Wolves 2 Charlton 1

Early season victories rarely feel this important.

Le Fondre

But our spirited fight back against a well organised Charlton side was crucial after consecutive league defeats and the goings on behind the scenes.

And whilst it’s unlikely to evaporate the discontent felt by most supporters about the imminent loss of Richard Stearman, it was nice to see signs of life after our feeble outing at Cardiff.

James Henry had one of his better games on the left side of midfield while Kortney Hause and Ethan Ebanks-Landell also looked pleasingly dependable at the heart of defence, offering hope for the immediate future.

Nouha Dicko’s injury is a major setback and it’s worrying to think of a Wolves team deprived of his services. Few centre forwards can stretch a backline as well as our number nine can and it’s crucial that Kenny Jackett is allowed to re-enter the transfer market to cover for what looks like a lengthy absence.

Carl Ikeme’s early season woes continued as he came unstuck by a relatively straightforward attempt by Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The big man’s kicking was also dire and the psychological impact of his demotion to the bench is beginning to look worryingly obvious.

Performance wise, we can have few complaints. But any feelgood factor brought about by this victory is tempered by the baffling news of Richard Stearman’s sale to Fulham.

For a club that allegedly has ambitions to return to the Premier League, it seems strange to sell your reigning player of the season to a side to a rival.

Kenny Jackett may describe this as a ‘footballing decision’ but it’s becoming more and more apparent that Steve Morgan’s influence at Molineux stretches well beyond the boardroom.

The club’s insistence that they won’t sell Benik Afobe is now beginning to look uncreditable. If they’re willing to take £2 million for one of the best defenders in the division, can we really trust them to turn their noses up at a big money offer for one of its best strikers?

After the futile assurances that we would spend big to replace Bakary Sako, Morgan and Moxey are at real risk of undoing the good work of the last two years and transforming us into a team whose tendency is to look down the league table rather than up it.

The next three days are crucial and I’ll be crossing my fingers for better news, albeit more in hope than expectation.

The gaffer

Wolves Vs Charlton Athletic Preview

Kenny Jackett’s Molineux win ratio must be as good as any manager we’ve ever had.

Chalrton one

Unlike so many previous incumbents, he actually gets the crowd on side from the off by playing high tempo, attacking football.

I worried the loss of Bakary Sako would take the wind out of our home performances, but despite patchy results, we’ve come out of the blocks quickly against both Hull and QPR.

Where we seem to have fallen short is making the most of the chances we create and being overly generous at the back.

If we can cut out the silly errors, soft penalty concessions and horrific goalkeeping errors, I still think we can beat anybody.

Charlton

Charlton logoThe Addicks had a tough start on paper, so to be sitting third in the table, undefeated and with a couple of wins up their sleeve suggests good things are happening at the Valley.

When they came to Molineux last season, in Guy Luzon’s first game in charge, they were solid at the back and dangerous on the break in a competitive nil nil. It was a good Championship performance.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise then that they’ve progressed and could very well be that surprise package who slip under the radar in the early months.

Like most foreign managers, Luzon has filled his team with an assortment of European talent making Charlton a real unknown quantity. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve got to offer on Saturday.

Wolves

Here’s a brain teaser for you. How many players could you definitively say would be guaranteed to start for Wolves tomorrow?

Wolves team for Charlton

After last Saturday’s indifferent display and the more encouraging midweek performance, Kenny has selection dilemmas all over the pitch.

Will Ikeme retain the number one slot despite costing us a goal at Cardiff? Did the likes of Doherty and Price do enough to warrant a recall? What about up front? Is Le Fondre now in contention for a start?

Good luck working all that lot out. The above XI is one of probably two dozen or so permutations given all the players the head coach has at his disposal. He needs to establish his best team sooner rather than later.

The gaffer

Predictions

I have no idea what will play out tomorrow. I said Charlton are an unknown quantity and that’s kind of how I feel about Wolves right now.

There are a good players all over the pitch, but it was concerning how easily we were nullified against Cardiff and then exploited defensively.

My gut instinct is the team will put on a significantly better performance and hopefully that will deliver the result we so desperately need ahead of the international break.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Barnet 1

When a League Cup performance is as fizzy and crisp as this one at Molineux, it’s a shame the sponsors are no longer Carling…

Wolves Barnet

…Admission was roughly the same price as a cheap round of beer and the experience was way more palatable, just when we we’d become parched for a positive to get stuck into.

Forget the scoreline, (and the opposition for that matter).

This really was a pleasant performance from a youthful looking side against Barnet, which should have yielded five or six goals minimum on another night.

It certainly went some way in washing away that bitter, gassy aftertaste of the Cardiff defeat, which can only be a good thing.

