Wolves 5 Bolton Wanderers 1

Houston, we have lift off.

I have a confession to make – I didn’t go to the match. I wasn’t there when history was made.

But consuming the highlights, the tweets and the insights from my nearest and dearest, there was one consistent message – business as usual.

Ahead early through a set piece and then easing through the gears as and when required.

Rinse and repeat stuff from the victories over Leeds and Fulham.

Job done. Onto the next.

Let’s talk a bit about the set pieces.

For all the silk and sparkle, Wolves are dominating the meat and potato stuff to give themselves a foothold.

In this run of five consecutive victories, they’ve got themselves ahead via a free-kick or a corner on four of those occasions.

That’s no coincidence and underlines that we not only possess the most technically superior players in the league, but also the best drilled.

Ominous signs for anyone thinking of banking up and defending deep.

Things inevitably went south for Bolton pretty quickly after Willy Boly powered in the opener and Bonatini rounded off a slick move involving a sumptuous Neves pass for the second.

Then arrived the standard hatchet job on our best and brightest and the usual kerfuffle on the sidelines.

I for one am glad our bench are up for every decision. The home dugout has been too timid for too long.

And let’s be honest, teams come to disrupt our rhythm by any means necessary and if they want to dish out tough treatment, we should all be howling for the ref to dole out adequate justice.

It probably won’t be the last time Nuno is sent to the stands or the dressing room or wherever he camped out for the second half.

Much like me, he probably didn’t need to see the action with his own eyes to predict the likely outcome.

The goal rush is inevitable when Wolves are in the driving seat and the opposition start pushing.

Jota and Cavaleiro must be the most devastating counterattacking duo we’ve ever had, with the former bringing out the best in the latter.

The team, like those speedsters are sprinting away with it and doling out a clear message to everyone else – catch us if you can.

Wolves Vs Bolton Wanderers Preview

I’ll get over the play-off semi-final defeat one day.

But as firmly as I’m clinging onto that particular grudge, I’m glad Bolton have managed to stay afloat after a few uncomfortable years.

I don’t like seeing any club struggling to maintain their very existence, so it’s good that they’re still here and we can resume the rivalry.

Despite the 28 point gap and the obvious gulf in quality you wouldn’t put it past them to throw a spanner in the works.

Bolton

I am surprised they made an immediate return from League One given the turmoil on and off the field that Phil Parkinson inherited.

Persuading him to join from Bradford was a smart move given his success in the lower leagues but maintaining their Championship status will be an even tougher challenge for a manager who is yet to prove his credentials at this level.

The Trotters come into this game second from bottom with only two wins from their eighteen matches.

Both of those victories came at the Macron Stadium and they haven’t beaten anyone in their nine away matches to date. Hopefully it’s not tenth time lucky.

Former Wolves skipper Karl Henry is back in town for another showdown and Adam Le Fondre may also feature.

Wolves

After this game we don’t play again for the best part of ten days, so I don’t expect Nuno to indulge in rotation.

At the front of the queue is Helder Costa. He’s gradually starting to look like the player we loved and cherished last season. This might be a nice one for him.

If he plays, it’s likely Cav won’t and that’s very harsh after he enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in midweek.

Predictions

No game is easy in the Championship but Wolves are overwhelming favourites and I expect them to win.

It will be interesting to see how Bolton approach it and how much adventure they demonstrate, but based on our recent form I can only see one outcome.

They haven’t lost any of their last seven matches in fairness, but that’s likely to end if this follows the script.

3-0.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Bolton Wanderers 2

If the intent was to banish the anger surrounding the club’s transfer failings, things couldn’t have gone much worse.

Bolton celebrate

Squandering a two goal lead and being dominated at home by the league’s bottom club certainly wasn’t the plan as Jez Moxey prepares to lick the envelopes on those ever less enticing Early Birds.

An attacking trio of Rowe, Sigurdarson and van La Parra almost felt like a dirty protest from the head coach, serving to underline a crippling lack of resources and the rapid deterioration of a once talented squad.

Sure it was nice to see Joe Mason emerge from the pocket to stroke home a debut goal, but our marquee January signing was almost totally anonymous from there on out.

