Wolves Blog regulars Andrewwfc and Super Kev Doyle tootled along to Parkhead last night to take in Wolves’ pre-season friendly with Celtic. A big thanks to them both for being kind enough to contribute this fine account (Andrewwfc words, SKD pictures I believe).
Pre-season friendlies are generally pretty low key affairs. Designed to get a bit of match practice in before the big kick-off, whilst desperately trying to avoid injury to key players, the result is usually a less than engaging prolonged training session.
Even before kick-off you got the sense this game might be slightly different. For a start, we were playing a Celtic team who had already begun their domestic campaign.
The Wolves support was impressive, selling-out our allocation of tickets. And any doubt was swiftly removed by a crunching Thomas Rogne tackle on Big George after just ten minutes; this was going to have a bit more bite than a typical pre-season game.
Mick McCarthy had acknowledged as much in his pre-match interview, stating “Celtic is the one that everyone wants to play in, that’s for sure…the one the players are all excited about”. As such, his team selection was intriguing:
Although a 4-4-2 on paper, in attack Kightly tended to drift more in-field to play in the hole behind Fletcher and Doyle, with Fletcher moving further to the vacant right flank. This resulted in a 4-3-1-2 with Henry lying deeper, O’Hara directing the play from midfield, Hunt adding width and Kightly linking up play with the two forwards.
With the possible exception of the injured Jarvis, who’d be surprised to see a vastly different starting XI at Blackburn?
Wolves started brightly, with Doyle and O’Hara linking well. Doyle in particular looked lively, harassing defenders and chasing loose passes with his usual enthusiasm.
The opener came after a swift passing move involving Doyle, O’Hara and Kightly, a promising combination throughout the first-half. Hunt was played through only to be brought down and O’Hara duly despatched the resulting free-kick with pinpoint accuracy.
As if to underline the more competitive nature of this friendly, Wolves first changes came on the hour mark, with Ward and Hammill replacing Fletcher and Hunt and Wolves’ second swiftly followed. Ward latched onto a Doyle through ball, beat his man and sent in a low, fizzing cross which was accidentally bundled in at the back post by Celtic’s Twardzik.
The last fifteen minutes or so ebbed away with the usual multitude of substitutions, although Hennessey also deserves a mention for an assured performance with two fantastic close- range reaction saves.
In general, this was a very promising prelude to the new season, with the occasional cause for concern. With the exception of Johnson, who looked every inch the solid signing we hope he’ll prove, question marks remain over the rest of the defence.
Berra gave away the usual string of needless fouls, and Stearman isn’t a full back. He’s just not. Elokobi, whilst appearing surprisingly comfortable on the ball and making some encouraging foraging runs, still got skinned one too many times by Celtic’s right winger.
However, as stated earlier, you can’t read too much into a preseason friendly. With two goals, none conceded and, probably most importantly, no injuries, there was much to be pleased about at Celtic Park.
*Two unrelated notes:
1. Three rows in front of us sat a group containing, if the elated fan sat next to me is to be believed, Jamie O’Hara’s better half. She definitely got a warm reception from the crowd!
2. There was nothing “friendly” about walking away from Celtic Park in a Wolves shirt. Just glad I don’t speak Scottish…