerably easier.

Oh well, if we can overcome Bristol Rovers we’re just three matches away from earning that trip to the home of football the old fashioned way.

But I’m not getting ahead of myself. The convincing win over Southampton hasn’t papered over the cracks of our less than convincing win over Yeovil.

Cautious optimism is the order of the day.

Bristol Rovers

Midtable in League One is as high as I can remember Rovers being for some time and they appear to have consolidated their status in the third tier after promotion a few years back.

They finished just 7 points outside the play-offs last season so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could be playing Championship football in the not too distant future.

Manager Darrell Clarke thinks the group of players should be pushing for promotion so there’s a certain level of expectation.

Striker Billy Bodin has scored for fun this season and was reportedly the subject of Championship interest in the final days of the transfer window. He’s one to look out for.

Fulham were dispatched 1-0 in the previous round, so Rovers already have form for upsetting the odds.

Wolves

A smaller squad and a handful of injuries could mean less changes to the starting XI, but then again I’d expect most of the second string to get some game time, which might mean a team something like:

The above is a touch disjointed so probably wide of the mark but you’d expect most of them to get on the pitch – either from the start or off the bench.

Helder Costa’s road to recovery has been a bit cloak and dagger of late, but he’s been training for a while so an appearance could be imminent. Hause is another that could make a long awaited return.

Dead certs to play must be Norris, Deslandes, Bennett, Price, Ronan and Enobakhare. Zyro, N’Diaye and Marshall could also do with some minutes.

Donovan Wilson will be keen to make an appearance against his former club and after coming off the bench to score against Southampton, you’d imagine he’ll feature at some stage.

Predictions

It’s a banana skin waiting to happen but we should have enough quality to get through, so hopefully we do it with a bit to spare for a change.

I’ll go for the trusty old 3-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Nottingham Forest 1 Wolves 2

Nuno’s time under the tutelage of the current Manchester United manager may have been brief, but it could prove telling come the end of the season.

This game bore all the hallmarks of a Josè Mourinho side, with titillating football hard to come by for much of the game but no less crucial when it did occur.

Diogo Jota will deservedly get the plaudits for his match winning brace, but in truth it was a characterful team display that earned us the three points.

Wolves struggled to impose their usual style of play against a Forest side that more than played their part in this fixture, and yet found a way to claim the spoils come full time.

Early days it may be, but that is promotion winning form.

After the madcap outing against Bristol City, this game stood out as a real test of our credentials.

Forest have improved greatly under the shrewd management of Mark Warburton and were unsurprisngly in no mood to play for a point.

This culminated in a poor first half in which both sides were limited to half chances, with neither keeper overly exerted.

That soon changed after half time, with Jota converting a sumptuous cross from the otherwise ineffective Ivan Cavaleiro.

Much has been made of John Ruddy’s culpability for the Forest equaliser which followed, but I’m of the mind to excuse a player that has otherwise been in imperious form for us this campaign.

Not many keepers would expect Mustapha Carayol to hit it from where he did, let alone anticipate it being on target.

The home supporters stirred and as was the case on Tuesday, one couldn’t help but get flashbacks to the previous two seasons in which Wolves would so often crumble under such resistance.

But this team is a different beast altogether, and Leo Bonatini (who also endured a quiet game) took one hell of a bump to tee up the effervescent Jota for the winner.

On current form, the diminutive inside forward is set to write himself into club folklore. I certainly can’t recall seeing a player of his calibre don old gold in my decade of following the club, Helder Costa included.

Given the influx of wildly talented foreign imports, you can forgive opposition supporters for anointing us as the most reviled team in the league.

But in my eyes, and most likely those of the similarly delirious away support yesterday, that makes our success all the more fun.

Long may it continue.

Nottingham Forest Vs Wolves Preview

The Bristol City assistant manager had an interesting view on Tuesday’s game.

Jamie McAllister said they went like-for-like against our system during the first half and that helped them get a foothold in the match.

I thought most of the game, particularly the second half, was wave after wave of Wolves attack with the visitors lucky to remain in touching distance.

At 2-2 I said it was the most unjust scoreline I’d seen for a long time, so you can imagine how I was feeling at 3-2.

Then again, as they hadn’t won at Molineux for nearly a century I just assumed there was some divine intervention evening things out.

With fate seemingly conspiring against us, I was happy with the point.

Notts Forest

I suspected Forest would have an upturn in fortunes this season. I’m not Mark Warburton’s biggest fan but I think he’s a good manager.

He did well at Brentford and Rangers so it was a decent coup for them to get him to the City Ground given their recent track record.

Losing Britt Assombalonga was a blow, but they’ve recruited well. Daryl Murphy isn’t a glamour signing but he’ll get the goals and has four already.

