Barnsley 0 Wolves 0

The phrase ‘it’s grim up north’ could have been penned for this very occasion.

On a dull afternoon in Yorkshire, Wolves couldn’t find a rhythm on a tight, bobbling pitch, so returning south with a point is a more than palatable outcome.

After all, it’s one game and one point closer to the objective. 14 matches unbeaten I might add.

We mustn’t grumble.

Barnsley are a young team of upstarts and they set about the league leaders from the first kick and remained disciplined throughout. It was nigh on impossible to break through.

Their tight defensive shape came at the expense of any real attacking menace and with Wolves equally content to remain deep, much of the contest was duked out in the middle third of the pitch.

They could have won it for though.

A few loose balls dropped for onrushing players on the rare occasion they ventured into dangerous territory but Ruddy remained untested.

Wolves for their part were in the ascendancy the longer it went on but too often laboured in and around the box.

The quick counter was seldom an option either, with the home side defending in numbers and the ball constantly getting stuck under feet at the crucial moment.

Jota was culpable of poor decision making and somehow contrived to miss from under the crossbar in one of his less illustrious outings to date.

Down the opposite flank I remain steadfast in my belief that Cavaleiro offers more than Costa and would certainly be restoring him to the starting lineup for the Forest game next Saturday.

Without him, the team lacks tempo, particularly when the impetus is on Wolves to break down the wall. It’s no use saying ‘he’s good off the bench’ if we have to wait half the game to get things moving.

On a heavy pitch, Bonatini’s legs have never looked, well, heavier. Mir was quicker across the ground and did enough in his first league appearance to suggest he can influence proceedings. Still early days for him of course.

If it was an off day for the attacking unit, we were again convincing at the back. Certainly not much to fault Coady or Bennett on as they collected another cleansheet.

But Boly is the difference maker. The way he so routinely wins everything in the air and on the deck before casually sauntering up the pitch marks him out time after time. Today was no different.

We’ve waited nigh on 15 years for a center back of his ilk. Keep him and a few of the others fit and firing for the 19 games remaining and the rest becomes moot.

Onwards and upwards.

Barnsley Vs Wolves Preview

I’m feeling particularly bullish at present.

Along with everyone else I’ve predicted wins for most of the games since November, but there have been a few that I’ve looked at and contemplated ‘Is this the stumble?’.

Blues and Sheffield Wednesday away just before Christmas could have been nasty. Similarly Bristol and Brentford back-to-back.

But we won them all and it wouldn’t have taken much to shift those draws against Sunderland and Millwall into maximums either.

We’ve beaten four of the five teams immediately below us, competed against all Premier League opposition we’ve come across in the cup and all playing our way.

Nothing is done yet. I’m wise enough to know that. But there’s no reason to think it won’t carry on.

Barnsley

The Tykes gave us a right good game back in September, matching Wolves in every sense of the word until Alfred N’Diaye’s 93rd minute winner.

You have to admire what Paul Heckingbottom continues to do at Oakwell, nurturing young players who inevitably get picked off by clubs higher up the food chain.

All that might be about to change though, after they were taken over by, you guessed it, a Chinese billionaire. The consortium now in control includes Chinese money but also Billy Beane (of Moneyball fame), so expect an influx of signings based on statistical profiling.

It will be mighty interesting to see what happens to the club in the coming years once that team get their feet properly under the table.

In the immediate Barnsley are slipping. They’re bottom of the Championship form table with just one victory in their last 10 matches, making their task tomorrow look all the more daunting.

They did get that win last time out though and it was a big one against Sunderland. Without it, they’d be sitting in the bottom three.

Wolves

The much changed side for Swansea last weekend allowed Nuno to rest key players like Boly, Neves, Saiss and Jota. All should be back in tomorrow.

As the team more or less still picks itself I’ll use this space to comment on something else – central midfield.

I said last season that the club were overloaded with average midfielders and that area of the pitch required the most attention.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d offload every single one of them, with the exception of Coady who moved into defence and Saiss who is transformed alongside Neves.

Price, Evans, Saville, Edwards and Oniangue all offered different qualities but none were good enough as a complete package.

Price was the best technical player so it’s logical he clung on the longest. I’m a touch surprised they’re allowing him to leave now given we only really have N’Diaye as cover. Perhaps that signals another arrival is imminent?

Speaking of new signings Rafa Mir should make the bench tomorrow and it’s good to have a genuine alternative to Leo or someone that can play alongside him if things are going Pete Tong.

Predictions

The only logical prediction is an away win. The league table, the form table and the obvious gulf in class between the players dictates the most likely result.

