Wolves 2 Cambridge United 1

It was no great revelation that a side containing no fewer than eight midfielders produced an uneven performance.

Costa Wolves

Walter Zenga’s maverick team selections are fast becoming a feature of the season, but thankfully, so is winning.

Chances were created, squandered and freely gifted as the manager’s experimental lineup just about carried Wolves into round three.

Credit Cambridge for showing great spirit, particularly from two down to make a real fist of things. They’ll feel with a bit more luck, they could have extended the tie.

Makeshift forward Helder Costa was the major plus point, scoring and assisting goals as well as winning the second half penalty that should have put the tie to bed.

We saw glimpses of ability in a short cameo against Ipswich, but this was his first real opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and he did just that, showcasing the pace and skill we all hoped he possessed.

Jed Wallace carried on where he left off against Birmingham, also scoring and assisting in another useful display. He probably should have found the net again at least once more, but can still feel pleased about his night’s work.

Anyone wandering down to Molineux hoping to see debuts for Ola John and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson will have left disappointed as neither featured despite the latter making it onto the bench.

Already you sense Zenga wants to feel his players understand precisely what they must do before they’re thrust into the action.

Prince Oniangue was given a soft launch at St Andrew’s on Saturday and a first start in this one, but struggled to sustain a promising start and soon faded. His mere physical presence alone in the middle of the park provides reassurance though.

Several of the old guard disappointed with James Henry, Dominic Iorfa and Kortney Hause all looking off their game.

Henry struggled to put things together and fluffed his chance to get on the scoresheet with a meek penalty, whereas Hause and Iorfa were less than convincing as a center half pairing.

With yet another new midfielder sitting in the stands last night, we still need that experienced head at the back to supplement the potential of those promising young defenders.

Similarly, there were no like-for-like replacements for Bodvarsson or Mason, hence the makeshift attack.

But in stark contrast to recent years, I fully expect those issues to be addressed before the end of August.

Onwards and upwards.

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Wolves Vs Cambridge United Preview

With the arrival of Ola John and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, that’s now eight summer additions through the door for Wolves and counting.

The challenge for Walter Zenga is making sure the new bodies are more help than hindrance.

For instance, we’ve been successful thus far by adopting a narrower shape and foregoing an out-and-out winger, so where does John fit in?

Matt Doherty continues to be a revelation at left-back, so do we really want to disrupt that progress by allowing Borthwick-Johnson to walk straight in?

These are the decisions that could define our season as greater strength in depth develops.

Cambridge

Cambridge_United_FC.svgAll I know about Cambridge is that they’re currently bottom of the football league after drawing 2-2 with Carlisle at the weekend and Shaun Derry is their manager.

Last season they finished a respectable 9th, just a handful of points shy of the play-offs so will be disappointed at such a sluggish start.

I’d like to offer greater insight but it’s been tough to find forums or media with anything of interest.

One obvious note of caution is that they dumped out Sheffield Wednesday in the last round, winning 2-1 after extra time with two very well taken goals.

But that was on their home patch against a much-changed Owls team. To come to Molineux and emerge victorious would be a much greater scalp.

Wolves

We know Walter Zenga is a fan of rotation as he said it himself after Saturday’s victory. Tomorrow will likely see at least five or six changes again and possibly even more with several Molineux debuts.

Team for Cambridge

That’s a complete guess at the starting XI based on those who didn’t feature at Birmingham and those who we don’t have replacements for.

Up front is where we’re lacking options and I hope to see at least one addition to further swell the ranks, with the hope Nouha Dicko will also be fit and firing after the international break.

We’ve been linked with Jordan Rhodes again today after seeing a big money bid knocked back for Derby striker Chris Martin a few weeks back. Either of those players would be great signings in my opinion and put a marker down about our immediate ambitions.

Predictions

Hard to foresee anything other than a comfortable home victory in this one. Even with a much changed team full of players who barely know each other, there should be a significant deficit in quality.

We normally find a way to concede but I’ll back us to score a few – 4-1.

That’s an unusually adventurous prediction for me but such is the feelgood factor right now, why not?

Up The Wolves!

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Birmingham City 1 Wolves 3

Last Christmas a family member bought me the autobiography of noted psychopath Roy Keane.

It was a predictably colourful read covering the final moments of a fiery playing career and latterly, his transition into management.

After a bumpy start in his first coaching job at Sunderland, Keane scouted Coventry striker Stern John. He noted how every ball forward to the Trinidad and Tobago man stuck and allowed his team mates to move up the pitch.

John made the move to the Stadium of Light in January and immediately established himself as a vital cog in the machine. Sunderland lifted the Championship title in May.

In case you’re wondering, I’m labouring towards a point about the Jon Dadi Bodvarsson effect.

