Bristol City 3 Wolves 1

Paul Lambert thinks we’re better than this performance.

But despite five consecutive victories, the painful truth is we’re not.

A season of mediocrity (and at times much, much worse) has taught us that this occasional brand of meek surrender is par for the course.

I said last week that the team we fielded against Cardiff had the potential to crack the top six, but with just two changes in personnel our heroes wilted to zeros at Ashton Gate.

Morgan Gibbs-White and Nouha Dicko are players I have a lot of time for. One has shown huge potential and the other has already done enough in old gold to warrant considerable slack on his return from career threatening injury.

But the fluency that Ivan Cavaleiro and to a far greater extent Helder Costa bring to this Wolves team is considerable. We’re not the same without them.

Add to that Andi Weimann’s endless running up top when played in his primary position and these subtle variations on our first choice eleven present very different propositions.

Dicko was again wasteful, spurning the afternoon’s clearest sight of goal to put Wolves ahead and pile the pressure onto vulnerable opposition.

Instead it was they who got ahead and used that lead as a platform to build a convincing home victory with goals at the ideal moments.

You’re always dealing with the finest of margins in the Championship, so wasting the big opportunities is usually the difference between success and failure.

I’m not heaping the blame for this loss on Nouha Dicko – far from it. We could have benefited from stronger defending or better fortune for all three of their goals, but the point is you’ve got to be efficient.

And Wolves are not efficient.

It routinely takes them three or four chances to score a goal and cleansheets are rarer than rocking horse droppings.

Paul Lambert has a summer to turn this talented but far too often flaky squad into something more convincing.

Until then, I don’t think anyone should expect better.

Bristol City Vs Wolves Preview

Only Wolves could lose five matches in a row and then reel off five consecutive wins.

It’s just as well it didn’t happen the other way around as we’d all be feeling pretty suicidal now about the play off dream being over.

As it is we’re happy to be staying up. The warped psychology of football in a nutshell.

One target we should aim for is beating last season’s points tally of 58 points and a 14th place finish, which would provide another morale boosting sense of progress.

Bristol City

After a tidy start it’s been a constant downward spiral for Lee Johnson’s team this season.

It’s looking like a coin toss between the Robins and Blackburn for the final relegation spot but Notts Forest are also hovering ominously.

City’s next three fixtures are this one, QPR at home and then a trip to Ewood Park, which already looks season defining.

As most of their good results this term have come at home they’ll want to go into that match with a few more points on the board.

They’ve got match winners like Tomlin and Abraham but seem to wilt when the pressure is on. A 5-0 walloping at Preston in midweek was so bad their players are offering to refund the travelling fans.

Wolves

The only question for Paul Lambert is whether Helder Costa is fit enough to play. If he is the starting eleven picks itself.

Although Nouha Dicko got his goal the team wasn’t anywhere near as fluent without our star performer against Forest.

Personally I think he’s a definite goner in the summer so we might as well rinse him for all he’s worth while we’be got the chance.

Predictions

Expecting them to throw the kitchen sink at us in the early exchanges but if we can weather those moments I can’t see us failing to create chances of our own.

It will be tight but this is usually a good fixture for us and I can see them folding under the pressure.

2-1.

Up the Wolves!

Wolves 3 Bristol City 2

As far as Christmas presents go, a scrappy home win against a team ranked only marginally higher in the lower echelons of the Championship table is hardly the most grandiose of gestures.

But considering this was our first win at Molineux since September 24, it really did feel like Santa had come to town.

Prior to Tammy Abraham’s equaliser, you’d be forgiven for scoffing at the suggestion that the Robins were capable of causing a swashbuckling home side too many problems.

Another goal from Dave Edwards, his fifth in eight games, gave us a deserved early lead and a second seemed inevitable given the gusto with which we attacked a seemingly overwhelmed opposition.

However, profligacy in front of goal proved our undoing and, in scenes eerily reminiscent of our first half showing against Fulham, we headed in to the break trailing.

The aforementioned Abraham was irrepressible for most of the afternoon so our defence can perhaps be excused for being outdone by City’s first goal but nothing can justify the paucity of their efforts for the second strike; you simply cannot defend set pieces in that way and expect to go unpunished.

One has grown to suspect that Paul Lambert’s remedy for our fragile back four is to simply outscore the opposition and our second half showing enforced that theory resoundingly.