Barnsley were arguably the better side in the game earlier in the season, but I think Wolves have developed since then, so should be better equipped for this challenge.

They’re a young side so you’d expect them to get around the pitch and put our possession-based game to the test, but ultimately I think we’ll catch them out.

2-0.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Barnsley 1

For half an hour I was convinced Barnsley had an extra man.

Every single loose ball spilled out to a white shirt and the fluency we’ve come to expect was lacking.

It wasn’t anything so underhanded. The Tykes just played a high line, suffocated Wolves in possession and cut off the supply to their most potent attacking weapons.

This was an uphill slog and although the visitors never once tested John Ruddy from open play, their possession and territory kept forcing set pieces where vulnerability was again exposed.

The problem doesn’t seem to be dealing with the initial cross, more a failure to clear the knock downs and remaining organised when the ball is recycled. Barnsley and Bristol City have both reaped the rewards and others will target such an obvious frailty.

You couldn’t have begrudged Barnsley a point if they’d managed to hold on after that injury time heartbreaker.

The possession stats were split right down the middle, as were shots (Wolves one better off) and they forced 8 corners to our 5.

Numbers don’t always reflect the game but it did feel like they were in the ascendancy for much of this game, albeit lacking a killer instinct.

Wolves by contrast rarely found a rhythm but did create chances throughout. Cavaleiro shot wide in the first half, Bonatini fluffed when clean through and Douglas saw a powerful effort pushed wide.

N’Diaye and Enobakhare were eventually dispatched to make things happen and boy, they certainly delivered.

Bright couldn’t be more different to Cavaleiro. While the Portuguese man always seems to be in forward motion, bending and twisting away from tackles, Enobakhare rarely exits walking pace.

There was divided opinion over Cavaleiro’s contribution yesterday. I thought he did some decent things and was one of the few players to drive us forward but there were loose passes and sloppy moments too. It was a big drop from his level against Bristol City and I wasn’t surprised to see him hooked.

Enobakhare’s controlled, almost indifferent finish was sublime and worthy of winning what had been a forgettable game up to that point.

But the Nigerian needed one more moment of inspiration after Barnsley had spoiled the party, sliding a neat through ball for Bonatini to put it on a plate for the onrushing N’Diaye.

The big midfielder couldn’t miss after his perfectly timed run and having put over the cross for the first goal, his contribution was perhaps the most telling.

If his purpose is to offer a different approach to Neves and Saiss it’s mission accomplished. His battering ram cameo was something to behold and exactly what was needed.

Special mention too for Bonatini, who looked classy again and is exceptional at bringing others into play. He has to score that one-on-one in the second half but it’s tough to question his overall efforts.

I also thought Batth was tremendous, making crucial blocks and tackles when Barnsley had us stretched.

Overall, it’s pleasing to see the team come away victorious despite the opposition being so effective with a high pressing game.

But Wolves needed to demonstrate greater enthusiasm and more invention in that first half. Too many players looked off the pace and those small percentages add up to a big difference.

It won’t always be a cruise and this get out of jail free was a timely reminder.

Wolves Vs Barnsley Preview

We got in trouble with some Barnsley fans last season after they battered Wolves in this fixture.

A few Tykes supporters felt there was an insinuation in our report that teams ‘like Barnsley’ shouldn’t be beating us 4-0.

But nobody was belittling their club. In fact, we were complimentary about just how superior they were that evening.

Fast forward to now and at the risk of another dressing down, Barnsley definitely should not be beating us 4-0 this time. Sorry chaps.

Barnsley

The team that got them up into the Championship obviously had some talent because most of them have been picked off.

Hourihane, Mawson and Winnall are just three names who’ve moved on for big money.

It’s a big ask for Paul Heckingbottom to keep rebuilding the side when other clubs keep swooping in for their best and brightest.

They’re currently down in 20th and still looking for their first away win of the season.

However, a strong showing at Wembley in midweek against Spurs, albeit in defeat, will have given them heart.

Former Walsall man Tom Bradshaw has 5 goals already and is one to keep an eye on Saturday.

Wolves

Whichever combination Nuno chooses, I feel confident the overall quality won’t suffer.

I still think the team that won the first three matches of the season is our best eleven.

But the players who’ve benefited from injuries like Batth and Vinagre have come in and done well.

N’Diaye also offers something different to Saiss, which is no bad thing. You don’t always want two static holding players.

It’s a squad game but Jota has fast become the main man and he’s the one player everyone wants to see on the teamsheet.

Predictions

I’m so confident that we’ll win that I’m almost certain we won’t. There’s a football fan’s logic for you.

