Wolves 0 Blackburn 2

Disastrous isn’t the only word you could use to describe this latest Molineux mishap.

But it is perhaps the adjective that best underlines how epic a blow this was to our already slim chances of survival.

In fact, as Wolves continue their gradual descent to the bottom of the table you’re tempted to say the game is up.

Cut down again at home

Quite simply, if this is the best TC can get out of the group, we’re spent.

Even as the muted action ebbed and flowed in the first half, it seemed momentum was always flowing towards the opposition as our fragile confidence continued to ebb away.

Promising forward moves were continually halted by misplaced passes – mostly from Stephen Ward – as our attacking was all too familiarly toothless.

It was again only at two goals down that Wolves even showed any sort of appetite to attack.

And when the chances did arrive in the dying embers they were all fluffed high, wide and handsome.

Robinson made one save all game, which is frightening when you consider he hasn’t kept a cleansheet all season – prior to yesterday.

Defensively, it was a modicum better.

Bassong for Berra was a notable improvement and the on-loan Spurs man showed a little of the class we hoped for.

But in Junior Hoilett, Blackburn possess a player with the sort of confidence and cutting edge we can only dream of.

The Canadian gobbled up two half chances to put his side in firm control and once the game was stretched, there was only one winner.

David Davis certainly shouldn’t be remembered for a notable error at either end of the pitch after a tenacious, largely competent display on his Premier League debut.

He got around the pitch and was the only midfielder who put tackles in all afternoon. Whether or not it was the right decision to throw him straight in remains debatable.

Matt Jarvis is still our only route to goal.

Why we stopped feeding him the ball out wide when he clearly had the beating of his full-back all afternoon is anybody’s guess.

He seemed to drift inside for long periods, which I simply can’t fathom. It renders him totally ineffective.

Doyle out wide is a massive no-no for me. What does he possibly offer in that position?

Granted, Kightly was poor after his introduction but I’d much prefer a natural wide player from the start.

Speaking of which, how long is it until we can get Adam Hammill back I wonder? With Hunt injured, it must be done as a matter of urgency.

That, at the very least, may go some small way to appeasing a despondent and incensed home crowd.

And whilst of course I certainly don’t condone some of the things we’re hearing that took place after the final whistle yesterday, you can understand the frustration.

It’s all very well the chairman, the CEO, the manager and the players calling for unity, but a string of baffling off-the-field decisions have all contributed to what we’re seeing on the pitch and the division that’s evident throughout the club.

Most worrying for all of the above, is that things will probably have to get even worse before they can get better.

Strap yourself in.

Wolves Vs Blackburn Preview

Back in August a stirring comeback at Ewood Park gave us all hope of better things to come.

Sadly, fast-forward to March and it’s as you were at the foot of the Premier League table.

Familiar faces.

Can Wolves make it a double over Rovers?

And it’s very much Molineux Déjà vu tomorrow as Blackburn and Wolves emerge to lock horns in a pivotal survival clash.

Only this time a narrow defeat won’t be enough to appease an increasingly unsettled home crowd.

Some are calling it a ‘mustn’t lose’ and you can see there point.  A draw at the very least ensures no ground is surrendered.

But I consider it a ‘must win’.

We need 3 or 4 victories before the end of the season and looking down at the remaining fixtures, I’m not sure where we can realistically expect to get them.

Blackburn are poor away from home.

Their only win was a shock 3-2 at Old Trafford a few months back. They’ve dug-in for 6 draws but 33 goals conceded gives them the leakiest defence in the Premier League on their travels.

Don’t get too excited though.

Wolves aren’t exactly pulling up trees on their own ground and have conceded more goals at home than any other side in the top tier.

Not much chance of a nil nil then. Famous last words.

The Team

Tough to know what team to put out after last weekend, but after careful consideration, this would be my XI:

Hennessey, Zubar, Craddock, Bassong, Ward, Davis, O'Hara, Edwards, Jarvis, Kightly, Fletcher

Where do I start explaining that one?

I toyed with the idea of playing De Vries in goal given Hennessey’s recent fumbles, but stuck with the Welshman for the moment.

The back four was a shambles at Craven Cottage, albeit against a strong Fulham side and with little protection from the midfield. Still, the experienced head of Craddock, coupled with the athleticism of Bassong would be my preferred combination.

