Wolves 2 Middlesbrough 0

For most fans, a 2-0 victory over the Championship’s form side and a climb up the table to fourth brings about an inner sense of wellbeing and a good night’s sleep – rather than a handful of questions which kept them awake half the night.

Sako boro

I fear I might be in the minority in this case, whilst acknowledging what an encouraging performance the lads deserved great credit for last night.

McDonald gradually asserted his manful presence on proceedings, Ebanks-Landell performed admirably at the back and the Dicko / Sako pivot was a consistent source of menace.

But those questions kept on gnawing at me throughout the game, as I looked at our unquestionably successful manager who is way better placed to ignore them.

Why, for a start, is Tommy Rowe playing out of position as a left back, when we’ve suffered more than enough misery from Stephen Ward doing likewise for years (at the expense of the likes of George Friend funnily enough, who impressed for Middlesbrough last night)?

Rowe struck a chilling resemblance to the Irishman and looked every inch as uncomfortable, as ghosts of right-wing opponents past funneled through my eyeballs, in time for Halloween.

The sight of the tracksuit-clad Yannick Sagbo becomes more and more scary too, after both Dicko and Sako appeared to be in pain when substituted.

What, the Elephant’s Hat, was that signing all about?!

We now face the prospect of one, if not both of our talisman being out for the trip to Leeds, with either Leon Clarke or Sagbo – or even both – filling in.

Also, what became of George Saville, who must invoke similar levels of frustration for Jackett, on the early evidence so far this season?

Has Jack Price not looked far more effective in upping the tempo to the levels we’ve become accustomed to? We did look a wee bit laboured until the penalty was won.

Such questions can wait for the time being, as we eventually overcame ‘Boro with some degree of comfort come the final whistle.

The away team certainly had their moments, not least in the minutes after we scored the opener from a cheeky Sako dink after Dicko was upended in the box.

We did look brittle at the back, which is understandable after our collapse at The Den, but we grew into the game in the second half and looked way more compact when defending as a team, which is exactly what Jackett requested.

When Dicko scored a sublime solo second from a fine McDonald pass, it felt like that elusive winning feeling was finally being embraced. Maybe Hurricane Gonzalo blew away some cobwebs.

McDonald kissed the woodwork with a wonderful long range effort, while Dave Edwards missed the biggest headed sitter I can remember from all of three yards after a fine James Henry cross.

From here, we move on to Elland Road, just three points off the top of the table.

If I’m struggling to get to sleep later tonight, I shall bear this fact in mind!

The gaffer

Wolves Vs Middlesbrough Preview

It says everything you need to know about the Championship that Wolves are four games without a win but only three points outside the top two.

Boro

Watford and Derby are the latest duo to attempt a break from the pack, but the opportunity exists for any team who can put together a run of victories.

Middlesbrough are upwardly mobile, unbeaten in seven league matches and looking strong again after several seasons of mediocrity.

I always used to look at this fixture as a home banker (and it often has been in recent times) but their away form this season suggests a tougher challenge.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough_crest_oldAny manager that worked under Jose Mourinho for three years at Real Madrid must have learned a thing or two. In that sense Aitor Karanka always looked a shrewd appointment.

Some cash has also been splashed at the Riverside, chiefly on forward Kike who cost close to £3 million. With the likes of Lee Tomlin, Albert Adomah and Patrick Bamford knocking around too, they have good options in the attacking third.

However, it’s defensively where they’ve excelled so far, conceding just nine goals to boast the Championship’s best defensive record.

Kenny Jackett believes they’ll sit off Wolves tonight and look to break quickly. It will be interesting to see if that proves the case.

Wolves

In the same interview (video below) the gaffer suggests he made changes to Saturday’s defence to combat a perceived physical threat from Millwall. Personally, I hope he reverts to type for this one:

Wolves team for Boro

Stearman and Golbourne are the best players we have for their respective positions so must play. I was glad to see Ebanks-Landell given a chance in the center of defence, which is where I think his future lies, but Stearman brings much needed experience. I don’t need to make any argument for Golbourne.

Further forward, I would like to see Michael Jacobs given a start. Perhaps Dave Edwards engine could be deployed deeper to help out our struggling defence? Just an idea.

The gaffer

Predictions

Hard to believe nobody said 3-3 for a second consecutive away game isn’t it? Well done to everyone who picked up a point for correctly guessing the draw though.

Tonight will be about defences.

Can Wolves firm up again and rediscover the shape that has been so effective over the last 12 months? Equally, can Boro keep up their outstanding record?

I’m going to back us to just edge it.

2-1.

Up The Wolves

Millwall 3 Wolves 3

It’s difficult to know what’s more frustrating.

