Blackburn Rovers 0 Wolves 1

The more this intriguing season twists and turns, the more the mind wonders back to another belligerent side we grew to adore.

Take Sak!

As we hung on for a wonderful away day in Blackburn, it was hard not to think of the embryonic outfit Mick McCarthy assembled in 2006.

Unfashionable, uncompromising and unshakable in the very games that most expected us to lose.

After a sobering Crystal Palace home reversal followed by injuries to Peszko, Doyle and Sigurdason, many would have taken a point at Ewood Park today, just like they would have six years ago in a game at Leeds United.

In equally emphatic style on the other side of the Pennines this time, Bakary Sako was imitating Jay Bothroyd with an absolute belter late in the game to seal three points that no team will work harder for this weekend.

As unpredictable as he is unstoppable, the Frenchman’s cult status grows at a speed proportionate to his Exocet that snorted past Danny Murphy’s nose.

We all know where our 2006 vintage finished come 46 games and with Solbakken working with this battle scarred squad – beset by injuries at that – we’d surely grab a fifth placed finish again if offered it now?

If we can eek out results like this until Christmas and give Stale some meaningful cash to spend in January, then maybe we can aim higher still?

Ewood Panorama

With our Norwegian leader bereft of all but two of his summer signings today, every ounce of his nous was needed to record an away triumph, not to mention a clean sheet with a defence so porous before his arrival.

We appeared to be the side doing all the pressing in the first half and were thoroughly good value for the 0-0 half time score.

Had Ebanks-Blake not headed against a post from six yards when unmarked, it could have been even better.

The second half bore the hallmarks of a home side being scolded for not grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.

Time and again Rovers pressed, only for Johnson and Berra to repel the bombardment with braveheart defiance.

And just when we were being pushed to the point of breaking point, an overhit back pass presented us with an unlikely corner.

When it eventually fell to the royal boot of our Saint Etienne hero, a Skud was dispatched to seal our 17th, 18th and 19th points of the season.

That’s four more than 2006 if memory serves.

Player ratings

Our new signing David Warrington, who hasn’t missed a single Wolves game since 1995 is now offering weekly player ratings from each game (out of 10), starting with our glorious Ewood Park victory, so over to Dave:

Carl Ikeme 7
What he did he did well, no saves to make so that means a seven.

Richard Stearman 7
Injury summed up game – committed and brave. Subbed.

Stephen Ward 7
Steady performance. Calm.

Christophe Berra 9
Man of the Match! Loved his tussle with Rhodes, flawless game.

Roger Johnson 8
Just pipped by Berra. Huge game, won everything.

Kevin Foley 7
Played in 3 positions and assured in each one (R/B, R/M and C/M).

Karl Henry 7
So important to us. Kasim-Richards got him booked after shoving him in face!

Tongo Doumbia 7
Looks to be carrying a knock but good. Played more advanced role.

David Davis 7
Good first half but faded.

Bakary Sako 7
His goal was brilliant, worth an 8 alone, but going on his general play.

Sylvan Ebanks Blake 7
Should have scored in first half but worked his socks off alone.

SUBS:

Anthony Forde 6
Could have scored twice, should have squared to Zubar to win 2-0.

Ronald Zubar 5
Kept giving the ball away. Shadow of old Zubar

Danny Batth
Protected back 4 when coming on, couple of good clearances. No mark as only on a couple of mins.

Blackburn Rovers Vs Wolves Preview

As timing goes, Wolves probably couldn’t have picked a worse moment to visit Ewood Park.

Stalemate at the City Ground

With Steve Kean (finally) heading through the exit door last week, it’s estimated an extra 2,000 home supporters will pack the stands.

That sort of positive energy is sure to have an influence on the Blackburn players, so it’s a big test for Wolves.

Level with us on points and goal difference, Rovers too will feel reasonably satisfied with their start to the season, even if things have gone a little sour in recent weeks.

Jordan Rhodes is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue this season and he’s continued to find the net regularly since moving from Huddersfield for big money. Nullifying his threat will be key.

In Danny Murphy, Scott Dann and Paul Robinson, the spine of their team remains experienced and strong, particularly at this level. They named David Dunn and Morten Gamst Pederson amongst their substitutes in last night’s nil nil draw with Forest. Not many Championship sides can boast that sort of depth.

Wolves

As always seems to be the case, when a winning run comes to an end for Wolves it comes at great expense. Losing Peszko for over a month is a huge blow, particularly with Razak Boukari and Stephen Hunt also out.

How Ståle attempts to address this problem on Saturday will be very interesting indeed. This would be the team I’d hope to see from the players available:

OK, so not the most imaginative of solutions slotting Dave Edwards in down the right, but we’re not blessed with options.

He’s played there before many times and away from home he can certainly do a good job. We know he gets up and down the pitch well and in tandem with Foley, I’d feel reasonably secure.

I think this game will ultimately come down to how well Wolves can defend. I’m fairly certain we’ll score, but I expect them to give our back four a thorough examination.

Henry and Doumbia as always will be central to our fortunes. I didn’t think they influenced Tuesday’s match in the same way they have done in recent weeks. Hoping for better on Saturday.

Opposition view

Thanks to my good friend and Blackburn fan James Tomlinson, for providing the following:

We face Wolves on Saturday with a resurgent sense of belief, the first home game without Steve Kean in charge is sure to bring some of the Rovers faithful back through the Ewood Park gates. With the exception of the manager situation there should be no cause for complaint, we are sitting in the play-offs and have had some decent results. OK we’ve had to claw back to get them but that shows fighting spirit, when we get the ball on the floor and out wide we look good and can create a host of chances.

Wolves are a tough team, having won their last four league matches before the home defeat to Crystal Palace, they are also right in the mix and I expect them to be all the way through this season. They have installed a solid manager and he’s getting them playing decent football. My only worry for us is the defence, it’s our weakest point, loss of concentration and any opposition player with pace and we are in trouble. We have a decent strike pairing in Rhodes and Gomes and given half a chance they will find the net no problems.

The atmosphere is going to be key to this game, no Kean should bring a lot of noise and the team will feed off that, so I am expecting a tough game but we’ll take three points.

Verdict 2-1 Rovers!

Predictions

Slim pickings for Prediction League points after the defeat to Palace. Most people, including me, backed us for the win.

4 people said we’d lose though and 3 of them got the correct scoreline. So well done to carl wolves, Haywood wolf and Robertsbridgewolf for doubling up. Ash K takes a single.

Apologies to Timberwolf who said we’d either lose 2-1 or draw. Unfortunately, making two predictions does make your entry null and void. Sorry matey, but I have to be fair.

This weekend, I think we’ll get edged out.

It’s bad timing for us in terms of injuries and coming off the back of a defeat to Palace. They’ll be up for it in front of a bigger crowd too.

2-1 Rovers. Hope I’m wrong.

Up The Wolves.

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.

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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.