I said I’d play David Davis in my last blog post and I’m sticking with that. Edwards trained yesterday and if he’s fit, he should also play. We need legs in there to give us any sort of chance. That should free O’Hara up to do more going forward.

Foley and Kightly was tough decision on the right, as I think we could do with the extra cover down that flank to nullify the threat of Hoilett. However, I still think Kightly is a matchwinner on his day and we need more of those. We can’t always rely on Fletch and Jarvis.

This isn’t the team I think TC will pick though. I believe he’ll play 442 with Doyle and Fletch up front.

Prediction League

17 pundits thought we’d lose at Fulham last weekend but nobody said 5-0. Unbelievable!

This weekend it’s a classic heart versus head conundrum.

I’d love to think we can get the win we need, but too often in these games we end up falling apart.

I don’t want to be overly despondent, so I’ll say 2-2.

If you’re at Molineux for this one tomorrow have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

Blackburn 1 Wolves 2

1 down, 37 to go.

For the second season on the spin, Wolves begin with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory and plenty of positives aside.

One such positive was the competitive debut of Roger Johnson, who looked composed, assured and in control throughout.

Ward was the hero

Yes, the build up to Blackburn’s opener was an all too familiar tale of woe, as Roberts buffeted our two centre backs to create the opening, but aside from that blip, both Johnson and Berra coped admirably with the physical threat.

The new skipper brings a calmness to the centre of defence that’s been lacking in recent years and even on this early evidence, he seems like an astute addition.

Another plus was seeing Steven Fletcher picking up where he left off last season, heading in a well worked equaliser to ensure we went in level at half time.

Both he and Doyle caused plenty of problems for a make-shift Rovers defence, proving they can play together in a successful Wolves team.

Sadly for Doyle, he wasn’t able to add his name to the scoresheet, seeing his meek penalty palmed away by Paul Robinson after Matt Jarvis was hauled down by Salgado.

Fortunately for the striker though, his blushes were spared by his fellow countryman Stephen Ward who bulleted home the sweetest of volleys from the resulting melee to give Wolves the lead.

It was a sumptuous strike and perfectly placed too finding the one spot in the goal where his effort wouldn’t have been blocked or saved.

He deserved the glory for a typically committed performance, shackling the pace and trickery of Hoillett effectively and getting forward to good effect in the second half.

Another player who really impressed me was Stephen Hunt. As always his work rate and tenacity were second to none, but some of his close control and interplay had the hallmarks of a seasoned Premier League performer.


View from the away end

Indeed, Wolves as a team looked a top flight outfit once they’d got themselves ahead, moving the ball around smartly and seeing the game out with the minimum of fuss.

During the second half we saw some lovely football played between midfield and attack, opening up spaces that we could really have made a lot more of.

Blackburn lacked invention, aside from the typically all-action David Dunn, but they got plenty of balls into the box as they searched for an equaliser.

We perhaps rode our luck at times with last-ditch blocks and miss-cued shots, but satisfyingly we didn’t look like gifting them a way back.

And that is an important evolution.

It might only be one game and it might only be three points but the manner of this victory, particularly the second half domination, suggested that there’s plenty more to come from this Wolves side.

I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Blackburn Vs Wolves Preview

Welcome back.

Sit down, get comfortable and strap yourself in for another 38 game ride on the Wolverhampton Wanderers Express. First stop – Ewood Park.

And where better to start than a ground where we’ve consistently received a sound pummeling? Indeed, on our last three visits to Blackburn we’ve conceded 11 goals and scored just 2.

Losing has become a habit at Ewood Park

5-1 defeat.

3-1 defeat.

3-0 defeat.

Hmm…can’t wait.

We shouldn’t forget the most recent beating they gave us either, in that miserable first 45 at Molineux back in May, which very nearly condemned us to Championship football. They were stronger, faster and generally better than us in that opening period, a nightmare I’m not particularly keen to revisit on Saturday.

But having played Blackburn on the final game of the 09/10 season and now in the 10/11 opener, you can’t help but see this match as a barometer of summer progress for both clubs.

For Wolves, I think we’re all hoping to see a stronger, less error-prone, more disciplined defence.