Batth Millwall

Hardly scoring but rarely conceding or watching the net bulge regularly at both ends of the pitch?

The former scenario certainly delivered a greater points return so Kenny Jackett might reevaluate priorities ahead of Middlesbrough’s visit on Tuesday night.

Wolves had this contest won without exiting first gear but swiftly entered reverse to allow Millwall back in.

Truth be told, the visitors barely merited the three goal lead they muddled into after a trio of set pieces were dispatched amongst questionable defending from the home side.

Danny Batth deserves plaudits for a smart hooked finish to open the scoring and with Bakary Sako and James Henry on the pitch, Wolves will always hurt opposition with good delivery, as proven by goals two and three.

However, individual and collective mistakes littered the defensive performance throughout, despite wholesale changes in personnel.

Questions were asked of Richard Stearman so it was no shock to see Ethan Ebanks-Landell handed a start alongside Danny Batth. But dropping Scott Golbourne for the supposedly versatile Tommy Rowe was a strange and unnecessary move.

Rowe hasn’t dazzled in any of the positions he’s occupied thus far and yesterday was his weakest showing yet. Far too many passes went astray and positionally the former Posh man struggled to cope when Millwall threw the kitchen sink.

He wasn’t the root of the problem though. Basic organisation and understanding along the line were obvious failings, which is always a risk when half of a settled back four is wiped out.

A strong showing from the skipper would have helped, but apart from his goal, Batth was unconvincing. It was far too easy for their forward to get the wrong side of the big defender for Millwall’s first goal, which ignited the fightback.

Further forward, the midfielders didn’t keep the ball anywhere near well enough. At three goals to the good, nobody, including the ever-reliable Kevin McDonald, managed to calm things down and slow the opposition’s tempo.

Rather than getting compact and seeing out the game, Wolves were content to go blow-for-blow, which played into the hands of a typical hell for leather Ian Holloway approach.

Ricardo Fuller profited with two classy finishes and after Lee Evans late surge towards goal was abruptly halted with a cynical lunge, two points had vanished in a puff of smoke.

Sloppy, avoidable but more than anything, frustrating.

Highlights

Millwall Vs Wolves Preview

The last international break interrupted a flying start to the season.

Holloway

This time, Wolves were more thankful for a breather.

Eight goals conceded and just two points accumulated from three bruising Championship encounters certainly wasn’t the return anyone hoped for.

Questionable defending and niggling injuries to key personnel is something we’ve not encountered under Kenny Jackett, so I’m sure the boss was appreciative of the respite to aid recovery and iron out glitches in the system.

That said, I thought we did more than enough to beat Wigan last time out, which would have put a much different slant on both our perceptions of the team and the table itself.

Millwall

Millwall_FC_logoTen points from their first four matches suggested Millwall could be this season’s surprise package under Ian Holloway. But consistency has since eluded them and the Lions haven’t won since August.

They have shutout both Derby and Forest to claim well earned points, but got turned over by Birmingham and Huddersfield in-between. Like most teams in this league then, they’re tough to quantify.

Some familiar names litter their squad, like journeyman striker Ricardo Fuller, heavyweight defender Danny Shittu and Wolves academy graduate Scott Malone.

It will be a feisty game at The Den, as they always are and the extra spice of Kenny Jackett returning to his former club is sure to give the contest an added edge.

Wolves

Bakary Sako has been clocking up the air miles playing for Mali so there’s every chance he won’t start this one. If not, someone has to step up to fill a considerable void.

Wolves team for Millwall

Michael Jacobs has barely had a kick this season, which is baffling when you consider the impact he made last term.

Kenny Jackett made a comment about the need to be physically strong in the Championship when referring to Jack Price and I wonder if Jacobs is being similarly singled out because of his slight stature?

Either way, if Sako doesn’t make it back, that would be my preferred XI with Lee Evans dropping back in at the expense of Tommy Rowe.

Predictions

As is the case with most draws, not many people picked up points after the Wigan game, but well done to the handful who did profit.

I’m going for an overdue away victory this time.

The Wolves setup should be well suited to getting results on the road and against a struggling Millwall side, this is a good opportunity to do just that.

2-1

Up The Wolves

Wolves 2 Wigan Athletic 2

There aren’t many things I disagree with our manager about but one recent comment peaked my interest.

Sako

It came after the Blackburn game when in his post match interview he suggested Jordan Rhodes was the best player in the Championship.

Apologies Mr Jackett, but I must respectfully disagree.

That accolade, based on everything I’ve witnessed so far belongs to Bakary Sako.

