Wolves 0 Nottingham Forest 2

Perspective is often the hardest thing to keep in football, particularly after you’ve enduring an afternoon as galling as this.

But it’s the one thing we should all be keeping a firm handle on in the wake of Wolves’ first league defeat since October.

Poor performances can never be entirely excused but after providing us with six months of some of the best football seen in old gold, this team deserve to be cut some slack.

Credit ought to go to Forest for the shut-out too, Aitor Karanka has got them well drilled at the back.

That being said, it’s important we don’t mask our disappointment completely.

This was the poorest Wolves have been all season, and raises some urgent questions at the mid-way point of the January transfer window.

Do we need another striker?

Can our wing-backs make it through the second half of the season?

Are we creative enough in midfield?

All relevant queries that Nuno will no doubt be mulling behind the scenes.

The first conundrum will of course hinder on the impact Rafa Mir makes when brought up to speed, but it’s fair to say that Leo Bonatini isn’t having the best of times at present.

After a prolific start to his Wolves career the Brazilian is cutting a forlorn figure that offers little to the team, so much so that it’s certainly worth questioning whether he’s worth shelling out a transfer fee for.

Whether the solution already lies within our ranks or must be recruited is a nut the management team need to crack sooner rather than later, as we scarcely landed a punch on Forest despite our dominance in possession.

The stark decline of Helder Costa is a concern that only exacerbates this conundrum, with his dire cameo no doubt leaving everyone wondering where the thrilling player of last season has gone.

Matt Doherty and Barry Douglas’ burdensome afternoons are perhaps not so much of a worry, given their general excellence throughout the campaign thus far.

But it’s hard to dispel the fear that Doherty is at risk of being burned out, especially with there being no obvious cover for him within the senior ranks.

Likewise, the travails of Rueben Neves and Romain Saiss ought to be looked upon as something of a minor blip.

Neither were especially poor yesterday, and Alfred N’Diaye and Morgan Gibbs-White are no slouches. Indeed, a case can be made for the latter being our best performer in this game.

Nonetheless, our passing has been worryingly predictable as of late and this will no doubt be addressed on the training field over the next week.

Like the majority of Wolves fans, I have complete faith in Nuno’s ability to tackle these issues and trust the team to adapt to the solutions he provides.

One quick glance at the league table will show that this is no time for sirens, but rather calm contemplation. As the gaffer has no doubt already said, we go again at Ipswich

Wolves 0 Swansea City 0

Given the contrasting fortunes of the two teams, the scene was set for an upset.

Considering the paucity of the Swans’ current team, it would hardly have been a giant killing but the prospect of putting Premier League opposition to the sword was enticing nonetheless.

Unfortunately, some goalkeeping heroics from Kristoffer Nordfeldt deprived us of that opportunity.

Even the most ardent of opposition supporters would agree that this was a game bossed by the home side.

Frankly, we looked streets ahead of Carlos Carvalhal’s team at times and should have been a goal up well in advance of the first contentious decision of the day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the ever mercurial Bright Enobakhare that was guilty of spurning the best of a few good goalscoring opportunities.

With the goal seemingly at his mercy courtesy of a rather frenetic first half defensive scramble, he contrived to screw the ball wide.

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It was a glaring blemish on an otherwise enterprising performance, and will no doubt have given Nuno food for thought about where the young forward fits into his long term strategy. Perhaps a loan move would iron out some of the shortcomings that are currently holding him back?

Other fringe players that impressed were Alfred N’Diaye, who did a first rate job of playing the midfield destroyer role. What a complement it is to Ruben Neves and Romain Saiss that he can’t get into the eleven on a regular basis.

Alongside him in midfield was our World Cup winning prodigy Morgan Gibbs-White, who thrilled the home crowd with some really enterprising play that included one truly delicious ball over the top of Swansea’s defence.

Sadly, his was a performance we weren’t able to enjoy for long due to Anthony Taylor’s decision to give Ruben Vinagre his marching orders for a dangerous but unintentional foul on Nathan Dyer.