We should all be giddy because Wolves finally have a forward who can make it stick and in this competition that’s massive.

Stand it up high, fire it in low, lump it down the channel – all service gratefully received.

Today the Icelander was the sole representative of the new blood, surrounded by players who last season showed themselves to be toothless.

But with a ruthlessly effective target man to feed off, the likes of Mason, Wallace and Coady were transformed at St Andrew’s.

Mason in particular is loving life and his stunning finish to draw Wolves level just after half time was one of many impressive contributions.

Busy would be a good adjective to describe Mason who can infuriate by wasting the many useful positions he occupies, but with the goals starting to flow he could be the season’s bonus ball.

Jed Wallace has had a stop-start Molineux career up to now and today was the first time he’d caught my eye, often turning sharply, demonstrating a useful turn of pace and getting shots away. With time and confidence you sense he could reach much greater heights.

Utility man Conor Coady was back in his preferred position and swarming all over the Blues midfield as he did so effectively in the same fixture last season.

He too had a powerful drive turned away by Tomasz Kuszczak in a good first half showing from Wolves in which they were unlucky to find themselves trailing.

Birmingham were direct throughout. It was all crosses and long diagonals up to Clayton Donaldson, but Che Adams always looked a threat and his crisp finish was exactly what the away side had been lacking.

Walter Zenga will have been frustrated that such incisive approach play and effective counter attacking from his side wasn’t rewarded with a goal.

He needn’t have worried though, as Mason’s bullet, Batth’s close range follow-up and Bodvarsson’s thumping third more than made up for that first half indecision.

In his post match press conference the manager spoke of his desire to bring in forwards and defenders to balance the squad and for sure, both would come in handy.

At the back, Hause is still struggling to marry consistency with obvious talent and an experienced head would be a welcome addition. Luisao anyone?

Up top, the sledgehammer Bodvarsson and the reborn Mason could soon be joined by Nouha Dicko, but further competition for places is a must.

With some hard graft off the pitch before the end of Augst to accompany the relentless spirit being displayed on it – this could be a season we really make it stick.

Birmingham City Vs Wolves Preview

As much as we’ve all derided last season’s squad, they’ve now gone seven games undefeated in all competitions dating back to April.

Most of those performances have been agricultural at best, but the results have been solid.

That’s given Walter Zenga a platform to build from, but as we saw on Tuesday it’s painfully clear where additions need to be made.

Creatively we’re lacking, even with the occasional razzmatazz of Teixiera and Costa.

There’s been a lot of speculation but we’re rapidly approaching the final week of the transfer window and I expect things to hot up before the end of August.

Birmingham

356px-Birmingham_City_FC_logo.svgI thought Blues played above themselves for most of last season and that’s sure to have raised expectations at St Andrew’s about what could be achieved this time.

They’ve consistently added to their squad – even last week recruiting Che Adams from Sheffield United and fellow striker Greg Stewart from Dundee – so there’s clearly renewed ambition.

I got this from Blues fan Rob from Vital Birmingham City:

Blues haven’t had a bad start to the season – as five points from a possible nine suggests. But we do have a knack of shooting ourselves in the foot, as we did at Wigan. We need to learn to control games more rather than sitting off and letting the opposition attack us. 

Wolves are an unpredictable side. Walter Zenga seems to be winning the fans over and will carry on doing so if the results are positive. But like any club in the Championship, getting that consistent run of results is easier said than done. 

As we approach the first West Midlands derby of the season at St. Andrew’s, I’d like to see Blues take the game by the scruff of the neck and really have a good go at them. But I’m going to go for a 1-1 draw.  

Here’s Gary Rowett’s pre-match press conference:

Wolves

The big question is whether Walter Zenga will thrust Prince Oniangue straight into the action or adopt a more softly-softly approach with the big midfielder.

Wolves team for Blues

If he does play, I can see it being at the expense of Dave Edwards who looked even leggier than usual against Ipswich on Tuesday before being withdrawn at half time.

There have been a lot of combinations in the center of midfield thus far but Lee Evans seems like the constant. I’d like to see him doing a bit more than he is, even in the holding role.

Despite the penalty miss I was again buoyed by Bodvarsson’s display against Ipswich. He gave them a tough time with what little service he received and of course showcased his skillset by winning the spot-kick.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Things came together nicely at St Andrew’s last season in one of our better team performances. I doubt it will be anything like as routine this time.

I suspect we’ll cause them more problems than we did Ipswich in midweek, but equally, I think they’ll offer more in the final third than the Tractor Boys could muster.

A draw is never a bad prediction in a derby so that’s what I’m going with – 1-1.

If we emerge from this and the game at Huddersfield next Saturday still undefeated, I’ll be very happy with our start to the season.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Ipswich Town 0

To steal a quote from a famous football pools winner from yesteryear, it’s time to spend, spend, spend!