Yesterday only served to reinforce the belief after the eccentric winger once more pulled his side from the flames with a precision finish for a fifth league goal of the season.

And if ever a performance merited a goal, it was this one. Skilful, strong and inventive throughout, Sako was a consistent thorn in Wigan’s side. They simply couldn’t lay a glove on him.

It says a lot  for Dave Edwards then that it was he who took home the Man of the Match champagne for being brilliant in a very different way.

For every Sako step over there was lung bursting surge across the pitch from the Welshman to recover possession and keep Wolves in the ascendancy. Time and time again he harried, hassled and emerged the victor.

He got his goal too, planting another inch perfect header from a van La Parra cross into the top corner, reminiscent of his winner against Norwich on opening day.

A shrewd and timely move from Kenny Jackett to restore him to the side as the team was undeniably stronger for his energetic and committed presence.

Edwards Wigan

van La Parra, also recalled after a stint on the sidelines, brought balance and forward thrust to the opposite flank, helping stretch the game for the likes of Sako, Edwards and the impressive Dicko to thrive.

As an attacking force, the team did enough to win the game easily. The fact they didn’t owed to a mixture of sloppiness and misfortune.

Richard Stearman seemed to be taking the brunt of the blame for twice being out muscled by the considerable stature of Marc-Antoine Fortune.

The big Wigan striker occupied our defence superbly and the Latics were undeniably poorer after he was curiously given the hook.

But even after Stearman’s foul the team shouldn’t have allowed James Perch the freedom of the six yard box to head home an immediate riposte to Edwards’ opener.

Equally, I felt they were slow to cut out the cross that landed fortuitously for the appropriately named Fortune to thrash the visitors into a lead they scarcely deserved.

On the positive, it is sloppiness rather than a fundamental lack of quality that has cost Wolves defensively, not only yesterday, but in the two games that preceded this one. Sloppiness can be eradicated.

A stuttering start to the second half saw Wigan break menacingly and nearly kill the game, but after Sako’s moment of magic, it was the home side doing all the pushing.

Kenny Jackett himself said that both he and the team felt hard done by having not taken the three points after dominating long periods of what was an absorbing, back-and-forth contest.

That is something we can certainly agree on.

The gaffer

Wolves Vs Wigan Athletic Preview

With every defeat comes inevitable scrutiny.

Wigan

And while it’s correct to analyse and evaluate what went wrong, results have to be put into context.

Wolves hadn’t lost a league game at Molineux in 2014. It’s been repeated a thousand times already but it’s a fact that simply mustn’t go unrecognised.

Losing, particularly at home, has become a completely foreign concept under Kenny Jackett, which makes any reverse that bit harder to digest. As a consequence, the natives are easily made restless.

But it would be a grave error to throw the baby out with the bath water just because the team were out-manouvered by a physical, well-drilled Huddersfield side.

Wigan

1024px-Wigan_Athletic.svgThe Latics will almost certainly provide a very different challenge to the tactics we saw employed on Wednesday, but I’m sure Uwe Rosler will have gleaned useful insight from Chris Powell’s success.

Wigan remain a passing side and like Wolves, have largely enjoyed the majority of possession even though results have been going against them.

Individually, they have strength through the spine of the side, so it’s surprising to see them languishing in and around the relegation zone.

Looking at the numbers, they haven’t scored many (10) but haven’t conceded shed-loads either (12). That suggests that most of their games have been close, as was their stalemate with Forest in the week, but they’ve too often been edged out.

Wolves

It’s rare for me to look at a Kenny Jackett teamsheet and wonder what the thinking is behind his selection, but that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday.

Wolves team for Wigan

I presumed, perhaps falsely, that Sagbo was largely competition for Dicko or a strike partner if Wolves are chasing the game. Wedging him into the number 10 role didn’t look right to me and so it largely proved.

I’ll be surprised if Kenny doesn’t revert to a more tried and tested player for that position tomorrow, most likely Dave Edwards or Michael Jacobs.

If Evans and Doherty are both ruled out, Ricketts and Saville are the most able replacements in my opinion. I’m yet to be convinced by Tommy Rowe, albeit on limited evidence.

The gaffer

Predictions

A few people foresaw the banana skin on Wednesday so well done to them. The majority went pointless though having predicted another home win.

This will be tough game to try and rebuild momentum in. I have a slight concern that Kenny is still looking for the right blend with all the players he has it his disposal.

I don’t think he got that blend quite right against Huddersfield and how he continues to rotate the squad will continue to come under the microscope if results don’t go his way.

I still feel if Wolves play well at Molineux, they will overcome most at this level but going for a score draw tomorrow – 1-1.

Up The Wolves.