Vinagre was later joined by Leroy Fer, who saw red for a petulant but ultimately harmless flick of the leg after a mightily impressive Helder Costa managed to evade his initial tackle.

Like many, I at first thought that Vinagre had been most unlucky to be given his marching orders but video replays have proved the decision to be an astute one.

That being said, I will point out that various Wolves players, though mostly Diogo Jota, have been on the receiving end of far worse tackles this season and the culprits – whether playing for Cardiff, Birmingham, Preston or otherwise – have gone unpunished. I’ve no issue with our players being corrected when they fall out of line but find the inconsistency in decision making most frustrating, as I suspect Nuno does too.

That frustrating sideshow aside, it was perhaps the performance of Costa which was the most notable feature of this stalemate.

After a stop-start first half of the season which so recently featured a truly dire showing in our triumph at Bristol City, the winger was back to his diminutive best and often careened past the opposition backline in a manner akin to last season’s vintage.

Hopefully it’s a level he can sustain as competition for places are only set to increase up front on account of the exciting addition of Rafa Mir to our ranks. Though limited to a cameo today, the Spaniard looks as if he possesses the physical attributes needed to add further variety to our attacking play.

Despite the presence of Mir, Costa and Cavaleiro, however, this tie fizzled out into somewhat of a damp squib that is likely to be remembered best for the two sendings off.

Still, encouragement should still be taken from the fact that we once again more than held our own against top flight opposition – albeit one that is likely to be swapping places with us at the season’s end.

Bristol City 1 Wolves 2

If you’re anything like me, the new year will have you contemplating the last 12 months and what lies ahead from a personal, professional and societal perspective.

Naturally, such philosophising extends to the beautiful game and yesterday’s rip roaring, top of the table clash will no doubt have left many dreaming of a bright future for Wolves.

Rightly so, given the quality of opposition and context of our turnaround victory.

Just as the stars align in order to usher in a new year, so it seemed they were conspiring against Nuno and his charges in the early throes of this contest.

After an enthusiastic Robins side drew two excellent saves from John Ruddy in the early throes of this contest, things went from bad to worse as Danny Batth was given his marching orders by referee Peter Bankes.

My view, though partisan, was that the skipper played the ball and that any card shown should have been yellow.

That being said, the benefit of hindsight and an innate desire to play devil’s advocate would lead me to suggest that, in the context of this oh so modern game, a red may have been warranted due to the fact that it was actually Batth’s kamikaze first touch that led to him needing to make a challenge in the first place.

Either way, it was a game changing moment that left the home crowd and their effortlessly grating manager baying for blood.

Nuno’s dismissal to the stands was another bitter pill to swallow and left the impression that Bankes, like Stephen Martin before him, wanted to make himself newsworthy in front of the Sky cameras and an enemy of all those in old gold and black.

Despite these travails, City were repressed by an excellent defensive showing and the game remained locked at the interval.

That soon changed when Bobby Reid benefitted from a wild deflection that left Ruddy helpless and the home side in the ascendancy.

It all felt eerily reminiscent to our defeat to Sheffield United and Helder Costa’s errant display up front (surely his worst in a Wolves shirt) meant seldom were forecasting a fightback.

Thankfully, there was another chapter of this story to be told and the introduction of Ivan Cavaleiro saw us build momentum and eventually find a route back into the game.

Frank Fielding’s terrible impersonation of Manuel Neur saw him receive his marching orders and levelled the playing field, with Barry Douglas’ subsequent free kick deflecting past City’s substitute goalkeeper and leaving the scores tied ahead of a frenetic final act.

With chances scuppered by both sides on account of tired legs all round, it appeared the game was only going to be won by the team with the bigger appetite for victory.

Thankfully, this side are a ravenous bunch and another sumptuous set piece from Douglas allowed Ryan Bennet to head home the most delirious of winning goals.

Cue pandemonium on the pitch, in the stands and, in the case of me and my family, the living room of a quaint holiday cottage in Padstow.

It was truly a moment to saviour in this most cherished of seasons, with Nuno’s wild celebrations in the Ashton Gate executive area set to be a crowning moment in our recent history and a hugely popular GIF amongst Wolves fans.

