Wolves 3 Cardiff City 1

Perennial sore loser Neil Warnock said this result owed more to luck and refereeing decisions than anything Wolves accomplished.

‘I don’t think they won the game, I think we lost it. We didn’t get the rub of the green on certain decisions but you’re away from home and don’t expect that.’

Respectively Neil, I disagree.

This was a satisfying win against a robust, atypical Championship outfit who played the percentages and loaded the box at every opportunity.

It’s the type of game we’ve lost over and over again all season, which is why we’ve been plying our trade at the wrong end of the table.

A milestone victory then and my personal pick of the four straight wins Paul Lambert has now overseen that have catapulted us away from immediate strife.

Credit the manager too because the balance of the team once again looks spot on.

With the exception of the goalkeeper (no offence Andy) I’d happily watch that starting eleven for 46 matches next season and feel confident they’d crack the top six.

Although they couldn’t muster a cleansheet the back four were solid and looking across the line, there’s a nice blend of guile and technical ability.

I’ve got mixed views about Connor Coady at right back but you’ve got to admire his combative nature and he offers a useful contrast to Doherty whose devestating going forward but at times too relaxed out of possession.

Batth is much criticised but Cardiff got little change out of him yesterday and his two towering headers were just reward for an accomplished performance.

Alongside the pace of Hause and with two midfielders sitting in front, the skipper looks far more comfortable. We should be looking to make an upgrade in defence, but quality center halves are an increasingly rare commodity.

There’s a pleasing blend further forward too with Evans and Edwards grafting to win possession and set others free.

Costa, Cavaleiro and Marshall all benefitted and their combination play could just as easily have opened the gates before Batth’s more ‘direct’ route to goal ultimately put Wolves in the driving seat.

Marshall is racking up the assists and will definitely be a key performer next season, regardless of whose around him.

But that’s the key question – who will be around him?

The prospect of retaining Helder Costa seems ever more unlikely. 10 league goals and 8 assists now in addition to his cup exploits must make him the hottest property outside the Premier League.

Now he’s back playing with a few decent technicians around him, it’s clear to see what he could do at a top team. He killed this game with one moment of sublime skill after single handedly accounting for Fulham last time out.

If he does go, as seems inevitable, the only upside is that will free up funds to add several new players to a burgeoning team.

Much to ponder in what’s already looking like a long old summer.

A win against Forest on Tuesday and we can all get the deck chairs out.

Wolves Vs Cardiff City Preview

It would be nice to cancel out those five straight league defeats with five straight victories.

With three wins already in the bag and two winnable fixtures in the next five days, it’s certainly possible.

But our performance levels at Molineux this season have been woeful so I don’t think anyone will be counting chickens.

Based on our home form alone we’d actually be in the relegation zone, cut adrift from safety (see the table here). Compare that to sitting fifth in the away table and it’s a pretty stark contrast.

With six of our remaining nine games at Molineux, we need to address this imbalance.

Cardiff

While we’re talking about theoretical tables, Neil Warnock said this week Cardiff would be third based on their results since he took over earlier in the season.

Much like he did at Rotherham, he’s turned their fortunes right around. You can’t deny he’s a great manager at this level.

It was interesting to hear him speak quite disparagingly about former Wigan boss Warren Joyce a few weeks ago and he went on to claim there weren’t many good managers around.

I’d disagree with this statement as I actually think the Championship have a lot of talented coaches. Perhaps not with his experience, but strong characters who I’d expect to see manage in the Premier League at some point.

They’re already talking about a promotion push next season but I think that’s quite premature. Good luck to them but things can turn sour in this league very quickly.

Wolves

I think Paul Lambert has to really go for it in the remaining home fixtures. Play the matchwinners as he did at Fulham, be a bit more open and just go all out for the win. If he does that, the crowd will respond.

That team oozes with pace and attacking potential. Weimann has got himself a couple of goals playing through the middle so must be persevered with.

The presence of Cavaleiro and Marshall really does free up Helder Costa to play to his maximum, while those two players have proven very useful themselves in this little winning run.

There’s been a lot of talk this week about creating a positive atmosphere inside Molineux but for me the manager really sets the tone on a match day with his team selection.

Predictions

If you’re looking at this game, Forest next Tuesday and Bristol City away next weekend as a block, you’d probably say this one looks the toughest.

I expect Cardiff to be physical, well drilled and tough to breakdown. A very typical Championship outfit.

But if Paul Lambert is bold in his approach, I think we might just win it.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Cardiff City 2 Wolves 1

Listening to Wolves’ soul destroying surrender on the radio probably begged more questions than Bradley Walsh on my favourite quiz show.

 

The Chase for Championship survival is now well and truly on as our pathetic failures of past regimes – mingled with some of the most gutless foreign imports known to man – lurch to yet another disaster, this time away at Cardiff.