Winger Barrie McKay has followed Warburton down from Rangers and by all accounts is one of the bargains of the summer at £500k.

I don’t think they’ll be top six come May, but I also can’t see them being anywhere close to the bottom either. This feels like a building season.

Wolves

I thought Nuno was vindicated with his midweek changes as both N’Diaye and Cavaleiro played very well.

Saiss is unlucky to miss out if the coach sticks with the same XI, but it’s good to have that high level of competition.

I thought it was interesting that the Moroccan came on and played in the back three, which underlines the tactical flexibility Nuno has with several of his players.

I’d still prefer to see Boly in that back three, but you can’t argue with Batth’s performances. Miranda continues to make the odd mistake in and out of possession so he could come under threat.

With Helder Costa seemingly well on the road to recovery we’re pretty much just waiting to see him named in a matchday squad. He won us this fixture last season and would be great to see him again tomorrow.

Predictions

I’m going for another victory. We’re playing well and I think if we get near our maximum we’ll have more than enough to get it done against Forest.

Having seen us perform so consistently home and away so far, there’s no reason we should expect a dip in levels.

We’ve kept four cleansheets in seven matches and hoping for another tomorrow.

1-0.

Up The Wolves!

* Check out netbet.co.uk for all the latest betting odds and special offers. Back Wolves for the win today at 6/5.

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Wolves 3 Bristol City 3

While the passing and moving formula continues to look good on the eye, there is one potentially lethal equation at work to undermine it and consign this season to the dustbin before it has properly got started…

…Missed chances and cheating referees.

Yes, Wolves created enough chances to have won this match three times over, but that doesn’t then give referees carte blanche to give every big decision to the opposition for another week – the perpetrator of which will never be held accountable. And because referee Steve Martin’s unfathomable decisions won’t ever be deemed incompetent by his bosses, he can only be labelled a cheat.

Firstly, he gave Bristol City a penalty with the score at 2-1 when a cross hit Vinagre on the arm roughly 2yds from the boot of the winger. Not one appeal from their bench or supporters. Then, when Danny Batth was assaulted in the penalty area with the ball nowhere in sight minutes later, the same referee gleefully waved away the appeal.

Bad enough decisions in their own right, but even worse when the linesman was way better placed for the first one before the official then went all WWE referee on the crowd in theatrics. It was as if he genuinely enjoyed giving it.

I make that five shocking decisions given against us (1. Ludicrous Hull City penalty, 2. Cardiff City Damour elbow in Saiss face – yellow 3. Millwall Aiden O’Brien two footed lunge on Jota – yellow, and 4 & 5 last night) compared to precisely zero given in our favour. It’s not as if we want decisions in our favour anyway. We just want fairness, which we are clearly not getting.

If there is not a conspiracy behind the scenes then there’s an uncanny coincidence amongst the men we are ordered to respect, and the club needs to wise up and kick up as big a fuss as possible like most other clubs do, who no longer have to suffer it. So bad – and dare I say corrupt are the officials – that you no longer fear the worst before kick-off, but ruefully accept it as being par for the course as you make your way to your seat.

For all the millions being splashed by FOSUN, they should throw a bit more loose change at the Football League / FA and kick up a stink about these abhorrent decisions before we become a laughing stock amongst referees, if we’re not already which I suspect we are.

As the Secret Footballer states in his Access all Areas book, for the sake of a few quid, it is worth it in the league points you get in return.

‘Picture this: a few times a season the same disciplinary meeting room will be box office. An Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho will rock up, completely unrepentant. The referee was wrong, they’ll say, and furthermore he is a cheat and all you people are trying to cheat our club out of the rewards it works so hard for. Everybody will shake their heads and a £25,000 fine will be imposed.

Guess what? Best bargain ever. Nobody is going to jail. Nobody is getting points on their licence. You have just bought three points for £25,000.’

Jeff Shi, Laurie and co take note. After last night’s disgusting levels of officiating, something has to be done.

As for the game itself, Wolves were excellent. Their only crime was not bringing in a striker in the window, which no amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth can rectify any time soon. That and their slack defending off set pieces, where Cavaleiro was actually marking Aiden Flint at one corner at the South Bank end. That’s just not right.

Bonatini, who did score the opener, missed three gilt edged chances. It is a habit we can well do without, after similarly bad misses at Griffin Park and Pride Park, where he actually missed an open goal from 6 yards.

Jota also should have scored when a clever chest down from Bonatini was smashed against the bar. Cavaleiro was guilty, too, but atoned for a one-on-one miss with the corner that led to our second goal to go 2-1 up.

Sadly, referee Martin couldn’t level the scoreline quickly enough afterwards with that penalty decision which barely a Bristol City player or supporter appealed for. In cricketing terms, it was an LBW review that was pitching outside leg.

