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!

Save

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.

Crawley Town Vs Wolves Preview

Based on that old chestnut about winning being a habit, Saturday could prove a bigger setback than it first appeared.

Wolves Crawley

But if Shrewsbury proved anything, it’s that the only way to effectively combat this Wolves team is to contain them.

That’s an approach that can be more easily justified when visiting Molineux than entertaining the league leaders on your own patch.

I doubt very much that either Crawley tomorrow or Sheffield United on Saturday will be prepared to camp out inside their own 18-yard box for long stints at a time.

For this reason, playing away should make for much more open games of football, which will hopefully open the doors for the damage to be done.

Crawley

Crawley logoPoor weather and a negligent groundsman left Crawley with a backlog of fixtures to clear between now and May.

With many of the teams around them having played 37, John Gregory’s side have only made it to game 32.

How they wade through these games in hand could still have a decisive bearing on how their season ends.

Midtable still seems their most likely destination, but an unlikely play-off challenge could still materialise if the points are steadily accumulated.

Their home form is solid, with 7 wins and 5 draws from their 16 matches to date.

They’ve both scored and conceded 16 goals at home, so it’s clear many of their matches have been decided by slim margins, as was the case in their 1-0 victory over Colchester at the weekend.

Wolves

Sam Ricketts is back and I’d be tempted to restore him to the starting lineup and go with the tried and tested XI:

Wolves team for Crawley

Kenny has spoken about the importance of keeping a settled team, so I hope changes are only made out of necessity. I’d back the above team to beat anyone in this league.

Leon Clarke, Matt Dohery and Ethan Ebanks-Landell failed to grab their respective opportunities but all could conceivably start. Dave Edwards and Lee Evans are two other contenders.

The odds

Wolves are the bookies favourites for the win at 19/20. Crawley are 16/5 and the draw is 13/5.

Kevin McDonald got forward to good effect at the weekend and he’s available at 17/2 for the first goalscorer tomorrow.

All odds available here.

Predictions

It’s safe to say the PL was considerably easier to update after the weekend than it has been of late, with only one person predicting a draw against Shrewsbury.

bullyisagod was the only person who didn’t think we’d win comfortably, so well done to him (or her) for being the sole recipient of a point.

I think these two away matches will be very tough but I think if we continue to go about our business as we have been, the results will hold steady.

I’m predicting a win tomorrow, but four points from the next two matches certainly wouldn’t be a disaster.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Crawley Town Vs Wolves Preview

MATCH POSTPONED

Last weekend’s win over Preston was a great performance and a vital result.

Wolves Crawley

But that one result needs to be the start of an unbeaten, and preferably winning, run.

Brentford and Leyton Orient are moving at unfathomable pace and both have already strengthened their squads this month.

For me though, Wolves still have the best players and the best manager. It’s just a case of putting it all together consistently.

If the game earlier in the season is anything to go by, Crawley will be a stiff test of that consistency.

Crawley

I think Wolves are a better side now than they were back in August when Crawley’s performance at Molineux warranted at least a point.

After that match, I thought they’d be operating in and around the play-offs, so it’s a tad surprising to see them languishing down in 14th place.

Evidently there were concerns over where the season was heading as Richie Barker was booted out last month, replaced by forgotten man John Gregory.

Gregory, who was once heavily linked with the Wolves job, has brought about a slight improvement in fortunes, with Crawley scoring a couple of important wins in recent weeks.

They claimed the scalp of Leyton Orient with a superb 3-2 away win and the 1-0 victory over Notts County allowed them to starting looking up as opposed to down.

Wolves

The arrival of Nouha Dicko combined with the return of a few casualties gives Kenny Jackett the luxury of options. But he’s suggested already that injuries permitting, we’ll see the same XI as last week:

Wolves team vs Crawley

It’s tough to argue with that side and when you consider we also have the likes of Sako, Dicko, Doherty, Ikeme, Ebanks-Landell, Doyle, Sigurdarson, Price, etc on the sidelines, we have exceptional depth.

I predict Sako, Doyle and Siggy will leave this month, which was unthinkable in August but seems a more digestible notion right now.

Personally, I’d like to see Sako stick around and if the two strikers leave, another forward/attacking midfielder brought in to cover the loss.

I like the balance of the squad and think Jackett, Thelwell, etc have done a good job of rebuilding from last season’s wreckage.

The odds

Wolves are favourites for the win at 5/4. Crawley are 5/2 and the draw is 12/5.

Dave Edwards seems like a good bet for first goalscorer, with generous odds of 12/1. He had most of our chances last weekend before eventually finding the net.

All odds are available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

36 pundits correctly predicted victory over Preston. Well done to Leigh Bucky, vicsmith, johnok, twixfix, slider, steve howl and NY Wolf who also got the scoreline spot on to double up.

I really think KJ is close to getting it absolutely sussed at home on that big Molineux pitch. Away is different ball game with tighter spaces and less room to move the ball around.

Still, I think our confidence from last weekend will carry us through to victory.

3-1

Up The Wolves

MATCH POSTPONED – ALL PREDICTIONS VOID

Wolves 2 Crawley Town 1

Molineux appreciates a Scottish striker.

Wolves Crawley

From Miller to Fletcher with a hulking dose of Iwelumo sandwiched in between, all have been loved and cherished.

But have any of these past heroes endeared themselves more than the current incumbent of the number 9 shirt?

As of 9.49pm last night, I’d have to say no.

Demanding the ball, he marched towards the penalty spot and proceeded to whip the South Bank into a state of frenzy.

Pumping his chest and waving his arms, he stood before the nervous masses huddled behind the goal and instructed them to turn up the volume.

He didn’t want to cope with the pressure, he wanted to thrive on it.

Seconds the later, the net was bulging and the already familiar knee slide was in full flight.

Leigh Griffiths wasn’t to be denied, the ball seemingly passing through the goalkeeper by sheer confidence alone.

And it’s fitting that confidence won the game, because that very word shaped the contest from the start.

Wolves began with it, threatening a repeat of the previous home performance as they swarmed all over Crawley.

Bjorn Sigurdarson justified his surprise inclusion with a well angled header from Kevin Doyle’s intelligent run and cross.

Zeli Ismail too had swagger in his step, rolling a foot over the ball and beating his man for fun.

All was as it should be.

Unlike Gillingham a fortnight previous though, the visitors settled when they could have wilted and slowly stole the confidence away.

Their well taken equaliser, an hour in the making, should have given them the point their performance warranted.

But Kevin McDonald wasn’t to be denied, swapping passes and driving forward to force a result Wolves scarcely deserved.

The rest was down to Leigh Griffiths. And confidence.

* Full video highlights available here.