Which begs the questions:

Which team is worse?

a) Wolves 2012/13               b) Wolves 2016/17          c) New Mills AFC 2015/16

Which team surrenders possession the most prolifically?

a) Wolves 2016/17                b) Sunderland 2005/06                   c) The Blind School

Which of the following are the slowest midfield pairing in Wolves’ history?

a) Darren Ferguson and Mark Rankine         b) David Edwards and George Saville       c) Conor Coady and George Saville

Who is the worst signing in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers?

a) Robert Taylor     b) Ivan Cavaleiro               c) Tomasz Frankowski

Which Wolves striker is the most impotent?

a) Robert Taylor     b) Jon Dadi Bodvarrson  c) Tomasz Frankowski

Who would Wolves like to play least in a one-off cup fixture if their lives depended on it?

a) Stoke City            b) Stourbridge Town       c) Wolves under-23s

Other questions for another day would be along the lines of: Why does Tim Spiers and company idly describe our squad as being ‘well resourced with individual quality’ when it is patently clear that it is well resourced only in ‘hopeless, substandard losers who are barely adequate for League One.’

Another headscratcher was Craig Noone’s omission from Cardiff City’s line-up when he is clearly better than any winger I have seen at Molineux in the past 11 months. Ergo, Cardiff win at a canter when he came onto the pitch.

Meanwhile, is there a single fan whose heart doesn’t sink when Helder Costa is substituted?

Questions about Fosun’s commitment to a League One club really don’t bear thinking about just yet, but unless Lambert can act quickly in January, then I’ll expect to be asking them soon.

Cardiff City Vs Wolves Preview

It’s hard to say whether we’ve really progressed since Paul Lambert took over.

 

But I do know I feel an awful lot better with him in the dugout than Walter Zenga.

And anyone who might accuse the Scot of lacking his predecessor’s passion obviously didn’t witness our head coach leaping over the advertising hoardings to retrieve the ball on Saturday as Wolves hunted an equaliser.

He cares alright and I reckon once he’s able to get some of his own bodies into the side come January, we’ll see an upturn in fortunes.

In the here and now, this is a big game. We’re not quite at the point of calling it a relegation six pointer, but it’s one we could do with winning or at the very least, not losing.

Cardiff

It says a lot about Neil Warnock that my immediate thought upon hearing of his appointment at Cardiff was ‘they definitely won’t go down now’.

He’s not many people’s favourite character but you can’t question his credentials at Championship level. Not just his promotions with Sheffield United and QPR but also the rabbit he pulled out of the hat at Rotherham last season.

You need only look at how they were doing before he went there and subsequently after he left to realise the impact he made. Astonishing really.

Cardiff were in similar strife and he’s started digging them out. Three wins, three draws and three defeats might not seem remarkable, but that’s midtable form from a team who were anything but back in October.

They’re still in the bottom three heading into this game, but a win would take them above Wolves and possibly a few others.

Scoring too few and conceding too many is not an ideal combination and the statistics show them to be among the weakest in the division on both fronts.

The free transfer additions of forwards Ricky Lambert and Junior Hoilett and big Sol Bamba at the back have helped, but the latter is suspended for this one after getting sent off at Ipswich at the weekend.

Wolves

I think Fulham exposed our biggest frailty at the weekend, which is the center of midfield.

We’ve got problems at the back for sure (big problems), but we’re not strong enough in the middle of the pitch and that’s leaving the defence vulnerable.

Conor Coady was the weak link for me. His obvious deficiencies with the ball mean he has to cover the ground and make tackles to justify his selection and he didn’t do enough against Fulham. That said, he won’t encounter better technical opposition this season.

I think Oniangue would be the obvious replacement, but I’m not sure he’s up to speed just yet. Playing both Saiss and Price is another interesting idea but one I’m not convinced Lambert would entertain.

Stearman should return in my opinion and I’d also be tempted to make a change at full back, possibly bringing in Silvio or Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The above would be my preferred eleven.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

This one looks tougher than the league table suggests. They’ve got some good Championship performers in their group and a manager who can get the best out of them.

They don’t score many goals, which bodes well for our leaky defence and I just wonder whether the absence of Sol Bamba might tip the scales in our favour?

Whoever Paul Lambert plays up front has a big responsibility. We can’t afford our strikers to go on being so wasteful.

I’m playing it safe with a 1-1, which wouldn’t be a terrible outcome.

Up The Wolves!

Save

Save

Wolves 1 Cardiff City 3

At the very point James Henry flashed a ball across the face of the South Bank goal without a striker on the pitch to tap home, I thought back to one Kenny Jackett comment at the Fans’ Parliament the other month.

Wolves Cardiff

‘You’re only as good as your centre-forwards.’

