AFC Bournemouth 2 Wolves 1

While so much talk has focused on Wolves’ attacking capabilities of late – and rightly so – there remains one glaring fallibility within this team with a much deadlier consequence…

Bournemouth

…Our lack of mental strength.

Sure, the inevitable post-game platitudes will reference half-time coming too soon at Dean Court or the referee making an error, but the stark fact remains that in yet another game where we conceded the opening goal, we’ve lost.

Couple that with Kenny Jackett making the exasperating claim that we were ‘timid’ (despite winning four of our last five games) and you can only draw the conclusion that this team lacks the requisite inner resolve to be serious play-off candidates, no matter what protestations might be given.

Of the 12 games where we’ve conceded first, we’ve taken a meagre six points. That’s six points from a possible 36,  featuring one win (Leeds) three draws (Charlton, Brighton and Reading) and eight defeats (AFC Bournemouth, Rotherham, Ipswich, Norwich, Derby, Notts Forest, Brentford, Reading).

To say this is simply not good enough would be as unfair as it would be misleading when we’ve won 16 games and progressed so much, but to suggest we are serious play-off challengers on the back of these stats could never add up to making sense.

Not least when our manager suggests we were somehow fearful against our no-win-in-five-opponents when we should have been positively bullheaded! There was history between the sides too, after referee Mike Jones inflicted such misery on us all at Molineux.

What we were bashful about I have absolutely no idea, but it smacks of mental fragility.

When we secured promotion in 2003, Messrs Butler, Rae, Blake, Ince, Kennedy would saunter out of the tunnel as if success was their absolute right – despite finishing fifth and being largely responsible for the most painful heartbreak of all in 2002.

Even under the more headmasterly dictatorship of McCarthy, we still had just enough swagger in the likes of Karl Henry, Iwelumo and Ebanks-Blake to believe we were serious about what we were doing.

Yet amongst this lovably grounded 2014/15 group, there is a sense of the deferential with only Stearman’s booming voice audible amongst a pretty deprecating bunch.

After the double-dip relegation and the imposters that blackened the gold shirt, this is in many ways to be applauded. Kenny Jackett’s youth of today could never be as vociferous as Dave Jones’ raucous lot, after all.

But if we could only puff our chests out a little bit and actually believe in our own considerable ability, then we wouldn’t ‘sneak’ into the play-offs apologetically like unsuspecting Lotto winners, but we’d kick the bloody doors down like we mean business…

…Starting on Saturday against Watford at 3pm.

The gaffer

AFC Bournemouth Vs Wolves Preview

Despite the sense of injustice, I was impressed with Bournemouth when they came to Molineux in December.

Wilson

After Wolves went down to 10 they moved the ball superbly and played with a tempo and urgency we simply couldn’t cope with.

That said, prior to Rajiv van La Parra’s dismissal they were far less threatening in a competitive game that the home side were edging.

Confidence was fragile back then of course, but this time Wolves aren’t going into the game on a run of four straight defeats. They’re looking for a fourth straight victory.

Bournemouth

AFC_Bournemouth.svgThe Cherries could do with a victory. They haven’t had any wins in their last five matches, which has seen them drop out of the top two and to within touching distance of the play-off chasers.

In fact, a Wolves win would put them level on points with Bournemouth, which is incredible when you consider where two clubs were at the turn of the year.

There’s no doubting they get the ball down and pass as efficiently as anyone in the league. In the recent defeat at Notts Forest, they enjoyed an astonishing 75% possession.

The consensus seems to be that they’re not playing badly despite the poor run of results, but perhaps aren’t being as cool in the final third.

With eight wins, six draws and three defeats, their home form isn’t as formidable as one might expect. They’ve generally looked more menacing away from Dean Court.

Wolves

When you’ve got pace, you’ve always got a chance and Wolves have it in abundance at present.

Wolves team Bournemouth

Your guess is as good as mine in terms of Kenny Jackett’s team selection. There seem to be four or five positions that are interchangeable between a handful of players.

That’s not a bad thing either, as it means he can freshen things up without dramatically changing the dynamic.

It’s a squad game and I do think it’s a positive that the manager adapts the team to combat the opposition. It shows strength of character too because it leaves him open for criticism in defeat.

The gaffer

Predictions

I’ve predicted wins most of the season because I genuinely have a great deal of confidence in the manager and players.

That’s not going to change despite the fact we’ve now got two tough back-to-back fixtures. Four points from Bournemouth and Watford would be a very good return.

Winning tonight would make a big splash and you know what? I think we’re going to do it.