The back four on Survival Sunday were an embarrassing shambles, unable to cope with the strength, movement and pace of the Blackburn attack.

It’s entirely feasible we could see a completely different quartet take to the filed on Saturday, led of course by new skipper Roger Johnson.

Much is expected of the giant defender and this really should be his type of game. We’ve been crying out for strength and organisation, two things the former Blues man should bring in spades. No pressure then Rog.

The Team

I’m expecting Mick to play 442 at Blackburn, assuming Doyle is fit to partner Fletcher up front. A few people have noted that Wolves have been trying a narrower version of this formation, which I think bodes well and should make us more compact and difficult to breakdown.

This is the team I expect to see and the shape employed:

Hennessy, Stearman, Berra, Johnson, Elokobi, Henry, Hunt, O’Hara, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher

I reckon both wide players will be playing from deep rather than pushing up alongside the two forwards. I see Fletcher occupying a deeper-lying role too, allowing Doyle to hold the ball up front and do all the other things he does so well. All of this should give O’Hara freedom to roam, which can only be a good thing.

Other players who could sneak into eleven include Ward at either left-back or forward if Doyle’s not fit, Zubar at right-back or maybe even alongside Johnson in the center of defence. SEB will also come into contention should Doyle not recover in time.

Prediction League

The Wolves Blog Prediction League returns for a second season and just in case you didn’t play along last time, here’s how it works:

To enter each week simply leave your predicted score as a comment in the official preview to every match (such as this one).

You get 3 points for guessing the correct score and 1 point for predicting the correct outcome.

I keep a running tally of the scores and update the table each week to show how everyone’s getting on.

As it’s the opening game and I’m feeling foolishly optimistic, I’m backing the boys to get a win.

I think we’re overdue a good result at Ewood Park and I think we have every reason to feel confident of getting one.

We’ll likely concede but I can see us scoring a few.

2-1 Wolves.

If you’re going to this one, have a great time and get right behind the lads. It’s a long season and as we know from experience every point counts.

Up The Wolves.

Guest house: Blackburn Rovers

We’re going to be making a more concerted effort to chat with opposition fans this season, getting their valuable insider perspective on their club, our club and of course, the match between the two respective sides.

With that in mind, we swing open the doors to the Wolves Blog Guest House for the very first time, inviting Dan from the Rovers Return blog inside for a chat ahead of this weekend’s opening day clash at Ewood Park.

Junior Hoilett is definitely one to watch this season

Thomas: Dan, welcome. I think the starting point for this little chit-chat is obvious. Our last Premier League match was of course against each other on Survival Sunday. What a day that was. You probably couldn’t have hoped for a better performance heading into that game could you?

Dan: Before that last game of the season we had been on a mini resurgence but had still been unable to get the vital win we needed. We were pegged back from 1-0 up at West Ham, and then the same happened when we played Manchester United the following week.

I was extremely nervous going into the Wolves game knowing it’s not one of our best grounds to go to, but I could not believe the first half performance. Pure ecstasy. In the end I was pleased Wolves stayed up because the atmosphere at the end of the match was something I had never seen before. Home and away fans in joint celebration at survival, aplauding each other after what had been a very stressful afternoon!

Thomas: Agreed, it was rather surreal but a special moment nonetheless. Since that dramatic finale, you’ve seen Phil Jones leave the club, Mame Biram Diouf head back to Old Trafford, and a few other big names, such as Christopher Samba, linked with a move away from Ewood. With these departures in mind and having come so close to relegation last season, are you concerned it will be another struggle this time around?

Dan: I think it will be another struggle this season but not necessarily because of the departures. Yes, we lost Phil Jones, but that was no shock. Other departures are players who were not particularly good. You mention Diouf, but he wasn’t good enough. Santa Cruz was hopeless. Hopefully we’ll add another striker to our squad this month, on top of David Goodwillie. And with a couple of other signings apparently imminent I don’t see the squad being all that different in terms of strength and quality to last year.

Thomas: Yes, Goodwillie is an interesting signing. I’m intrigued to see how he’ll get on in the Premiership. Moving behind the scenes,  what’s your opinion on Steve Kean and the owners of the club?

Dan: Steve Kean was no one’s favourite manager last season and the owners have frustrated everyone. They started their reign at Ewood by shouting everything from the rooftops and were criticised for this, so now they have retreated and never say anything.