Despite a stuttering start, the players were reinvigorated in their attempts to level things up and, after a series of near misses and questionable oversights by referee and pantomime villain for the day James Adcock, were deservedly rewarded for their efforts.

Helder Costa’s strike was beautiful to behold and offered a glimpse as to how potent an attacking force we could grow to be under Lambert’s stewardship, given a clean bill of health and some wily recruitment in the next transfer window.

Adcock was presumably keen to atone for his prior sins when he awarded a not so blatant penalty in the final ten, one which was dispatched with aplomb by the ever improving Ivan Cavaleiro.

Ours was naturally a lead that was far from easy to defend but retain it we did, though the chagrin of the opposing manager and traveling support suggested that video technology would have deprived us of the three points.

However, given the gratingly bullish demeanour of Lee Johnson, this detail only served to sweeten the taste of victory.

Before signing off, a word on some of the individual performances seen yesterday.

Connor Coady is not so convincing as to suggest he is the long term solution to our right back conundrum but he certainly looks a better immediate fit that Dominic Iorfa.

Danny Batth is in greater need of a fully fit Mike Williamson than anyone else; whether as a defensive partner or much needed competition for a starting berth, our captain is sure to benefit from his presence in the squad.

Jack Price is more crucial to us than any other player barring Costa, such is his ability to calm proceedings around him and more crucially quicken the transition between defence and attack.

Finally and most obviously, Costa and Cavaleiro offer the key to a surge up the league table. When on form, these pair are arguably better than any other winger in the division. Keeping them fit has to be a priority moving forward.

Reasons to be cheerful have been in short supply this season but yesterday offered more signs of life than have been seen at any point since the early throes of the campaign.

Let’s hope they’re not just for Christmas.

Wolves Vs Bristol City Preview

We managed four wins on the bounce this time last season, which briefly catapulted us from the bottom half right up towards the play-offs.

A repeat would be nice and with two winnable home games to come after victory at Forest, there’s certainly an opportunity to put a run together.

Still, it’s probably optimistic to think our consistently inconsistent team will overcome both Bristol City and QPR. History also tells us to be wary.

The last time we had back-to-back home games in Christmas week we got well and truly sorted out by both Peterborough and Ipswich on the way down to League One.

All things considered, I’m permitting myself to feel cautiously optimistic.

Bristol City

With six defeats in their last seven matches, the Robins are sinking like a stone. The top six looked a realistic objective a few months back, but now they’re on the cusp of getting pulled down towards the other dotted line.

If Wolves win this match, they’ll move ahead of Lee Johnson’s side and he’ll know as well as anybody history is against his side in this fixture.

They haven’t tasted victory at Molineux since 1931, which is a 19 game run. And despite the odd home win in that time, you can definitely call us their bogey team.

Much like Wolves, they’re not air tight defensively or prolific going forward so it’s anyone’s guess how this match will unfold.

On loan Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham was banging in the goals early doors, but seems to have found the going tougher lately. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer.

Wolves

Paul Lambert is obviously a fan of changing his team to combat the opposition rather than sticking to a rigid preferred eleven. He said as much after the victories against QPR and Forest. I wonder what he has in store for this one?

The team that started at the City Ground was surprisingly attack-minded with the only disappointment being we didn’t create a fat lot aside from the two goals that went in.

There’s a lot of pace and mobility in forward positions, which is something we haven’t seen enough of particularly at Molineux.

Conor Coady was a surprise choice at full back but isn’t a bad short term solution with Silvio injured, Borthwick-Jackson out of favour and Dominic Iorfa struggling for form.

It would be great to see Bright Enobakhare and Connor Ronan play a part. They both have the talent to make a meaningful impact in the here and now.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

QPR seems like the more winnable of these two winnable festive home fixtures so I’ll play it safe with a draw this time.

I think City have some good individual talent in their ranks, like Tammy Abraham and Lee Tomlin, so they possess enough firepower to cause damage if we allow it to happen.

It’s complete finger in the air guesswork right now given how up and down the performances have been.

2-2.

Up The Wolves!

On a separate note, a very Merry Christmas to everyone connected to the blog. Good tidings to one and all!

Wolves Vs Birmingham City Preview

Here’s one to ponder…

Wolves Blues

If a team plays terribly but still finds a way to win, does it justify the shoddy performance?

Equally, if the team plays well but doesn’t get the result, is all forgiven?