Then our suspect defending at set plays threatened to seal the most unjust result since…Referee Scott Duncan and Cardiff City rolled into town on the same team coach.

Thankfully, Danny Batth rescued a point with a set play goal of our own and the spoils were shared.

Overall, we played brilliantly, with Cavaleiro enjoying what had to be his best game in a Wolves shirt, while Doherty and N’Diaye were terrific. Jota was typically impressive as well.

But it can only be seen as two points dropped amid such circumstances, with hard work still needed on the Compton pitches to eradicate such basic errors at both ends of the pitch.

Away from there, Jeff Shi and Laurie Dalrymple need to make a beeline to St George’s Park, Soho Square or wherever the bosses of these spineless referees reside and take one for the team.

For the sake of a relative pittance, it would be the best money ever spent.

Wolves Vs Bristol City Preview

Nuno made two good points in his post match analysis on Saturday.

Firstly, when Millwall started to show more attacking intent, we should have done better at exposing the gaps they left at the back.

We picked through Derby at will when they came after us a few weeks ago but seemed much slower to transfer the ball forward at the weekend.

His second point was that when they went down to 10 men they were less inclined to get forward, which ultimately made it tougher to find those spaces.

I’d agree with this. They remained very compact and sat deep after the sending off. Still, we should have asked more questions and found a way to kill the game.

Bristol City

Looking through their results so far, it’s been a solid enough start for Lee Johnson’s team.

A late winner at Reading on Saturday (a notable scalp) moved them just outside the play-off places and like Wolves, they’ve only lost once in their 6 games to date.

In addition they upset Watford in the League Cup and enjoyed the ‘perfect’ transfer window according to the manager, so shouldn’t be underestimated.

Big money was spent on striker Famara Diedhiou and he looks a handful. Equally, academy graduate Bobby Reid has started the season well and with 5 goals already is another to watch.

Defender Aden Flint seemed destined to leave with lots of Championship interest in the tall center back, but he remains and got the winner at the Madejski. He’s dangerous from set pieces and scored at Molineux last season.

I believe I’m correct in saying City haven’t won away at Wolves since 1931 so there’s no arguing they’re due.

Wolves

It was a shock to see Ben Marshall inserted straight back into the side with Bright Enobakhare and Ivan Cavaleiro overlooked.

That’s a real show of faith from the coach for a player who didn’t feature in pre-season and I thought Marshall looked zippy enough in his hour.

Maybe it was part of Nuno’s master plan to rotate both Cav and Bright into the team for this one?

I seem to be in the minority who think Bonatini is doing a decent job up front, but we do need to test alternative ideas.

It’s a big ask to play Bright up front on his own, but he’s got the strength to hold the ball and bring others into play so why not?

Predictions

I don’t think, albeit on limited knowledge, that Bristol City have enough in their squad or team to trouble the top six.

It’s easy to be proven wrong in this division of course and they’ve yet to face any of the early pacesetters so this is a good benchmark for them.

For us, we’ve got to be looking for another victory to keep up with what look like very good Cardiff and Leeds teams. I think we’ll get it.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 1 Millwall 0

First things first – what a goal.

I’ve been frequenting the North Bank for well over two decades and let me tell you, we don’t get many of those.

The tenacity to emerge with the ball, the control, the pace and then the zero backlift finish were all sublime.

Diogo Jota’s outstanding effort will be the only thing this game is remembered for in a week and that’s no bad thing.

Today though, we’re left reflecting on a narrow one nil that could easily have slipped through our grasp had it not been for the steady hands of John Ruddy.

You wouldn’t have begrudged Millwall a late equaliser either after they’d spent most of the game chasing shadows, while Wolves ping ponged the ball around the pitch.

But despite enjoying over two thirds of the possession and controlling large swathes of the contest, Nuno’s boys never really hammered home their superiority.

Once Jota had struck, it was obvious any second goal in the remaining 80 minutes would have been more than enough to put the visitors to bed.

The fact they didn’t meant that even with an extra player it was always heading for a tense finale when Millwall began lobbing it forward.

It would be easy to repeat the standard ‘we need a striker’ line here, but I’m not convinced if you inserted a Jordan Rhodes or a Nelson Oliviera into that team today it would have made a difference.

Bonatini looked sharp, did a lot of good things and came as close as anyone, other than Jota, to finding the net with a fine first half strike.

I felt when we got the ball in the final third, there wasn’t enough urgency or incision to break through their back four.

Millwall were happy to drop very deep and that invited our midfielders to get forward to shoot from just outside the box.

Saiss and Neves both had several pot shots, which on another day could have been more profitable.

But too often players were content to turn back and slow the attack down, when taking a few more risks may have opened a few more doors.

These are details of course.

Wolves are doing well. The system is clear. The players are good. We shouldn’t grumble.

Bring on Bristol City.