Wolves 1 Aston Villa 0

Graham Taylor’s only full season in charge at Wolves was also my first as a season ticket holder.

I look back on that 94/95 campaign with great fondness, despite the fact it ended with crushing disappointment.

We won 15 of our 23 homes games that year and were only beaten on three occasions. Molineux was a fortress.

This victory under the same floodlights was eerily reminiscent of those happy times and as such it felt like a fitting tribute to the great man.

Villa fans might disagree of course but I thought their team contributed to what was a fast paced and open game of football.

Wolves were good value for the win, always looking the more incisive with their attacking play and always the more capable of creating chances.

The visitors enjoyed more of the ball but didn’t manage anything like a meaningful effort on target all evening.

Once Ross McCormack sent a header sailing over Carl Ikeme’s crossbar following a superb run from Jordan Amavi, Steve Bruce’s men failed to threaten.

They were already a goal down at that point after Joe Mason profited from Nouha Dicko’s forceful run and cross, which was just reward for a good spell of intricate football.

I suppose the only frustrating aspect from Paul Lambert’s perspective was that his team didn’t then go on to kill the game off with the opposition there for the taking.

Instead Villa got a foothold and started to exert a measure of control, but without the powerful Kodija or the tricky Ayew – both away on African Cup of Nations duty – they lacked the pace or guile to break through.

Even the introduction of Jack Grealish (a somewhat surprising omission from the starting lineup) couldn’t alter the pattern of play as Wolves coped with a degree of comfort.

Helder Costa was once again instrumental and opened up the their defence several times in another impressive outing.

Had Nouha Dicko had the presence of mind to offer a return pass when racing clear in the second half, the Portuguese winger would have had the tap in he so richly deserved.

Richard Stearman also enjoyed his finest performance in a long while with the specters of Mike Williamson and Kortney Hause no doubt at the forefront of his mind.

His aggression, desire and hunger to be first to every ball was characteristic of the whole team, which is testament to the job Paul Lambert is doing.

He said afterwards it was the hardest decision of his career leaving out Williamson, Lee Evans and a few other of the heroes from last weekend’s cup victory at Stoke.

I’m sure this precious triumph over his former club (played down unconvincingly in his post match summary) felt like more than adequate compensation.

Wolves Vs Aston Villa Preview

You know Paul Lambert had this one circled on his calendar from the get go.

Even though top to bottom it’s a completely different club top to the one he left in 2015, no victory would taste sweeter.

Much of that owes to the sheer level of vitriol aimed in his direction by some Villa supporters over his contribution to their downfall.

Personally, I don’t get it.

As Villa supporter Patrick Scahill said on the Birmingham Mail site: ‘He was given 50m in three seasons in charge and kept us up every time together with reducing the wage bill by in excess of 50%. When you compare that to 50m in the Championship and struggling, it’s mad really.’

That’s kind of where I land. I always felt he was making a decent fist of a bad situation at Villa Park. If performances deteriorated it was because they were always asking him to pull an even bigger rabbit out of the hat.

There’s definitely an argument that Tim Sherwood came in and got a better response out of the same group of players, but their pitiful relegation season proved that the problems lay much higher up the food chain.

Villa

It’s no surprise to anyone that they’ve picked up under Steve Bruce. I always felt with the players they have that improvement was inevitable, regardless of who was in charge.

But Bruce is as proven as they come in the second tier and if it’s not this season (due to that horrible start), it’s difficult to foresee them not having a real go next time.

That said, recent form hasn’t been particularly good. They lost to Cardiff last time out in the league and showed very little adventure against Tottenham’s reserves in the cup.

This derby probably arrives at a decent time in that respect as it could shake them back into action.

I’m a bit surprised Rudy Gestede was allowed to leave. He’s an effective player at this level. Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone looks a good signing. They haven’t had a decent keeper for some time so he’ll be a welcome addition.

Henri Lansbury is also strongly tipped to be making the trip across the Midlands from Forest as Bruce looks to shape a squad that can progress up the table.

Wolves

There are endless options available to Paul Lambert after a second string eliminated Stoke from the FA Cup with a fair bit to spare.

Personally, I would continue with Williamson, Hause and Iorfa at the back. I’d be very surprised not to see the former in the starting line up, regardless of whose picked either side.

If Cavaleiro is fit enough to start, he’d still be my preferred option down the left particularly at home where the emphasis is on us to get at them.

Bodvarsson is looking back to his best and that makes him an automatic starter. I’d probably play Bright slightly deeper to help us dominate the ball, but Mason is another contender.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Hopefully this will play out like the reverse fixture earlier in the season, with a fairly even first half followed by Wolves dominating the second.