Earlier in the season, I felt Wolves played some good stuff during a number of matches but often didn’t get the result.

Lately it’s been attritional garbage but we’ve at least collected a couple of important wins to keep our noses out of trouble.

Many people seem to think we can get a more aesthetically pleasing performance out of this group, but I’m not so sure that would also deliver the results.

Birmingham

356px-Birmingham_City_FC_logo.svgIt’s been a wonderful season for Blues and their fans must be pleased as punch about the direction the club is going.

They’re actually where I thought Wolves would operate this term, which is to say sniffing the play-offs without really making the top six a permanent home.

I think they’ll fall just short of a serious promotion push but there’s certainly little between them and the likes of Ipswich, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday so whose to say what might happen?

When Demarai Gray left for Leicester in January I thought the wheels might come off, but that cash injection actually helped them bring in a few more bodies and further bolster the squad.

I’ve always been a fan of Clayton Donaldson and the likes of Jon Toral (on loan from Arsenal), Fabbrini and Buckley are all proven Championship performers.

They’ve also got considerable experience in defence, which is invaluable (as we know all too well) and probably a big reason why they’ve conceded 16 goals less than Wolves this season.

Wolves

We stunk out the place on Tuesday but won the day and being brutally honest, I’d take the same again on Sunday. Wouldn’t you?

Wolves for blues

Kenny was lauding Michal Zyro’s impact against Bristol City and he would probably be the logical choice to lead the line, assuming we stick with a three man central midfield team.

McDonald was hooked at half time – another indicator of a ‘result of over performance’ mantra being adopted by the head coach – but I’d hope to see him start on Sunday. Still our most important player in my humble opinion.

You can’t argue with Joe Mason’s goal return, but I’ve yet to see enough in his overall play to consider him an automatic starter, regardless of the bounty we paid Cardiff to get him.

Connor Hunte enjoyed a brief but impressive debut on Wednesday and everyone will be hoping to gain another glimpse of his potential if the opportunity arises.

The gaffer

Predictions

For maybe the first time this season, our home form is now better than our away form after the midweek victory.

It would be nice to get a few more Molineux wins before the end of the season and none (with the possible exception of Ipswich) would provide greater satisfaction than this one.

That said, a draw wouldn’t do either team much harm and I reckon that’s the most likely outcome.

2-2

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Bristol City 1

Never has a last gasp winner felt quite so flat.

Matt Doc

Matt Doherty’s decisive header deep into injury time – and the three points that accompanied it – came as a relief to the hardy few souls inside Molineux, but it barely lifted me off my seat, such was the tragic 90 odd minutes beforehand.

The house that Jack built, adorned with endless Red Row advertisements in a twist of irony, is looking tired.

The sparse few within it look drained and a vision of the Premier League with its £5bn trappings looks a million miles away.

Sure, Wolves won last night in the sweetest manner possible, but even the Fool on a hill gave King Lear a laugh or two before the inevitable happened.

In Shakespearian terms, Wolves is an unfolding tragedy, with our Bristol City scalp barely acting as tonic, but more a grim glimpse into the future where most home games are played out like this.

The ground was empty for a start. The silence within it deafening and the quality on the pitch on a par with the very worst Dean Saunders blackened Molineux with, particularly during the first half.

Joe Mason, bought specifically as a number 10, playing in a number 9 role and Connor Coady playing as a number 10 behind him made for a mind numbing spectacle, as big balls were pumped to a 7ft Bristol City centre half to rub memories of Sako, Dicko and Afobe into the Molineux mudheap.

‘Just another manic Monday’ entered the half time PA system sorrowfully. A couple of perished souls kicked balls hopelessly at an orange tarpaulin for entertainment and the only tenuous ode to the glory days was an intermittent ‘Wrights’ advertising board, extolling the goodness of a pie.

How did it ever come to this?

A £300k Polish winger-come-striker lauded as a saviour (not to mention direct replacement for Afobe according to the FP minutes) and a general spectacle with less quality than blades of grass on our appalling home turf.

Not so much the house that Jack built, but a lopsided pseudo-stage for failure, with Connor Hunte and Bright Enobokhare at least sweet and innocent enough to offer a chink of light for the future.

When fans can barely muster a cheer for a 94th minute winner you know that things are bad.

And unless something changes dramatically in the coming weeks and months, this is probably as good as it gets.