QPR 1 Wolves 2

I’m inclined to call this a victory for the old and the new.

 
The goals symbolic of the performance.

Firstly, great interplay between Iorfa and Doherty allowed that man Edwards to profit as the old guard kicked down the door.

Then a sumptuous cross field pass from Saiss released Costa and the Portuguese man did the rest with a dazzling dribble and finish.

This was how it was supposed to be wasn’t it? The marriage of Championship grit to continental flair.

OK, it was against 10 men and we nearly contrived to throw it away in the final minutes, but at last – something to feel good about.

It was ridiculous QPR even had a sniff given that Wolves squandered several golden opportunities to make it three, four or five before a late scramble caused predictable panic.

Thankfully we didn’t pay for that wastefulness and now have the invaluable building block of a first win in ten matches to begin reconstructing the season.

Paul Lambert obviously saw the same game we all did at the weekend and acted accordingly with wholesale changes to the team.

It’s safe to say Ikeme, Batth, Saiss, Cavaleiro and Dicko brought greater balance to the team than the five who made way.

Ikeme was quick off his line several times in contrast to Lonergan at the weekend. Lets hope the injury isn’t serious.

Batth was solid and dependable, making one fine block in the first half from a goal bound effort that may have altered the course of the game.

Saiss provided a much needed calm head and eye for a pass, particularly after the break when Wolves were struggling to find a rhythm.

The Moroccan’s ball for Costa’s goal was exactly what the team lacked in central areas against Sheffield Wednesday.

Cavaleiro submitted another hit and miss contribution but brought much needed trickery and adventure down the left.

Even in his most frustrating moments, our record signing offers glimpses of the player he could become with a pinch more confidence and a sustained starting berth.

With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson struggling for form, Nouha Dicko was handed a start and looked sharper than he has for a good while.

Much like Cavaleiro, his mere presence is enough to make defenders back off a yard for fear of being caught out by raw pace.

Bodvarsson was dangerous after his introduction but couldn’t find the finish to match the ridiculously good turn that got him a clear run on goal.

Whether it’s the Icelander, Dicko or someone else, getting our strikers scoring goals will likely be the difference between a relegation scrap and upward mobility.

We certainly can’t rely on Costa and Edwards to continually produce the goods.

But that’s for another day. In the immediate can just savour the bonus of a victory for the old and the new at a time when any victory would do.

QPR Vs Wolves Preview

‘Streetwise’ was the buzzword for Paul Lambert after the Sheffield Wednesday debacle.

We do need to be more streetwise but I think there are far more fundamental issues the head coach must address, some of which were of his own making on Saturday.

In simple terms, the team was unbalanced. Saville on left, Coady and Edwards in the middle – it was too cautious, too safe, too much about destruction and not enough about playing football to be effective.

With the game already lost at the interval his changes were equally perplexing; Connor Coady ending up on the right side of midfield for example.

There are two or three players who must come back into contention, but most important of all is a team selection that offers enough going in both directions.

QPR

512px-Queensparkrangersfclogo.svgJimmy Floyd Hasselbaink survived being embroiled in the corruption sting a few months back but floating around in midtable was deemed unacceptable.

One QPR supporter I heard speaking about his departure wasn’t unhappy to see the Dutchman go, saying the football was tedious at best. Seems to be familiar theme.

Tedious isn’t a word you can use to describe Ian Holloway or the teams he manages, so one imagines more exciting times lay ahead.

The encouraging debut win over Norwich was followed by a 3-0 thumping at Ipswich last weekend so the rollercoaster is already well and truly in motion.

It’s three wins, three draws and three defeats from their home games thus far, with 14 goals conceded (only Rotherham and Barnsley have shipped more) so Loftus Road far from a fortress.

As well as Karl Henry they have two forwards Wolves were heavily linked to last season in Conor Washington and Idrissa Sylla. In another twist, QPR came close to signing Bodvarsson in the summer before Wolves upped the anti and won that particular race.

Wolves

There’s a generally accepted idea that last season’s players are reliable and will run around, whereas the new crop don’t put in the hard yards but are more technically blessed.

team-for-qpr

But I disagree that it has to be one group or the other. There needs to be a mix. The above eleven (with the exception of Stearman) is the team that won our last two matches against Newcastle and Brentford. Predominantly new players.

Equally, the other two wins we’ve managed against Reading and Blues came with Walter Zenga using last season’s squad with the addition of Bodvarsson. But that team was more balanced than Saturday with the likes of Mason and Wallace heavily involved.

And that’s what it comes back to – balance. We’ve got to get a mixture of qualities into the team rather than just setting up camp to be difficult to breakdown and hoping for the best.

For me, Hause and Iorfa are making far too many clumsy mistakes in and out of possession to be considered. Saville and Coady should also be replaced for more forward thinking alternatives.

Ikeme should also be back in goal without question. Lonergan was slow off his line in the build up to the second goal and although he’s capable of making some fine blocks, Ikeme is the more reliable all round performer.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Tough to foresee anything other than defeat after the misery of the weekend. My fear is that the defeat sends Lambert deeper into his shell in terms of team selection.