We should have won that game on the balance of play, but I strongly doubt we’ll have it as much our way this time.

Still, I’ll be bold and back us to get another morale boosting victory.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

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Aston Villa 1 Wolves 1

We should have won.

That’s the disappointing footnote to an otherwise encouraging performance.

Even stevens at the break it was total domination thereafter with only a decisive finish lacking.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson would have obliged had he not been taken out by Micah Richards when poised to score.

Quite how the referee failed to interpret the big defender barreling into the back of the Icelander as anything other than a penalty is difficult to understand.

The cynical stamp from Jack Grealish on Conor Coady was a tougher spot but retrospective action will almost certainly see that cowardly response punished with a three game ban.

James Chester was also counting his lucky stars after tripping the magnificent Helder Costa when already on a yellow. He should have walked.

Notwithstanding these injustices, Ivan Cavaleiro could have won it at the last after the ball broke kindly in the box.

Edwards and Oniangue also threatened as Wolves poured forward in waves and Villa struggled to hang on.

But despite the big moment failing to materialise, the team can take heart from another pulsating second half display which are fast becoming the trademark of the Zenga era.

The pace and intensity were relentless and nobody characterised the performance better than Helder Costa.

This was the winger’s best outing to date capped with a superb penalty to level things up.

He terrorised Villa in the second half and was inches away from winning the game, curling a fine effort just wide of the post.

With a quarter of the season gone, he has now emerged as a key performer and along with a handful of others (Bodvarsson, Ikeme, Doherty and Iorfa spring to mind) can be considered first choice.

Two more games follow within a week and rotation seems inevitable for Tuesday’s trip to Brighton.

Slow starts, individual error and inconsistency remain our greatest enemies.

Aston Villa Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves fans know a bit about free falling so are probably better positioned than most to empathise with the plight of Aston Villa.

 

It took two relegations, a backroom reshuffle and a safe-pair-of-hands-appointment to finally halt our nosedive.

In that sense, Steve Bruce feels like the right man for the job at Villa Park. Not the most glamorous or high profile, but the right man at the right time.

Few have a better record in the Championship and I expect him to do well once he’s got his feet properly under the table.

For us, the only question that matters is ‘what impact can he make before tomorrow?’.

Villa

avPerhaps I was in the minority, but I thought Roberto Di Matteo would eventually turn it around.

Granted I’ve only seen Villa play a few times this season, but it seemed like they’ve been guilty of missing chances and failing to kill games off as much as anything.

And it’s that wastefulness and those last minute giveaways that ultimately cost the Italian his job, which is understandable.

They shouldn’t be 19th in the Championship nearly a quarter of the way through the season, particularly given their significant summer outlay.

McCormack, Ayew, Gestede, Adomah, Jedinak, Chester – they’ve got the individual quality, but for whatever reason that hasn’t translated into a successful team.

I do wonder if they’re overloaded in attack and trying to find the best combination is part of the problem. If Bruce gets it right though, they’ll soon start climbing.

Wolves

Wolves aren’t overloaded in attack, that’s for sure. In fact, I’d go as far as to say we’re totally reliant on one man – Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.

team-for-brentford

Nouha Dicko will need more time to get back up to his very best, as we saw in a rusty cameo against Norwich. He did go on to bang in a few goals for the U23s last week, but it’s a big step up to play consistently in the Championship.

But I’m not convinced even a fully fit Dicko could lead the line in the way Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has this season. We need his considerable presence tomorrow. If he doesn’t play, my outlook on the game immediately becomes bleaker.

The above eleven is the team that won at Newcastle and the blend of that team still looks about right, based on the options available.

Conor Coady might offer a useful alternative in this particular fixture. He’s played well in derby fixtures against Blues by getting in faces and disrupting play, which is exactly what Wolves must do tomorrow.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Sorry to be a drag, but I think we’ll lose. Simply because I still believe Villa will light at some point and it’s just our luck it will be tomorrow.

They haven’t won any of their last 9 Championship games, but have been well in most of those matches and just found themselves dragged back or on the wrong side of the result.

Wolves are an unpredictable force so anything is possible. I think we’ll score, but can we cope with everything they’ll throw at us?

2-1 Villa. Prove me wrong lads.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 2 Aston Villa 2

When three daft men, dressed as old women, were pratting around to Gangnam Style at half time, it had me wondering if they really were a dance troupe called the Fizzogs, or an ode to our midfield for the opening half hour.