He can hardly shoulder the blame though.

How can a number 10 expect to thrive when the players around him are only interested in hit and hope?

We used to play the ball out from the back, looking to thread it between lines or failing that out wide to a player with the pace and skill to make something happen.

Last night was ‘shut your eyes and hope for the best’. Lash it forward and make Siggy run.

It was only thanks to overly generous Bolton defending and a fine solo goal from James Henry that Wolves somehow worked themselves into a winning position.

Quite how they managed to surrender it against a team who, for all their dominance, looked incapable of testing Carl Ikeme, is really anyone’s guess.

Yet somehow it felt right.

To have emerged victorious would have been a tonic, but contradictory to the almost unanimous sense of displeasure surrounding the events of January.

This was a more fitting climax to another episode of misery in what’s already been a season of continual disappointment.

Scratching around for positives, it seems likely there will be loan additions, Kenny Jackett can certainly select a better eleven and we’re mercifully a safe distance from relegation peril (for the moment).

But less than six months after the club defiantly stated the goal was to improve on last season, we’re all left wondering how they got things so completely and utterly wrong?

Wolves Vs Bolton Wanderers Preview

I really wanted to wait until Tuesday morning to write this blog.

Bolton Wolves

Only then will we know precisely what Wolves have and haven’t done in the transfer window.

But with my own deadlines to meet, I can only comment on a dreary Sunday evening about what’s been a disappointing January.

And as much as I want to be measured and patient in my assessment of new recruits, right now it feels like the squad is regressing.

We’ve lost shed loads of pace and devilment through departures and injury and done nothing to address the issue.

It’s the same old Wolves really – lots of investment in potential and stars of the future, but little to enthuse about the here and now.

Bolton

bolton logoThe Trotters haven’t won a single away game in the Championship all season, losing 11 and drawing 3 of their 14 matches to date.

But then again, they hadn’t beaten anyone until Wolves rocked up at the Macron back in September and they secured a routine 2-1 victory.

It then took them another three months to win again, when Blackburn finally saved us from being an embarrassing name check in their miserable season.

Financial woes, a fire sale and the threat of liquidation hasn’t stopped Neil Lennon keeping them in touch with safety though and they come into this game with a chance to further reduce the arrears.

They’ve still got some useful players knocking about too, several of which have been linked with Wolves this month, and have very little to lose in their current situation.

Wolves

With Edwards, Zyro and new signing Mike Williamson beefing up Tony Daley’s treatment room, Kenny Jackett will be happy to at least have Joe Mason fit and raring to go.

Wolves team for Bolton

There’s an immediate slot for our new striker/number 10 to occupy with Dave Edwards out for the foreseeable so no reason he won’t get his Molineux debut.

Funnily enough, Mason and Le Fondre know each other well from their time together at Bolton (and Cardiff) where both enjoyed successful loan spells.

If the remaining 10 are good to go, I can’t see the manager making too many changes. They were impressive in the second half at Loftus Road, showing there’s still an appetite to compete and the ability to do so.

Predictions

Surely we’re not going to get doubled by a team who’ve only won two other league matches? They’ve long been a bogey team but that would take it to a whole new level.

I might sound all doom and gloom, but I really liked what I saw against QPR. Coady and McDonald are getting better the longer the season goes on and if van La Parra keeps hitting the heights, we’ve always got a chance.

Instinctively, I reckon this might be a draw but to counter balance my negative outlook, I’ll back us to secure the maximum.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

* Our very own StuWolf is joining Sky TV’s presenter Jeff Stelling on his “Men United’s Walk” for Prostrate Cancer on 26th March 2016 and I encourage you to support him in his efforts. You can learn more and sponsor Stuart on his JustGiving page here.

Bolton Wanderers Vs Wolves Preview

We’re heading into the unknown.

Bolton

With Stearman sold and Dicko out for the season, there’s suddenly a heavy burden on new faces to come to the fore.

In addition, potential needs to be realised fast with young players now told to sink or swim, particularly across the back four.

Interesting times indeed, but with such sweeping change and key personnel missing, is a promotion push still realistic?

I’m really not sure.