Sticking with my go-to prediction – 3-1

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 1 AFC Bournemouth 2

For nearly an hour, Rajiv van La Parra was the answer to our prayers.

RvLP sending off

By full-time he was the key ingredient for another heavy dose of weekend misery.

Deployed centrally alongside Danny Graham, the Dutchman’s pace helped Wolves overpower a Bournemouth side struggling to find a rhythm in a high tempo first half.

Time and time again he was the major outlet, turning defence into attack and unsettling a creaky Cherries back line.

But the sending off undid all that good work in a moment, allowing the visitors to cease control and wrestle away the points.

Was the dismissal justified?

I’ve seen it back several times now and can’t say conclusively either way. What’s indisputable is that at best, it’s clumsy and late.

Intentional? Absolutely not.

But Mike Jones deemed it dangerous play and although Wolves can count themselves unfortunate, there will be many more contentious decisions this season. I’ll be staggered if it’s overturned.

Matt Doherty has a better case, going in hard but seemingly fair in the final knockings, only to be deemed reckless and out of control.

By that point of course, the game was already up with Bournemouth having exploited the advantage superbly with some fast and incisive approach play.

Even that was tainted by controversy though with the ball seeming to go out of play for a goal kick prior to being recycled and eventually converted by Matt Ritchie.

There’s no doubting Wolves were on the wrong end of some miserable fortune (and questionable officiating) and with a fifth consecutive defeat looming large it was little surprise Molineux boiled over.

Even Steve Morgan made a pitch side appearance to register his discontent at full time, although what our chairman was trying to achieve, I’m not entirely sure.

In a more serene first half there were positives to be taken from a good Championship performance.

442 suited the personnel and although it wasn’t pretty, it was certainly effective.

Dominic Iorfa’s debut was the other a major triumph. The young defender showed strength, pace and no little skill from right-back. He looks capable and ready.

Sometimes you get an immediate impression of a young player’s potential and that was the most impressed I’ve been with an academy graduate for a long while.

How much consolation that will be to Kenny Jackett, after another miserable collapse (albeit under very different circumstances), I’m not sure.

He will however, be acutely aware that patience, like good fortune, are currently in short supply.

Highlights

Wolves Vs AFC Bournemouth Preview

There was always going to be the odd bump in the road, but nobody expected a crater.

Wilson

Defeats to Ipswich, Derby, Forest and Brentford are nothing to be ashamed of, the league table attests to that, but to lose consecutively and by a 14-1 aggregate scoreline is concerning.

None of those sides, with the possible exception of Derby, are streets ahead of Wolves, but injuries to key personnel have unsettled the team and allowed opposition to disrupt the rhythm.

The most worrying thing is that Kenny Jackett is moving around all the pieces on the board, but the end result remains the same.

Bournemouth

AFC_Bournemouth.svgSix consecutive wins briefly propelled the Cherries to the top of the table, but three straight draws have allowed the peloton to reel them back in.

Still, they’re on a nine game undefeated streak and arrive at Molineux sniffing blood. The last time they were in the West Midlands they put eight past a hapless Birmingham side.

Callum Wilson, a player Wolves were heavily linked with, is their eleven goal top scorer, but he’s a doubt for this fixture with a hamstring injury.

They’re not a one man team though and have quality throughout the squad. Gosling, Surman and Ritchie have all scored several goals from midfield this season.

Wolves

The team that started last weekend did reasonably well for half an hour, but when Brentford scored and Scott Golbourne went off injured, the wheels came off.

Wolves team for Bournemouth

Dave Edwards has been fantastic in 2014 tucked in behind Nouha Dicko. But without the Mali man’s pace, Edwards hasn’t been as effective.

If Danny Graham is going to continue as the lone front man, I’d like to see Michael Jacobs in the Number 10 pocket. We need more invention because we didn’t lay a glove on Brentford.

McDonald and Evans remain the premier partnership in midfield for me, but it could just as easily be Rowe, Saville or the recalled Jack Price.

The gaffer

Predictions

Well done to everyone who profited from the misery at Griffin Park. A small consolation granted.

Wolves need to stop the rot, whether that’s a glorious, free flowing victory or an ugly, hard-fought point.

Hoping for the former, but expecting the later.

1-1

Up The Wolves

* I wrote a short article for the Birmingham Mail yesterday about the impact of Nouha Dicko, which you can read on their site by clicking here.

* I also answered some questions for Bournemouth fan site, Cherry Chimes, which will be live on their site from Friday morning.