Wolves 3 Bristol City 3

While the passing and moving formula continues to look good on the eye, there is one potentially lethal equation at work to undermine it and consign this season to the dustbin before it has properly got started…

…Missed chances and cheating referees.

Yes, Wolves created enough chances to have won this match three times over, but that doesn’t then give referees carte blanche to give every big decision to the opposition for another week – the perpetrator of which will never be held accountable. And because referee Steve Martin’s unfathomable decisions won’t ever be deemed incompetent by his bosses, he can only be labelled a cheat.

Firstly, he gave Bristol City a penalty with the score at 2-1 when a cross hit Vinagre on the arm roughly 2yds from the boot of the winger. Not one appeal from their bench or supporters. Then, when Danny Batth was assaulted in the penalty area with the ball nowhere in sight minutes later, the same referee gleefully waved away the appeal.

Bad enough decisions in their own right, but even worse when the linesman was way better placed for the first one before the official then went all WWE referee on the crowd in theatrics. It was as if he genuinely enjoyed giving it.

I make that five shocking decisions given against us (1. Ludicrous Hull City penalty, 2. Cardiff City Damour elbow in Saiss face – yellow 3. Millwall Aiden O’Brien two footed lunge on Jota – yellow, and 4 & 5 last night) compared to precisely zero given in our favour. It’s not as if we want decisions in our favour anyway. We just want fairness, which we are clearly not getting.

If there is not a conspiracy behind the scenes then there’s an uncanny coincidence amongst the men we are ordered to respect, and the club needs to wise up and kick up as big a fuss as possible like most other clubs do, who no longer have to suffer it. So bad – and dare I say corrupt are the officials – that you no longer fear the worst before kick-off, but ruefully accept it as being par for the course as you make your way to your seat.

For all the millions being splashed by FOSUN, they should throw a bit more loose change at the Football League / FA and kick up a stink about these abhorrent decisions before we become a laughing stock amongst referees, if we’re not already which I suspect we are.

As the Secret Footballer states in his Access all Areas book, for the sake of a few quid, it is worth it in the league points you get in return.

‘Picture this: a few times a season the same disciplinary meeting room will be box office. An Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho will rock up, completely unrepentant. The referee was wrong, they’ll say, and furthermore he is a cheat and all you people are trying to cheat our club out of the rewards it works so hard for. Everybody will shake their heads and a £25,000 fine will be imposed.

Guess what? Best bargain ever. Nobody is going to jail. Nobody is getting points on their licence. You have just bought three points for £25,000.’

Jeff Shi, Laurie and co take note. After last night’s disgusting levels of officiating, something has to be done.

As for the game itself, Wolves were excellent. Their only crime was not bringing in a striker in the window, which no amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth can rectify any time soon. That and their slack defending off set pieces, where Cavaleiro was actually marking Aiden Flint at one corner at the South Bank end. That’s just not right.

Bonatini, who did score the opener, missed three gilt edged chances. It is a habit we can well do without, after similarly bad misses at Griffin Park and Pride Park, where he actually missed an open goal from 6 yards.

Jota also should have scored when a clever chest down from Bonatini was smashed against the bar. Cavaleiro was guilty, too, but atoned for a one-on-one miss with the corner that led to our second goal to go 2-1 up.

Sadly, referee Martin couldn’t level the scoreline quickly enough afterwards with that penalty decision which barely a Bristol City player or supporter appealed for. In cricketing terms, it was an LBW review that was pitching outside leg.

Then our suspect defending at set plays threatened to seal the most unjust result since…Referee Scott Duncan and Cardiff City rolled into town on the same team coach.

Thankfully, Danny Batth rescued a point with a set play goal of our own and the spoils were shared.

Overall, we played brilliantly, with Cavaleiro enjoying what had to be his best game in a Wolves shirt, while Doherty and N’Diaye were terrific. Jota was typically impressive as well.

But it can only be seen as two points dropped amid such circumstances, with hard work still needed on the Compton pitches to eradicate such basic errors at both ends of the pitch.

Away from there, Jeff Shi and Laurie Dalrymple need to make a beeline to St George’s Park, Soho Square or wherever the bosses of these spineless referees reside and take one for the team.

For the sake of a relative pittance, it would be the best money ever spent.

Wolves Vs Bristol City Preview

Nuno made two good points in his post match analysis on Saturday.

Firstly, when Millwall started to show more attacking intent, we should have done better at exposing the gaps they left at the back.

We picked through Derby at will when they came after us a few weeks ago but seemed much slower to transfer the ball forward at the weekend.

His second point was that when they went down to 10 men they were less inclined to get forward, which ultimately made it tougher to find those spaces.

I’d agree with this. They remained very compact and sat deep after the sending off. Still, we should have asked more questions and found a way to kill the game.

Bristol City

Looking through their results so far, it’s been a solid enough start for Lee Johnson’s team.

A late winner at Reading on Saturday (a notable scalp) moved them just outside the play-off places and like Wolves, they’ve only lost once in their 6 games to date.

In addition they upset Watford in the League Cup and enjoyed the ‘perfect’ transfer window according to the manager, so shouldn’t be underestimated.

Big money was spent on striker Famara Diedhiou and he looks a handful. Equally, academy graduate Bobby Reid has started the season well and with 5 goals already is another to watch.

Defender Aden Flint seemed destined to leave with lots of Championship interest in the tall center back, but he remains and got the winner at the Madejski. He’s dangerous from set pieces and scored at Molineux last season.

I believe I’m correct in saying City haven’t won away at Wolves since 1931 so there’s no arguing they’re due.

Wolves

It was a shock to see Ben Marshall inserted straight back into the side with Bright Enobakhare and Ivan Cavaleiro overlooked.

That’s a real show of faith from the coach for a player who didn’t feature in pre-season and I thought Marshall looked zippy enough in his hour.

Maybe it was part of Nuno’s master plan to rotate both Cav and Bright into the team for this one?

I seem to be in the minority who think Bonatini is doing a decent job up front, but we do need to test alternative ideas.

It’s a big ask to play Bright up front on his own, but he’s got the strength to hold the ball and bring others into play so why not?

Predictions

I don’t think, albeit on limited knowledge, that Bristol City have enough in their squad or team to trouble the top six.

It’s easy to be proven wrong in this division of course and they’ve yet to face any of the early pacesetters so this is a good benchmark for them.

For us, we’ve got to be looking for another victory to keep up with what look like very good Cardiff and Leeds teams. I think we’ll get it.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Save

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!