What can be achieved by the club in the next 12 months, given our meteoric rise over the 2017/18 season to date, is anyone’s guess but, as is so often the case with our club, it’s safe to assume it won’t make for dull viewing.

A belated merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy New Year.

Birmingham City 0 Wolves 1

BBC WM, as any local football fan can attest, often makes for interesting post-game listening.

Last evening, in the wake of a sixth consecutive win for Wolves, the phone-in was largely dominated by the topic of Birmingham’s second half performance.

In the eyes of the commentary team, though admittedly few of their fans, they had given the league leaders one of their sternest challenges this season.

Couple this with Steve Cotterill’s rather laughable assertion that we were ‘average’ and that ‘without goal line technology, they might have got away with it’ and the picture of a rather chastening night at the office becomes clear.

And yet, the home side didn’t muster a shot on target all evening.

Which begs the question, if this is to be considered one of the more challenging victories of the season so far, then is anyone really capable of landing a punch on this team?

Labels such as ‘the Manchester City of the Championship’ often prove to be more of an albatross around the neck than lasting compliment, but in this case it’s beginning to look fitting.

Like City, Nuno’s ensemble have begun to demonstrate an aptitude for winning in all manner of ways, whether it be in the vein of recent shellacking of Bolton or this more arduous of successes.

This has been irrespective of how the opposition have performed, with few teams actually standing out as being poor thus far.

Despite their inability to pepper John Ruddy’s goal, the Blues were in the ascendancy for much of the second half.

Nonetheless, I never really feared that we’d let the points slip away from us. Tell me, is that overconfidence or acceptance of the reality that we’re simply too good for the majority of teams in this league?

Much has rightly been made this season of our passing ability but what’s equally impressive to me is the ferocious appetite the players show when closing down their challengers, a skill flaunted on numerous occasions last evening.

With Ruben Neves’ enforced absence a glaring feature of our inability to penetrate a resolute (if appallingly over-competitive) home guard, the need to suffocate Blues’ play was more pressing than it likely would have been had our Portuguese maestro not been missing.

And press they did, with potential threats such as Jota and Lukas Jutkiewicz squeezed out of the game almost entirely.

Willy Boly was integral in this respect, turning in a performance as good as any I’ve seen from a Wolves defender past or present.

Though our success to date has been resultant of the efforts of all our players, it’s clear to see who the key individuals are within this current outfit and the gargantuan Frenchman, along with the rejuvenated Connor Coady, is certainly the key cog in our resilient defence.

Also standing out was the unrelenting work rate of our wing backs, a feature of our play that I feel is slightly under appreciated at present.

I shudder to think what training actually entails for Barry Douglas and Matt Doherty, but they’re both fit as fiddles and two of the stand-out performers at present.

It was a more fitful evening for our lauded front three, but some of the play conjured was a marvel to behold with Diogo Jota once again earning the acclaim of pundits in spite of his challengers’ cynical attempts to halt him in his tracks. Whether he stays beyond this season remains a topic for discussion, but it’s been a privilege to watch him play in old gold regardless.

Ultimately, despite Cotterill’s Scooby Doo villain-esque remarks to the contrary, it was another win for Nuno’s promotion chasing juggernaut and, with our perceived counterparts in sky blue chasing a 14th successive win in the Premier League, it’s left to us delirious supporters to ponder when this remarkable run will end.

With basement boys Sunderland in town next, you wouldn’t bet on it being any time soon.

Reading 0 Wolves 2

Groundhog Day is a film I’ve often described as being akin to watching Wolves.

Rarely has the comparison been used with flattery in mind.

Year after year we’ve endured one insipid performance after another, with an occasional upset victory cheering us up every now and then.

At times, it seemed as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

That has been provided in spades, however, by the promotion chasing juggernaut assembled by Nuno and co.

They too are a predictable bunch, the key difference between them and their predecessors in old gold being they can’t stop winning.

It’s a quaint feeling being a Wolves fan nowadays, with each victory carrying an alien sense of inevitability.