At the very moment an open goal was presented on a dinner plate at a critical phase of our Cardiff defeat, you wondered what our head coach was thinking.

His team, cobbled together with two wingers as a front two, bereft of a single centre forward with that innate inclination to position himself where the ball might eventually arrive.

As it was, the chance went begging, the score stayed at 1-3 and we remain a team pretty much proportionate to Kenny’s repetitive message at the Fans’ Parliament meeting.

With Steve Morgan making a token appearance, presumably out of morbid fascination, he could at least see where we’re coming up short for himself, with a poacher of a Gary Hooper ilk more than sufficient to propel this team up the league.

If Morgan even cares enough to offer up some cash, he’ll probably tuck it back in the treasure chest for the summer anyway, once he saw Jordan Graham substituted with a knee injury, signalling the end of any slim play-off chance at the very moment a stretcher appeared.

Probably best to revert back to type, tootle back off to Carden Park and take another squint at it all through the gaps in his fingers when he absolutely has to, rather like me and my bank statements.

It’s not that Wolves didn’t play well on Saturday, or offer encouragement to the fans, as we were pretty impressive, particularly during the first half.

We just served to underline what we’ve known for the entire duration of the season…

…We’re two or three players away.

Three incredible Cardiff strikes put paid to any hopes of a result in a grim flashback to our days in the Prem, where ruthless finishing underlined our own lack of quality.

Craig Noone’s two goals were things of sheer beauty (as good as I’ve seen in years), while their third was another long range fizzer into the bottom corner, the strikes of which we just can’t live with. Few teams can, in fairness.

Unlike the Bluebirds, we made poor decisions in the final third, electing to pass when we should have shot (McDonald), shooting instead of passing (RVLP and Coady) or fluffing our lines when presented with glorious chances (Ebanks Landell first half, RVLP in the second).

As such, we won’t go up, nor will we go down.

When we’ve sold Stearman and Afobe, lost Sako and suffered an injury to Dicko – with a negligible sum spent to offset these losses – we surely knew what was coming…

…I’m pretty sure Kenny Jackett did when James Henry fizzed that ball across an empty goal.

Wolves Vs Cardiff City Preview

Wolves are doing a splendid job of making me look stupid.

Cardiff Wolves

I’ve repeatedly stated they weren’t capable of a consistent winning run to elevate them up towards the top six.

Well, four consecutive victories later they’ve proved me emphatically wrong.

They toughed it out against Brighton and Reading, saw off Charlton in slightly more routine fashion and on Tuesday when the opposition were there to be attacked, they did just that.

The manager deserves enormous credit. As he states in his pre-match interview (below) we needed to be tougher to beat after the games against Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday.

But then equally, after sitting off and defending well in the games that followed, the team needed to get on the front foot at Molineux and he made the changes to facilitate that.

Criticising the manager is the easiest thing in the world. Recognising when they make the right decisions that have a positive impact is what makes that criticism fair and just.

Cardiff

800px-Cardiff_City_Crest_2015We were just awful in Wales earlier in the season and Cardiff deservedly put us to the sword. It was as routine a home victory as you’re likely to see.

It didn’t surprise me after that to see them floating around the play-offs, while we bedded down in lower midtable. But after our mini revival we now enter tomorrow’s game locked on 37 points.

The Bluebirds have only managed three wins in their last ten matches and despite kicking off the new year with a decent win over Blackburn, they were easily beaten by Hull on Wednesday.

Away form has been what’s hampered their progress and with the six defeats and just two victories from their 13 matches to date, it’s clear where they need to improve.

Goal scoring as also proved difficult and their 30 so far is the fewest of any side in the top half of the table. Kenywe Jones, who scored the opener against Wolves back in August, has departed on loan, which likely won’t help their cause.

Wolves

Stick or twist for Kenny Jackett? I have absolutely no idea what he’ll do, but the most likely bet is probably an unchanged team from Fulham.

Team for Cardiff

He’s spoken about the flexibility Rajiv van La Parra brings to the side, allowing him to switch between 442 and 451, so I wonder if we might start more cautiously tomorrow?

All the evidence suggests Cardiff aren’t as gung-ho as Fulham, so maybe pushing Connor Coady inside and playing RvLP wide could be more prudent?

Despite no new arrivals (as I write this post) the manager actually has decent options – apart from up front. Adam Le Fondre isn’t eligible against his parent club but Bjorn Sigurdarson may return from injury in time.

The gaffer

Predictions

Five wins in a row would be a fantastic achievement and this fixture offers a wonderful opportunity to do it.

Cardiff are a good Championship side, but I don’t think they’re anything to be feared, particularly at home.

In stark contrast to Fulham, I suspect the challenge might be breaking them down rather than keeping them out at the other end.

I’ll therefore go for a narrow home win.

1-0

Up The Wolves!