So from one extreme to the other and the fans are unhappy at the lack of communication, although it has to be said we have become used to the luxury of great management with John Williams – who has now departed – at the helm. This is a massive season for not just the club, but Steve Kean and Venky’s, who must act quickly to prove they know what they’re doing.

Thomas: Which players do you expect to be your star performers this season?

Dan: Junior Hoillett emerged last season and should continue to do well. His partnership with Martin Olsson was excellent and I expect the Swedish full back-turned winger to be one of our best players again. I’ve always liked goalkeepers, too, and Paul Robinson is one of the best in the league, despite what Fabio Capello might think.

Thomas: Well, we can sadly say from experience what Hoillet is capable of (gulp). Onto Wolves, what’s your overall opinion of our club?

Dan: Wolves are a good club with a nice ground and a good, hardcore set of supporters.

Thomas: Succinct but I won’t disagree with you! Which players of ours do you rate?

Dan: Although it pains me to say it, ex-Dingle Steven Fletcher is always a threat, and despite not being a very popular character for opposing sides, Stephen Hunt is a good player as well with an eye for goal from midfield. A good example being the one that kept you guys in the league last year!

Thomas: Indeed. I expect both of those players to start at Ewood so I’m guessing Fletch is in for a pleasant reception. How do you think we’ll fare this season?

Dan: Similar to Rovers I think. Wolves will face another season of struggle but ultimately survive, perhaps not quite as nervously as last year.

Thomas: I think we’d probably take that. And finally, what’s your prediction for the match? In our last 3 Premier League visits to Ewood Park, we’ve lost 5-1, 3-1 and 3-0, so do you feel confident of another win or is our luck about to change?

Dan: At home, Wolves are a side Rovers really need to beat. A sentiment I’m sure you’d echo if the fixture was the other way around. And I think we should come away with a win. We do seem to score quite a lot of goals against you, but I wouldn’t be massively surprised if it was 0-0!

Thomas: Lets hope for a more entertaining match. Thanks for visiting the Guest House Dan and good luck for the season (after Saturday of course).

* I did an interview about the season ahead for Goal.com, which is now available to read by clicking here.

Wolves 2 Blackburn 3

Chewed up, spat out and pulled relentlessly through the wringer, but ultimately, Wolves are alive and kicking in the Premier League.

We’re safe.

Enjoy it. Relish it. Savour every last drop of it.

Worth remembering

Then take a deep breath and relax.

All the other discussions can be saved for another day because at this precise moment, nothing else matters.

For example, it doesn’t matter that our first half performance was the stuff of sick, perverted nightmares. It doesn’t matter that Jason Roberts was made to look unplayable or for that matter that Junior Hoilett was made to look like Pele. Forget it, it doesn’t matter.

Today was about one thing and one thing only – survival.

Survival, in any shape or form, however scruffy, scrappy or downright jammy it needed to be. Just survive.

And we did that, albeit with the helping hand of others.

In fairness though, we kept on chugging away and it’s well worth remembering that even before Spurs hammered the final decisive nail into Birmingham’s coffin, this ‘never say die’ Wolves team had muscled their own way out of the bottom three, thanks to Stephen Hunt’s delicious curling finish.

That crucial second goal followed Jamie O’Hara’s belting strike from another well-worked short free-kick. On a pleasant side note, if the rumoured £5 million permanent deal for the on loan Spurs’ midfielder comes to fruition, that will be a fantastic piece of business.

By stark contrast, I don’t think anyone in gold will be keen to see us shelling out the mega-bucks on Michael Mancienne right now. He was appalling today and when he scuttled off at half-time, I think most of us breathed a sigh of relief. He just couldn’t cope with the physicality of Roberts and coupled with massive lapses in concentration against Blues and Sunderland in recent weeks, you have to question whether he has what it takes to play consistently as a center-back in the Premier League.

But as I say, discussions such as these are for mulling over on another day.

In fact, it can all wait for another day because I quite simply have nothing left to give.

The opera that is Wolverhampton Wanderers football club have once again battered me into an empty shell of a man and left me feeling numb from the experience.

Same again next season yeah?

I’m up for it if you are.

Up The Wolves.