Wolves 2 Birmingham City 0

Response is the key ingredient when you’re trying to achieve anything in football.

It’s telling then, that every time this Wolves team have needed to follow-up a big result – good or bad – they have responded.

From ecstasy at Ashton Gate in December, the comprehensive win over Brentford days later was just as important. The same applies to beating Derby after coming through at Cardiff.

Or what about bouncing back after that shock home defeat to Forest by grinding out a win at Portman Road? Or trouncing Leeds after losing at Fulham?

They’ve won big and they’ve lost big, but every time they’ve been sure to double down in the aftermath. That has been the difference.

Perhaps the most impressive response of all was in the wake of that defeat at Villa Park when serious questions were being asked.

Can they handle the pressure? Will they cave in? Have they been figured out?

Six victories and no defeats in the seven games that have since followed make light of the above.

Yesterday was no different. Having celebrated promotion just hours earlier, they’d be forgiven for a drop off in intensity.

Instead, they got it done, just as they have done so many times before. Nothing too flashy, just a clinical, cold kill of a Birmingham side desperate to spoil the party.

Blues had their chances, most notably in the opening minutes (from an offside position) that John Ruddy acrobatically repelled.

Wolves only manufactured one clear sighter in the first half but three precision passes were enough to give Jota a 17th goal of the season.

Garry Monk made his smash and grab intentions clear from his team selection and the subsequent retreat, but would have been pleased his team stayed in it for so long, particularly after the sending off.

Benik Afobe’s tidy finish settled any lingering doubts with his own attention now surely focused on where he’ll be playing next season.

There’s no such confusion for Wolves and the hope now is that they build on promotion in the same way they have everything else in the last year – with a big response.

The pack is back.

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Wolves Vs Birmingham City Preview

Regardless of what happens in the next four games, this is already Wolves’ best ever season in the second tier.

The 92 points on the board eclipses the efforts of the 2008/09 title winning side and Wednesday’s 28th win of the campaign puts this year’s graduates one up on the 27 achieved under McCarthy.

Promotion hasn’t been achieved as I write this post, but if Fulham fail to beat Brentford on Saturday, this derby becomes a celebration – for Wolves at least.

Not that Nuno will see it that way. I imagine he’ll be preaching focus right up until the final whistle at the Stadium of Light at the start of May.

Birmingham

I thought Blues were toast a few weeks back, but three consecutive wins has given them control of their own destiny down the home stretch.

However, their remaining four fixtures are daunting with Sheffield United, Fulham and a trip to QPR to navigate after they leave Molineux on Sunday.

Barnsley are three points back in 22nd but with a game in hand and a slightly more favourable run-in, so there’s still work to be done.

Having twice narrowly avoided the drop into League One you wonder if they’ll finally come out on the wrong end? My gut instinct is they’ll survive, just about.

The other Jota has come good for them in recent weeks, while Lukas Jutkiewicz has rediscovered the goal scoring touch. However, top scorer Che Adams sits this one out at the tail end of a three match ban.

Also worth noting they have the second worst away record in the division with 14 defeats from 21 matches and just three wins.

Wolves

I wouldn’t say I was surprised how comfortable it was against Derby, but it was thoroughly satisfying to see the team produce one of their best performances of the season to all but confirm promotion.

The only place Nuno seems interested in rotation is the front three, so we’ll see what he goes with this time.

Jota looked sharper than he’s been for a good while against Derby, while Helder Costa, who didn’t start in midweek, looks almost back to his best.

Predictions

If Wolves play anything close to their best they should win comfortably. Even the most ardent Blues supporter would have to concede that point.

I expect they’ll do a better job than Derby of closing down the spaces and making it difficult for passes to penetrate.

Beyond that, it will be very interesting to see how adventurous Garry Monk is prepared to be, which might be influenced by the results that come in on Saturday.

Either way though a home victory is the logical outcome and I think that’s exactly what we’ll see.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Derby County 0

Golf fans will know there’s one certainty on day three of the Ryder Cup.

If Team USA are in the sand, that yankee will be chipping to within a few feet of the pin or straight in the hole.

You tell yourself it won’t happen, but the same outcome repeats itself again and again.

Derby must have had a similar sense of foreboding last night as Ruben Neves pulled out the driver.

If there was any doubt it would end up anywhere but the top corner, it dissipated in the instant it left his magical right foot.

This was a strike to define a season from a player who has just got better and better and better the longer he’s been out on the links.

That’s the reason he got my vote for Player of the Season.

I suspect Conor Coady will win the gong and if he does, it’s richly deserved, but for me, it belongs to our record signing.

Wolves are not a one man team but Neves is the most vital cog in the machine.

Married to that idea is the sheer weight of expectation he’s had to shoulder. As the league’s most expensive player it was very much a case of ‘be brilliant or be ripped apart’. There would never have been a middle ground.

The manner in which he played his way into this campaign and over the course of 40 odd games has gone on to completely dominate shows his maturity, his quality and, as illustrated by that trademark celebration, his sheer intelligence.

Truth be told, Derby with their deep-lying, one-paced midfield weren’t exactly well equipped to get near our star man.

They couldn’t even get near to Willy Boly as he executed his own inch perfect chip to present Diogo Jota the opener.

And after that early concession they barely threatened.

Gary Rowett was complimentary about the opposition afterwards but as brilliant as Wolves were, his side were dire.

We might not even need another point to secure promotion but with four games still left, reaching a century looks par for the course.