He’s talked about taking risks, going for it and playing on the front foot, which is all great. But you’ve got to have the footballers on the pitch who can do the damage. We didn’t have that Saturday.

I think QPR are very hit and miss, so hopefully we can at least capitalise on a few of their frailties while trying to disguise our own.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2

Claiming to have witnessed the worst Wolves performance in 30 years loses its meaning after a while, after saying it so often in recent times.

But that was, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst Wolves performance I have ever witnessed in 30 years.

On a day we celebrated Bully and Thommo’s magical milestone before kick-off, their modern day contemporaries blackened the shirts they wore with such pride.

Never mind ‘new manager syndrome’ for Paul Lambert. This was dead cat bounce of bottom-three proportions, doing absolutely nothing constructive other than cement our two heroes’ legacy further.

In this instance, Lambert brought it on himself by playing Conor Coady, George Saville and Dave Edwards in the same midfield. Not so much a recipe for disaster, but a lethal concoction to earn any head coach the sack before the ink has even dried on his contract.

It’s bad enough having one of your midfielders locked into your ‘worst ever Wolves XI’ side. It’s absolutely terrifying that there’s another one there alongside him, with deferential Dave Edwards shuffling between opponents with all the impact of a junior waiter between the Toby Carvery tables.

‘Everything ok for you sir?’ he’d politely enquire, after the ball has been zipped from whence he’d came.

We got relegated with Edwards as a mainstay four years ago and if Lambert plays that midfield for a single game ever again, then we’ll be heading the same way.

Back in 2012/13, the prospect of the drop didn’t dawn until February time. This season, that rotting stench is there already – and we haven’t even reached December yet.

Back then, we had Bakary Sako, Karl Henry, Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Foley in our squad. This time around, we are caught between two stools:

1. Play the proven dross that got Jackett and Zenga the sack

2. Play the batch of waifs and strays who are probably no better

My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that option 2 cannot be any worse than 1. And I never want to see the likes of Coady, Saville and Edwards in the same midfield ever again.

On this latest performance, we need eight new first team players (unless Saiss, Oniangue and one or two others can convert into first team material).

Only Kortney Hause, Price and Costa looked anything like respectable against Wednesday, while Stearman also gets a modicum of sympathy for being largely fine, but still unable to eradicate the one howler-per-game that always ends up in the back of our net.

Bodvarsson looks spent – and starved of any service – Doherty looks half arsed, while Iorfa appears to be unable to control his own faculties, let alone the ball to feet. His shocking loss of form is arguably the most depressing sight of all.

The one paced plodders ahead of them speak for themselves and frankly, they’re not fit to lace the boots of Phil Robinson, Nigel Vaughan and Keith Downing back in the day.

It’s not like we’re hankering after those Old Gold heroes anymore – never mind dear Bully and Thommo.

So passionless, leaderless and rudderless is this side that I’d settle for Nigel Quashie.

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Wolves Vs Sheffield Wednesday Preview

Walter Zenga often talked about his desire to see a full house at Molineux.

Ironic then that his successor will (almost) achieve that aspiration in his first home game in charge.

OK, it’s more to do with half price tickets and tremendous visiting support than an insatiable appetite cultivated by last weekend’s pulsating draw with Preston, but all the same it’ll be nice to see a big crowd.

27,000 plus are expected and after a solid if unspectacular start at Deepdale, we’re all hoping Paul Lambert can extract more from the group.

He himself said we need to take more risks as a team, so it will be interesting to see if that’s reflected in the starting lineup.

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield_Wednesday.svgTwo defeats and a draw at Fulham last time out have seen the Owls slip from their par position in the play-offs down to ninth.

There have been murmurs of discontent amongst the Hillsborough faithful as a consequence, which I suppose is understandable.

They couldn’t have come much closer to promotion last time out, losing the play-off final to Hull and further investment in the team over the summer meant expectations of a top two push didn’t feel unrealistic.

Carlos Carvalhal said this week he expected more from the new signings, as it hasn’t real clicked for the likes of Almen Abdi, Adam Reach or ex-Wolves pair David Jones and Steven Fletcher.

But that’s the risk you take when you add lots of new players to an already well-established team. Perhaps  there’s been too much change too soon?

Already 10 points off second placed Brighton and with Newcastle rapidly disappearing over the horizon, the play-offs look like a best case scenario.

Wolves

With Danny Batth suspended and Dave Edwards returning from his ban, Paul Lambert has some decisions to make.

team-for-sheff-wed

I think on recent form Edwards has to play, not least because he frequently seems to be the only one capable of getting on the end of crosses.

Price’s steady presence is always welcome and I think the combative Coady give us the necessary running to allow the likes of Costa and Cavaleiro to thrive.

Cav should start and do exactly what he’s done in his last two appearances, which is to say, make half a yard and deliver. If both he and Costa could do that consistently, they’d take some stopping.

Bodvarsson is labouring, but again a chronic lack of service has been an issue. You could start Dicko, but he himself isn’t up to speed.