Wolves Villa

The trio of lunatics tried desperately hard to keep up and worked their bloomers off to impress, but ended up doing little to lighten the mood around Molineux…

…And that was just David Edwards, Kevin McDonald and Conor Coady.

But just when the warning signs were beginning to flash brighter than Carl Ikeme’s lime green kit under lights, things started to look up.

Whatever the narrow system was being employed by Kenny Jackett, (was it 4-3-1-2 or a diamond formation?) it wasn’t working, with David Edwards deployed ‘on the left’, only to hold hands with Coady and McDonald in a pretty linear line-up.

We were one down, it could have been 3 or 4 and the alarm bells were ringing. The first Villa goal, in fact, was a result of that natural lack of width we deployed, with no player positionally versed in closing down the vast chasms of space down the left hand side of Molineux’s lush turf.

But then full backs Iorfa and Golbourne pushed on and we looked a different team.

Coady, McDonald and Edwards took turns to push-on and sit and we looked like a pretty fluid side posing plenty of problems.

Dicko could have scored two, others went close and the players grew into the game to eventually finish the stronger.

A draw was probably fair in an entertaining game, with Coady a clear man-of-the-match contender. He really does look like a top player in the making, pushing forward to win a great tackle and assisting Dicko to lay on the late leveller.

The worry is that an injury to our lively front two will render us completely impotent, while a natural left sided replacement for Sako – which was promised – is desperately needed.

In the absence of which, this full-back focused formation will become our new ‘Plan A’, with the pragmatic Kenny Jackett knowing it’s a safer bet than waiting for some squad reinforcements.

Unless those Fizzogs in the boardroom pull their fingers out fast, it’s what we will all have to get used to.

Highlights

Wolves 2 Villa 3

In the end, it was a picture that only the three M’s could have imagined, let alone painted.

Beneath the glare of the biggest of white elephants the team in white won, inspired by a home grown hero whose local rivals now call their own.

One team playing in the Premier League while the other plays in a parallel world altogether, losing for the umpteenth time on the pitch as the most feckless building project of all is shelved in favour of 50 odd houses off it.

Only Wolves could cobble together such a script, featuring a fabricated line about Compton progression, when our very own manager steadfastly objects to the very notion in the first place.

Not Mark Davies for example, who was leap-frogging Bolton above us with a man-of-the-match display at the Reebok, instead of maintaining our momentum once Frimpong departed.

If it wasn’t so chronically sad we’d all laugh.

Darren Bent tells us how many stands will be built at Molineux

But when a current board member boasts about signing off the North Bank redevelopment three days before the last day of last season, we really shouldn’t be surprised.

A monstrosity of a stand which Jez Moxey said would look ‘ridiculous’ to begin with and a team which Steve Morgan, ‘with a crystal ball, might have strengthened.’

Talk about planning.

The biggest irony of all was that for a 30 minute spell, we looked as good as we have all season, on the day we plunged to 19th position.

Michael Kightly proved why the club has stayed patient over his injury lay-off for so long, terrorising Villa and scoring a wonderful goal to partly erase the memory of Berra’s early indecision for the penalty.

The wonderfully mobile Frimpong exuded confidence and talent, controlling the midfield with Henry with right back Kevin Foley reminding us why he won a player of the year award as a right back. Funny that.

We thoroughly deserved a 2-1 lead at the break through Edwards’ flick from Johnson’s header and if anything, will regret profligacy for not being at least 4-1 ahead instead.

Both Fletcher and Edwards shot tamely at Given beforehand, when a yard either side would have yielded more joy.

But in a game of two halves, Wolves failed to reappear after the break and either looked slow out of the blocks, or just bereft of experience in actually defending a lead.

Keane’s equaliser underlined two things:

  1. Our chronic inability to keep the ball, this time underlined by Matt Jarvis
  2. Wayne Hennessey’s not-so-happy knack at conceding long range goals, later admitting he was to blame for this one

From then on the wheels came off and a game that we previously looked in control of took a turn for the worse when Frimpong was stretchered off.

With Stephen Warnock already brought on for Agbonlahor to specifically shackle Kightly, we suddenly looked laboured.

And when referee Michaal Oliver gleefully sent off Henry after first impeding a quick free kick and then ignoring a 5 second Albrighton offence, you sensed the game was heading one way.

That our very own Robbie Keane confirmed such a thought was either cruel beyond compare, or just rewards for a club with warped priorities.

With Blues beating us in the cup, our stadium redevelopment shelved and a housing development taking preference, Mick McCarthy could have been talking about the last seven days as a Wolves fan instead of these painful 90 minutes.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”