Maybe this current Barnsley team are better than the bits I’ve seen and maybe we’re not as good as I think we are, but everything points to a home victory.

I’m going for 2-0.

Up The Wolves!

* Well done to Beford Wolf who won the Art of Football competition and thanks to everyone who took part.

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Barnsley 1 Wolves 3

Typical of Wolves to go to Barnsley on a miserable Tuesday evening and lose…

…After an FA Cup win at Anfield, a £13 million record signing and a genuinely fresh-thinking season ticket offer, these last four days have never felt less typical.

The times they are a-changin’, with this 3-1 win offering more evidence of such, not least when we look lethal from set-pieces, score early in another game and prevent that inevitable goal from a former player (Hammill).

Playing Barnsley minus top scorer Sam Winnall and talisman Conor Hourihane meant we were facing them at the perfect time but again, when does fate befall us in such a favourable way?

Hopefully this league win will alleviate any lingering looks over our shoulders towards the bottom three, just a week or so since our Norwich defeat raised one or two alarm bells.

Clearly, Paul Lambert is engendering a special bond amongst his players – and those fans who made the hike up to south Yorkshire – and his words to the Fans’ Parliament a month or two ago ring true:

‘You have a brilliant club, but you’ve just come off the rails a bit and need to get back on track. But forget it (the past), it’s gone.’

Beating Liverpool, signing Costa and now David Edwards scoring a brace away from home suggests we’re getting back on track and embracing what the future might hold, rather than moither over yesterday’s misdemeanours.

This game sounded as good as over when Alex Mowatt clattered Jack Price to see red within minutes of Dave Edwards nodding home Connor Ronan’s free kick to put us two-up. It could conceivably have been three at half time too, had the referee not reversed an initial penalty decision which looked a cast iron spot kick.

Earlier, Kortney Hause did his best Richard Stearman impression to score from a dead ball while the fans were still taking to their seats.

Being hypercritical, we sounded a bit ragged against 10 men near the end when the game was already sealed from Edwards’s second.

But when we’re building more momentum (as typified by Connor Ronan tonight) it’s best to just enjoy this heady ride while it lasts – without looking back!

Barnsley Vs Wolves Preview

Is there really a match tonight?

After Saturday’s legal high and the mouthwatering prospect of Chelsea’s visit to Molineux in the next round, can there be a more stark contrast?

But regroup we must as there’s still a considerable amount of work to be done in the league.

I find it very difficult, given how Wolves are playing and the feel good factor, to envisage us slipping down into relegation strife.

But even so, everyone will feel better when there’s a bit more distance and a few more places between ourselves and the bottom three.

This is a really tough fixture against a team who continue to succeed against the odds.

Barnsley

It must be so frustrating for Paul Heckingbottom to see his best players continually getting picked off.

Defender James Bree and captain Conor Hourihane were the latest to leave with Aston Villa recognising the talent both possess.

They follow Wolves academy graduate Sam Winnall out the Oakwell exit door after he departed for Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the month.

Reinforcements have arrived in the shape of Leicester midfielder Matty James and Leeds’ highly rated youngster Alex Mowatt.

But it’s a big ask for a team with so much upheaval to continually regroup and consistently win matches as the Tykes have been doing this season.

They’ve won 7 out of their last 10 matches in fact and come into the game just a point outside the play-offs. The 23 goals they’ve conceded at home is the highest of any team in the league.

Wolves

Signing a genuine superstar like Helder Costa for £13 million seems unfathomable when you consider we’ve dined out on budget recruitment, free transfers and loans for so long.

If we can fend off summer interest, he’ll be a key addition next season, particularly if the goal is still promotion from the Championship.

In the here and now I can’t see the Portuguese man getting a rest tonight. I’d have Bodvarsson and Mason down as definite starters and probably Price too.

But it will be fascinating to see if Paul Lambert rewards any of Saturday’s heroes who haven’t been in the team a chance to stake a more regular claim. I’m thinking about Hause, Evans and Saville in particular.

The injury to Ivan Cavaleiro is a blow because despite inconsistent performances, he’s still a threat down that left flank. Andi Weimann’s performance at Anfield proves he’s a more than able deputy though.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

We’re in a great place right now. The performances are improving, the manager has stacks of options and the whole club is bouncing.

I thought yesterday’s announcement about season tickets was also fantastic. Not only is it great value, it also shows an intent to get Molineux full again.

Despite the fact Barnsley are seventh and we’re down at the bottom, I’ll back us to get the win and hopefully avenge the 4-0 tonking they handed out at Molineux.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

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