The system looked more like a 4-2-3-1 with Adam Le Fondre up top and Bright Enobokhare in behind.

Sheyi Ojo and Jed Wallace occupied the other advanced positions with Jack Price and George Saville anchoring.

At the back, the positively gargantuan four of Ebanks-Landell, Hause, Deslandes and Doherty were rarely troubled, with the full backs offering the requisite levels of mobility to befit a Kenny Jackett side.

Ojo, a clear man-of-the-match contender, offered more in these 90 minutes than we’ve seen before, while Deslandes looked at home at left back, if not lacking in composure here and there.

In short, it was a raw performance, full of young raw players with a heck of a lot going for them.

Bright Enobakhare was a shining example of this, scoring a well worked opener following a defensive lapse and showing positional maturity in a number 10 role, with one or two bustling runs at full throttle.

It was a performance that underlined the ‘DNA’ of a typical Wolves player these days and boy weren’t we a big, physical unit with no shortage of ability on the ball!

But for some ice cool instinct and this could have been a landslide.

Which brings us back to the bigger picture and the need for some experience who these lads can really learn from.

Throw in this missing ingredient and we really would be salivating.

Five things we learned from this game:

1. There has to be a place for Jack Price in our first team.

The lad oozes class and composure on the ball and we must find a way to accommodate him in that holding role. He was excellent and we know he brings the best out of McDonald. He outshone George Saville, who was neat and tidy enough.

2. We still need a target man.

Ok, so this might seem churlish to say when we could have won by 5 or 6 and Le Fondre did pretty well, but when there is such pace and mobility buzzing around the final third, a big man to be their focal point seems a no brainer. Le Fondre did ok up top, but there’s still little to suggest he’s any different to what we have. The possibilities are endless with a proven Plan B.

3. Don’t expect too much from Jed Wallace.

It was a competent showing from the ex-Pompey man but I saw little to suggest he’ll be challenging for the first team any time soon. It’s his first game back so a long way to go for him, but that explosive pace and power was to be seen elsewhere.

4. Sheyi Ojo is some prospect

On this performance, you’d have to say he is above van la Parra in the pecking order of wingmen, if not James Henry.

As Andy Gray said about Bully way back when: ‘He’s got rough edges! (But I like rough edges!)

He will infuriate at times but he will occupy defenders and give them some real headaches on this showing. Add in Dicko and Afobe to the mix and we really have the potential to hurt teams.

5. Experience needed!

For all of our impressive build-up play and explosive attacks, we were still hanging on a wee bit at the end and should never have been defending a one goal lead at that point. It was crazy.

So here’s a thought…

…Get on the phone to Tony Pulis for Lescott and while you’re at it, have a word with Tim Sherwood for Libor Kozak (who Villa don’t want!).

We’d get an instant fix of grizzled wherewithal to replace a lingering sense of naivety.

Wolves Vs Barnet Preview

I was there in 1998.

Barnet

2-1 down from the first leg (back when the League Cup was considered important enough to constitute two matches per round), Wolves smashed Barnet to dust inside a half empty Molineux to progress.

Bully netted his 18th (and final) hat-trick for the club and Robbie Keane executed one of the most audacious finishes you’ll ever see.

I actually put a bet on Wolves to win 5-0, but sadly it was only £1 and the odds were only 20/1. Still, not a bad earner.

After seeing us toil in Wales at the weekend and only narrowly progress past Newport, I’d happily accept a much narrower victory this time.

Barnet

530px-Barnet_FC.svgThe Bees have endured a worse start than Wolves and currently sit 21st in League Two with just three points from their opening four matches.

However, after promotion from the conference last season, survival is probably an acceptable achievement.

They beat Millwall in extra time to progress beyond the first round and will be sniffing a bigger upset this time.

One familiar name from their teamsheet is Graham Stack, who had two loan spells at Wolves, but barely ever featured for the first team.

Martin Allen, now in his fourth spell as Barnet manager will have fond Molineux memories.

His Gillingham side were thrashed 4-0 in League One two years back and his luminous red trousers prompted chants of ‘Are you Santa in disguise?’ from the South Bank.

Wolves

That was a train wreck of a performance in Cardiff. Kenny said it was an even game and while I agree there wasn’t a lot in it prior to their first goal, he’ll know we should be doing a lot better.

Wolves Barnet

There are noises about major changes to the side tonight, so who knows what sort of XI we’ll see given the personnel at Kenny’s disposal?

If the above team came to fruition that would be nine changes from the side that kicked off against Cardiff.

That doesn’t even include the likes of Tommy Rowe, Jordan Graham or young striker Bright Enobakhare who might also figure.

