Wolves 2 Crawley Town 1

If this marked the dawning of a new era at Molineux, then the football on display was eerily reminiscent of the regime just gone.

Coady Crawley

This is of course to be expected given Walter Zenga has had less than a fortnight to coach his new charges but it made for an often chastening viewing experience nonetheless.

After a bright start earned us an early goal, slack defending of a set piece provided Crawley with a route back into the game. Considering the first goal we conceded at Rotherham on Saturday was in similar circumstances, this was a particularly frustrating way to lose the lead.

These events aside, the first half of this modestly attended cup tie was forgettable at best.

Laborious in possession and largely bereft of ideas, Wolves churned out a performance akin to those served up towards the end of last season.

The introduction of Helder Costa and Jón Daði Böðvarsson at halftime was therefore most welcome and it was reassuring to see Walter Zenga’s tactical manoeuvring pay off for the second game running.

Our second half showing, though certainly not the stuff of dreams, was an improvement on the preceding 45 minutes.

Böðvarsson’s impact on the game was once again crucial as his aerial prowess and astute hold up play provided his teammates with more space and time to probe the Crawley backline.

Though Connor Coady’s winner came from a corner, it’s hard to believe a breakthrough would have been found without the introduction of our new striker. Already he looks like a crucial component of the team.

Costa also had a pivotal influence on proceedings, with his willingness to run at the opposition fullbacks a stark alteration from the more tentative wing play offered by James Henry and Jed Wallace in the first half.

When combined, the efforts of Zenga’s halftime substitutions even earned Mark Connolly, Crawley’s lunge happy centre half, an early bath.

By that time we were well on our way to victory and, though it would have been nice to gloss over an underwhelming full time score with a third or fourth goal, it seems wise to take encouragement from the nature of this win.

Once again the players and coach saw their initial plan disrupted only to overcome the challenge and although we remain in the early forays of the Fosun era this has to be seen as an encouraging sign.

With further recruitment and patience from both the boardroom and terraces, the memories of last campaign could be erased more swiftly than imagined.

Wolves Vs Crawley Town Preview

In recent times, we’ve nearly always exited the League Cup in one of two humiliating ways.

Crawley

Either losing in the first round to a minnow or advancing against the minnow and getting tonked by the likes of Chelsea, Man City or Man Utd in the next round.

Last year made for a refreshing change as we advanced through two rounds before being tonked by Middlesbrough.

Hopefully that can be viewed as a sign of progress, because a trip to Wembley is my biggest Wolves-want, as it has been for my near 32 years on earth.

Crawley Town

Crawley logoJust a few years ago, Crawley came to Molineux and completely outplayed us as our League One equals. Fortunately, Wolves found a way to win 2-1.

Later that same season they did beat us at the Broadfield Stadium and were even in contention for a play-off place if memory serves correctly.

Since then, things have fallen apart. Relegation specialist Dean Saunders was their manager as they dropped from League One in 2015 and last year was another disaster.

A run of eight consecutive defeats to finish the season gave them a 20th place finish in League Two with little to feel optimistic about.

They did overcome Wycombe at the weekend with a narrow 1-0 victory, but on paper this seems like a tough ask. Here’s Reds manager (and former Wolves fan) Dermot Drummy with his thoughts ahead of the game:

Wolves

Walter Zenga’s pre-match interview suggested the squad would be used for this one, so I’m expecting everyone who didn’t start at the weekend to play tonight.

Team for Crawley

That’s probably Lonergan, Deslandes, Costa, Coady, Teixeira, Price and Mason as a minimum. Will be interesting to see if Nathan Byrne comes in from the cold too.

You might argue a good number of those players should have been in the team at Rotherham anyway, so we shouldn’t lose a lot.

Bodvarsson picked up a kick at the New York Stadium, but hopefully he’s already recovered and will be fit and firing against Reading.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

No PL action in the cup competitions, so it’s all just for fun.

I think we’ll just about make it through but there’s definitely a danger our hotchpotch team won’t gel, Crawley will up their game and suddenly it’s a struggle.

Hopefully not though. Would be nice to keep the momentum after Saturday’s comeback.

2-0 I reckon.

Up The Wolves!

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Crawley Town 2 Wolves 1

Just when the game of football was looking so blissfully straightforward…

Crawley Wolves

For the second fixture in succession – in surroundings as sobering as they were sandy – an opposing team susses us out to present Kenny Jackett with a nagging headache at a time when the very notion of pain felt alien.

While we couldn’t find an answer to Shrewsbury’s five man defence on Saturday, we were also unable to solve Crawley Town’s equally effective tactic of booting long balls over the top and getting right in our faces.

And while it’s only our first defeat since January 3, the bigger worry is the way our previously well-oiled machine looks so damn temperamental in the first real signs of adversity.

One draw, one defeat and all of a sudden, a history making team that picked itself for so long looks barely recognisable when forced into ‘Plan B’ mode.

Jacobs subbed after 35 mins, Sako back to his bad old habits, Dicko isolated and no suggestion that Leon Clarke is the potent goalscorer that the statistics told us we’d signed.

When Crawley Town scored their second goal in five first half minutes to overturn James Henry’s opener, you just sensed we wouldn’t score another one when so unusually profligate in possession and sterile from set-plays.

And so it proved, as we barely created a chance of note against a John Gregory-inspired side which clearly did its homework.

Only a Wolves fan could seriously fret and moither over what currently constitutes a one-off blip.

Yet equally, only a Wolves side could be so perilously close to the play-offs when in any other season in League One history, we’d be 10 – 15 points clear of them right now.

The undisputable fact remains that this fabulous team doesn’t suddenly become a bad one overnight when operating in ‘Plan A’ mode for 90 minutes.

That we only saw it for 35 minutes tonight might just tell us where we went wrong.