A straight Stearman for Batth swap seems the smartest and easiest choice, but moving Iorfa central and playing Silvio or Borthwick-Jackson down the left is another avenue.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

I’ll be brave a go all out for the win. I’m expecting Sheffield Wednesday to be the better team for periods, but hopefully the lads can tough it out and do more in the final third.

The Owls have only scored 18 goals, which is the lowest of any of the teams in the top 11 of the table and one less than Wolves.

And given that they’ve only conceded one fewer than us, there’s no reason to feel we should get swept aside.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Preston North End 0 Wolves 0

“We have a threat going forward but we have to be stronger at the back than we have in the last few months. So I decided to come here and be strong.”

“The whole team has been too wide open, the game was too wide and you can’t defend like that – no slight on Walter Zenga.”

Probably a touch difficult to not see that as a criticism of his predecessor, but I’m inclined to agree with Paul Lambert’s assessment.

The team has been too open. They haven’t got close enough to the opposition and that’s been reflected in the goals that have been conceded lately.

A cleansheet and a respectable point isn’t too shabby a debut, even if the attacking performance left much to be desired.

There were few surprises in defence with familiar personnel in a familiar setup and after our first successful shutout since the middle of September we shouldn’t grumble.

That said, the same frailties and individual errors surfaced at crucial moments, which could easily have taken the game away.

Dominic Iorfa was lucky to escape punishment after a clumsy challenge in the box and Kortney Hause’s slip (albeit in an otherwise strong showing) in the final minute sent their striker through on goal.

Focus and decision making are two key attributes for any defender at any level and unfortunately these are the precise areas our promising young stoppers have repeatedly been found lacking at the crucial moments this term.

I can’t help but feel the team would benefit from Richard Stearman’s experience in attempting to navigate this difficult period. He must be close to a start.

Many point to a ‘one big mistake every few games’ track record, but his colleagues are averaging one a game so that argument goes flying out the window.

Further forward, Lambert did raise eyebrows by bringing in Jack Price and George Saville who’ve seldom featured in recent times, as well as a shock start for Bright Enobakhare.

Two of those changes were in line with the head coach’s ‘lock it down’ game plan but the inclusion of Enobokhare was the major statement of intent.

If the young striker can suddenly jump the queue, it’s a reminder that nobody’s position is safe and there’s opportunity for all.

Not much went for Bright in a tight, congested contest and it was only in the final knockings when Dicko, Cavaleiro and Wallace entered the fray that Wolves began to threaten.

Cavaleiro produced the two best crosses of the afternoon for Wolves, both for Dicko and both unfortunately squandered.

Still, there will be an expectancy for those forward thinking players to start next Saturday in Lambert’s Molineux curtain raiser.

He alluded to the fact that the team needs to be setup differently to play at home, so I would expect at least some of those changes to happen.

It’s a scrappy, low key start. But maybe a few months of ‘low key’ is exactly what we need?

Preston North End Vs Wolves Preview

It was a real treat to be invited down to Compton Park last week to sit with Paul Lambert.

The new head coach gave us two hours of his time, answered every question we could throw at him and even returned fired with a few of his own.

He spoke passionately about his time spent shadowing some of the world’s best managers at the world’s biggest clubs and the lessons he’d learned.

In particular, how to manage an entire club. Not just the team, but the whole infrastructure. I like that big picture thinking and his early actions already center on creating a strong, united front.

As others have commented he looks refreshed, energised and full of ideas. But as he himself admitted, we need results quickly.

Preston

pne_fcSimon Grayson’s men had a terrible start to the season, but six wins in their last ten matches have elevated them up to eleventh.

That run includes wins over Norwich, Huddersfield and Aston Villa so it certainly isn’t a case of favourable fixtures.

I look at Preston and think ‘Steady Eddy’. That’s reflected in their 22 goals scored, 20 conceded record. There’s never much in their matches.

They got spanked 5-0 at Brentford but other than that all of their games have been tightly contested.

Their talisman Joe Garner left for Rangers in the summer, but Jordan Hugill has stepped up to fill the gap. He has 5 league goals so far.

Former Villa striker Callum Robinson and perennial thorn in our side Jermaine Beckford are two others to watch.

Wolves

Paul Lambert did offer two contrasting views that made me wonder how he’ll go about setting up his team.

team-for-preston

On the one hand he talked about ‘going for it’ and playing on the front foot. But equally he was keen to stress we need to be compact and tough to beat.

Dave Edwards is suspended so that opens the door for someone like Jack Price to fill the void. Plenty of people in the meeting were vocal about the fact he should be in the team.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see two up front and the experienced head of Richard Stearman brought in at the back either.

I should state this is a total guess loosely based on a few thoughts from Lambert about how he likes his teams to play. Little was said about specific individuals as you might expect.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Obviously we’re hoping for that ‘new manager bounce’, which we got to a degree with Walter Zenga.

I fully expect a Paul Lambert team in the short term to reflect the sort of eleven we saw in those early season wins.

That will probably disappoint a lot of people, but whoever plays and however they play, we need to get some points on the board.

A workmanlike draw would be a decent start tomorrow.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

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