Yesterday, we were put to task by a Reading side that appear as talented as they are limited.

And yet the scoreline would suggest another leisurely afternoon for the league leaders.

The old adage goes that the best teams can win games without playing well and, though I’m not usually one to indulge in cliches, the saying is ringing true at present.

We play some breathtaking football at times, but our resolve when under pressure is just as impressive as our swashbuckling play in the final third.

After being subjected to years of calamitous defending by various coaches, it’s a pleasure to see Wolves be able to cope with onslaughts in the manner in which they did yesterday.

Ryan Bennett, Connor Coady and Willy Boly were in imperious form, particularly during a second half in which the Royals had plenty of chances to level the score.

John Ruddy, meanwhile, had arguably his best game since joining the club, keeping the home side at bay with a string of crucial saves.

As we all know, such solidity provides a platform from which our creative forces can do damage and both goals were once again pleasing on the eye.

Diogo Jota’s through ball to Ivan Cavaleiro was a thing of beauty, as was the latter’s ensuing shimmy round the opposition goalkeeper.

Matt Doherty left it late to prosper from some sumptuous build up play in the game’s dying embers, no doubt prospering from some tired Reading legs as he slotted cooly past a hapless Vito Mannone.

It all seemed rather routine, and quaintly poetic given the opposition had former subjects of ire in their ranks.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Dave Edwards always gave their all for the club, but they’re a million miles of the standard required to play in this current vintage.

Whether this air of invincibility will prevail over a notoriously bruising winter period remains to be seen, but promotion is currently looking an elementary task for this side.

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Wolves 2 Fulham 0

What a difference 11 months can make.

Last time Fulham pitched up at Molineux, the points were shared in an eight goal thriller which, although entertaining, said more for the quality of the opposition than it did the home side.

As Thomas rightly pointed out in his match preview, the Fulham of 2016/17 offered a blueprint for Wolves to aspire to.

Slaviša Jokanovic’s side oozed confidence when slaloming through last season’s ragtag equivalent, and few left the ground on that grisly December afternoon under any illusions about the gulf in class between the two.

When you consider tonight’s routine victory against the Cottagers in that context, it’s hard not to raise a wry smile.

If ever a game demonstrated the progress made by Wolves since the curtain fell on last season, this was it.

Nuno’s men were simply irrepressible in the first ten, claiming an early lead through Romain Saiss’ second goal of the season.

And though the visitors grew in stature after conceding, they were unable to prevent Barry Douglas and the increasingly prolific Leo Bonatini from combining for the second.

From that point on, proceedings were fairly routine in a bonfire weekend fixture low on sparkles.

Nonetheless, only the most hard nosed of supporter could fail to be impressed by the efficiency with which we kept our opponents at bay.

Whereas the Wolves side of years gone by looked flustered when put under the slightest amount of pressure, today’s group look capable of weathering almost all storms that come their way.

Even more impressive is the extraordinary confidence with which they move the ball, regardless of its position on the pitch.

For that we have to thank Ruben Neves, who is beginning to resemble more a gift from the heavens than he is a club record signing.

How such a supremely talented footballer has come to be plying his trade in England’s second division remains a mystery to me, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Tonight’s man of the match performance is arguably his best in old gold, especially given the technical dexterity of his counterparts in white.

Whether it was the ferocity with which he pressed when out of possession or the simple outrage of his passing range, there was plenty to laud the Portuguese for this evening.

Simply put, he makes us tick and keeping him fit has to be a priority for Nuno and his staff moving forward.

That being said, credit ought to be afforded to the performances of Barry Douglas, the provider of two sumptuous assists, and Willy Boly, who alongside Connor Coady looks by far and away the best of our current crop of centre halves.

However, as has been the case all season, this triumph was the result of a concerted team effort, one which leaves us sitting pretty at the top of the division irrespective of what our nearest contenders do tomorrow.

Only the boldest of match goer would have predicted that a year ago, a truth which leaves this writer brimming with optimism – albeit cautious optimism – about what’s still to come.