Bolton

bolton logoThanks to Bolton fan Dan – who runs his own fan site The Lion of Vienna Suite – for giving me the lowdown on his club. Here’s what he had to say:

We’re in a bit of a weird place at the moment, with our current financial woes and key players leaving. It’d be reasonable for outsiders to consider us as relegation fodder but Neil Lennon has worked miracles with in his limitations and managed to bring in promising new players.

We may be without a win so far this season but performances have been very good, we just don’t have any clinical edge upfront.

With only one goal to our name so far, due to Gary Madine misfiring and Zach Clough still learning to adapt to being a marked man, it’s been really letting us down. We’re a goal scorer away from being a really competitive side.

On to Wolves, I like you a lot. I think you play a nice style of attacking football and you have three of the best strikers in the division. I did have you down for promotion, but I feel Nouha Dicko will be a massive loss for you.

Whilst Afobe and Le Fondre will undoubtedly still get goals, as an outsider looking in it seems as if Dicko was the player who made the attack tick and instigated goals. He’s the player that made you look great, and I don’t know how you’ll cope without him.

Wolves

I think coming back against Charlton last time out showed we’ve still got the capability to compete with the group we have. But the bar was supposed to be set a bit higher this season.

Wolves team for Bolton

When you look at the above XI, it’s really not a bad side and there are also a couple of players who can come in and potentially make a difference, including new signing Nathan Byrne who may prove a key acquisition.

But when you take away the explosiveness and goals of Sako and Dicko and the leadership and experience of Stearman, which ultimately wasn’t even enough last season, you’re left wondering if this squad and team really has the minerals to get it done?

Without that pace and direct threat in attack, it means teams can worry less about what’s coming at them and more about getting forward themselves. That puts more pressure on an inexperienced and creaky back four.

The gaffer

Predictions

Kenny talks above about finding a way to win consistently and that’s my principle concern. Can this team consistently beat other Championship sides? I’m not convinced yet.

I think we’re more ‘competitive’ than ‘spectacular’ this season and competitive teams need to be tight at the back, which we haven’t been.

But even though Dan reckons Bolton have played well, they’re in the bottom three for a reason and we should go there looking for a win.

We never win at the Macron (or previously the Reebook) so I’m operating on hope and a law of averages that we will this time.

A narrow and nervous 2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Bolton Wanderers 2 Wolves 2

James Henry is a tricky player to evaluate.

HENRY AT BOLTON

Yesterday’s rescue act was certainly no fluke. He’s scored that type of goal many times for Wolves, Millwall and even in a short loan spell at Bournmouth.

That’s now four this season for the winger, adding to the 10 he managed in League One last term. Not bad when you consider he’s been regularly weighing in with the assists too.

With the numbers heavily stacked in his favour, why then is Henry always on the fringes of the team?

He was dragged off on consecutive weekends following indifferent displays against Blackpool and Charlton. And even yesterday’s heroics were condensed into a 20 minute cameo from the bench.

Prior to that he was superb in the victory at Blackburn and seemingly integral to how Kenny Jackett wants to setup away from home.

Would consistently inconsistent be a fair assessment?

Perhaps failing to maintain that level of performance in the Championship is the reason he hasn’t progressed further and why their were seemingly no rivals for his signature twelve months ago?

Either way, flashes of brilliance will always mean he’s a useful player to have around the squad, if not the team.

Nouha Dicko has always been consistent for Wolves and his early finish was typically composed, after sprinting onto Kevin McDonald’s hooked pass.

Bolton’s equaliser was a superb set piece from young Zach Clough, but the striker’s second to turn the game on it’s head minutes later was less impressive from a Wolves perspective.

There’s no way Clough should have been able to work the ball onto his favoured right foot with so many bodies in the box and Carl Ikeme could certainly have got a stronger hand to what seemed a tame effort.

That looked costly as the second half drifted towards an inevitable conclusion until Henry stepped forward.

With Bakary Sako hopefully returning next weekend and competition for places in the forward positions at its toughest for a long while, I wonder where yesterday’s hero will sit in the pecking order?

As always with James Henry, your guess is as good as mine.

Highlights