Personally I’d like to see more of the first team retained, regardless of recent stumbles. I want us to win and progress. Losing with a few decent individual displays isn’t my cup of cocoa.

The gaffer

Predictions

Much like Newport, you’d hope that changes to the team don’t mean we come unstuck against lower league opposition.

But more ins and outs are predicted tonight and we barely scraped through in the last round despite playing the likes of Afobe, Dicko and Coady.

I do fear an upset but hope Kenny picks a sensible side that can get the job done.

I’ll go for a narrow win – 2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Cardiff City 2 Wolves 0

What’s Callum Wilson, Scott Dann, Bakary Sako, Chris Wood and even Sammy Ameobi got in common?

Wolves Cardiff

They all glistened for their respective clubs yesterday and could have been playing for Wolves – not to mention £12.5 million man Nathaniel Clyne – but for a refusal to meet their wage demands. Allegedly.

As it is, our inferior imitation of last season’s side suffers a second successive defeat to signal the arrival of some choppy waters, following two years of joyously serene progress.

If it wasn’t so self-inflicted it wouldn’t be so damned annoying.

With a year to replace Bakary Sako and a summer to find an experienced centre-half, we turn a blind eye and hope for the best.

In the excruciating world of Wolves, faint hope supersedes hard cash with a cyclical strategy along the lines of the following:

Don’t spend on wages. Play young kids. Hope they do well. Hope we go up. Sell best player if we fail. Stick with the kids. Hope they do well. Hope we go up. Sell best player if we fail. Don’t spend on wages. Stick with young kids, repeat ad nauseam.

When a League One squad player, in the shade of Michael Jacobs for much of 2013/14, is playing in a number 10 role behind Afobe, then you know you’ve got problems.

And for the first time in an otherwise glorious tenure under Jackett, some of them have been brought about by himself.

Whilst impossible to quantify, the unflappable Ikeme might not have made that gaffe for Cardiff’s opener had he not have been treated so shoddily beforehand.

The footballing gods, awoken from a two year slumber, acknowledged the tomfoolery by setting the stage for Kenwyn Jones’ opener like only they know how.

Like Guedioura’s thunderbolt for Forest and Mark Davies’ equaliser at the South Bank under Solbakken, they rarely ever forget.

Dropping Golbourne and Dicko was also puzzling in the extreme.

So we cling to faint hope as our route to salvation.

We hope Hause, Iorfa, Ojo and Ebanks-Landell will play like seasoned pros.

We hope Dave Edwards will magically morph into a devilish number 10.

We then hope that Sammy Ameobi won’t score past us having tried to bring him to Wolverhampton, knowing full well what would eventually happen. Those pesky footballing gods again.

As we languish in 17th place in this embryonic league, the Charlton game now assumes meaty proportions, however early the season might be.

In the absence of hard cash to strengthen this side, I can only hope for a win.

The gaffer

Cardiff City Vs Wolves Preview

The first home defeat of the season always smarts.

Cardiff

Of course being 2-0 up and contriving to lose from such a dominant position didn’t make it any easier to digest.

But the game was always wide open and both teams were threatening goals throughout.

Had Martinez shown stronger hands or the chances we created been more ruthlessly dispatched, it might still have been our night.

There are frailties in this Wolves side, but there’s still much to feel positive about heading to Wales.

Cardiff

800px-Cardiff_City_Crest_2015Last season must have been depressing for Cardiff fans who had high hopes of an immediate top flight return.

It wasn’t Wolves Solbakken/Saunders bad, but they were a long way off being contenders.

This time under Russell Slade they start with a significantly lower profile, which may prove a benefit.

Three draws doesn’t scream strong start, but to come through undefeated from tough away assignments at Blackburn and QPR is no easy task.

There are a lot of experienced heads in their side as well as young talent like striker Joe Mason who Wolves were heavily linked with over the summer.

Wolves

All eyes will be on Kenny Jackett’s team selection this weekend after the midweek setback, but I don’t think we’ll see significant change.

Wolves team for Cardiff

On reflection, it was QPR’s third goal Emiliano Martinez should be disappointed with conceding. It was straight at him, unlike the equaliser, which also came through bodies.

I agree with the overwhelming majority who think Ikeme should regain his place, but the above XI is the team I think will be picked.

Hause has averaged a costly mistake every game so Ebanks-Landell is surely worth a punt? And I think freshening up the midfield might not be a bad idea. van La Parra did some good things after coming on Wednesday.

The gaffer

Predictions

Three games in and I haven’t got a single prediction anywhere close to right, so feel free to skip over this section folks.

Would most people agree that a draw is probably the most likely outcome?

Either way, I’m hedging my bets. I always back us to score, but we’re very open and there’s uncertainty at the back.

1-1

Up The Wolves!