After watching the leaden-footed, one-paced and excruciatingly average Coady, Evans, Edwards, Mason, Saville and Wallace, the one saving grace from last night’s 0-0 draw (aside from the point itself) is that our mega-rich owners will continue to splash the cash.

Before long, performances like this won’t be portrayed as a perverse sign of virtue to which we should be grateful, but an unsightly stain on a season which will soon be washed away.

This draw, and the four points we have accumulated beforehand, can only be seen as bonus results which we can’t have realistically expected with these Ordinary Boys of last season, whose true capabilities were laid bare in front of Walter Zenga.

Aside from some flitting chinks of light from Teixeira and Bodvarsson ahead of him, this was a pretty dark performance against Mick McCarthy’s brutes, who would surely have won the game had the old goat actually pressed for a winner.

Thankfully, he was as pragmatic as he usually was in the home dug-out, presumably ‘wiping his gob and taking the point’ in tiresome Yorkshire shtick.

A narrow pitch, a gargantuan, feral away side with no end product and the majority of last season’s flops made for a truly forgettable spectacle, where Ipswich were denied what looked a legitimate opener and were rarely threatened, aside from Bodvarsson’s weak penalty and an unlikely late Costa strike to force a save for the photographers.

At the back, Danny Batth was magnificent and marshalled his troops well, with Kortney Hause slotting alongside effectively. The full backs of Doherty and Iorfa also coped well and can be pleased with their evenings’ work. Meanwhile, Ikeme was decisive when dealing with the many crosses and set plays.

The problems started in front of them. Joe Mason may as well have been sat in the stands with a clap banner, Lee Evans was ponderous, Dave Edwards headless and Conor Coady was, dare I say, talentless.

Coming away with a point probably felt like winning the pools.

Remembering that Moxey and Morgan have gone makes me feel like a billionaire.

Wolves Vs Ipswich Town Preview

Something tells me this game won’t follow the same pattern as Saturday.

I certainly can’t envisage Ipswich playing neat passes along their own 18-yard box and inviting Wolves to press.

No, this will be a much different challenge for Walter Zenga to navigate against a more purpose-built Championship outfit.

And thankfully the Italian knows what to expect, stating yesterday, “We prepare for a game against a strong team, a physical team, who know how to play and never give up.”

That sums it up nicely.

Ipswich

Ipswich logoWe’ve yet to beat Mick McCarthy since he left Wolves and took over at Portman Road. The Tractor Boys always seem to find an extra 5% at Molineux and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

As always, Mick had some interesting comments in his own press conference:

“I’ve seen both their [Wolves] games. They played against Rotherham, they were 2-0 down and came back with a man short and drew two-all.

“I watched the game against Reading this morning. It’s not suddenly changed, they’ve not got loads of new players in. They’ve got two or three but it’s predominantly the players we played against last season.

“So there’s not been that many changes, I think it’s hard to just turn it around and just put all new players in, that would be a recipe for disaster.

“We’re seeing that up at Newcastle, I guess, with the best Championship players, seven or eight of them have gone in and they’ve lost two games, which seems incredible.

“Wolves have had a good start, I thought they played well against Reading, but somebody said they’ve made a bid of £16 million for somebody from Portugal [Benfica’s Anderson Talisca].

“If that’s true, I don’t recognise that one. Even in the Premier League that money wasn’t there when I was manager!”

And on Walter Zenga?

“He was a top, top class goalkeeper. He’s had a lot of jobs in management and I think he’s got a great job there, a great club.

“I thought it was a great club and a great job when I had it and if he’s in the Championship and has a pot of money to spend, if he can get that place going again it’s a fabulous club.”

Wolves

It will be interesting to see if Walter Zenga makes any changes after a good team performance at the weekend. Will he be a fan of rotation or even feel he has the players to do it? I’d assume the same team though.

Wolves team for Ipswich

At times it was quite hard to pick out where certain players were operating on Saturday with Mason and Teixiera in particular popping up all over the place.

I quite like that because it makes the team more difficult to read, but we’ll see how it works against more battle hardened opposition. Or maybe Walter will change things completely? Who knows?

I don’t think new signing Prince Oniangue is eligible to make his debut but when he is available, I look forward to seeing how he’s utilised. Is there a chance he’ll play at the back?

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Definitely sitting on the fence with a 1-1 tonight and that would suit me just fine. Five points from the opening three games is a solid return.

We played very well against Reading and without question Ipswich can be got at. Their limp defeat at Brentford on Saturday proves that.

But Mick never makes it easy and on our narrower pitch, their compact system will be even harder to breakdown.

So draw for me, but hoping to once more be pleasantly surprised.

Up The Wolves!

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