Crystal Palace 3 Wolves 1

Different year, same old story.

Palace

Clearly if 2013 is to be any better than 2012, serious change is needed.

Whether a change of management is the first significant move remains unclear, but with every emphatic defeat, support for Ståle Solbakken becomes increasingly thin on the ground.

The man himself made change today, moving Foley into midfield and bringing Stearman in at the back, with the obvious intent to shut up shop.

The result?

3 goals conceded. 34% possession. 6 points above the relegation zone.

Numbers that will all test Steve Morgan’s confidence in the Scandinavian experiment with the new year sales now upon us.

If any lessons have been learned from 2012, then our chairman will recognise that now is the time for decisive action.

The choice is very simple: keep the faith or cut and run.

Back or sack.

My preference remains the former. Keep going, take the educated gamble we’ll maintain our Championship status and give the manager two further windows to make the sort of decisive change that’s required.

Many, perhaps the majority even, prefer the latter option. It’s difficult to argue with.

Certainly if luck is any sort of barometer, Ståle isn’t the man for us.

With injury still depriving the gaffer of two thirds of his summer recruitment drive, he watched on today as David Davis’ early shot crashed against the bar, before Palace’s resident Brazilian curled in two beautifully weighted free kicks either side of half-time to take the game away from us.

Not that hard-luck stories will wash in this part of town.

We’ve had a year of them already.

Crystal Palace Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves were ticking along nicely until Crystal Palace arrived at Molineux back in October.

Palace

We even went a goal up in that game, but two magic moments from Wilfried Zaha and a nasty injury to S?awomir Peszko derailed our progress.

We’ve only won 4 of 16 games since, while Palace, despite changing managers, continued on a run that would see them reach the summit of the Championship table.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’ve stuttered in December and fallen back into the play-off places. Without a win in their last 5 matches, they need to pickup again sooner rather than later if they’re serious about challenging the top two.

A home game against Wolves is an excellent chance to do just that. Their home remains strong as you’d expect for a team occupying 4th place – 7 wins, 4 draws and just the one defeat thus far.

While Zaha might be the threat that most supporters fear, it’s Glenn Murray stealing all the headlines. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer with a phenomenal return of 22 league goals already. To put that into perspective, the entire Wolves squad have only managed 31.

Wolves

As they were the last time they suffered back-to-back home defeats against Forest and Millwall, Wolves are a mess.

After those catastrophic performances, we buried a poor Bristol City side to herald the mother of false dawns. But what now? I can’t imagine for a moment that Palace will be anywhere near as generous.

The best we can realistically hope for is a shrewder tactical approach, a better defensive display and a result of some description. This would be the team I’d send out:

Wolves team to face Palace

So, drop one of the forwards (probably SEB) in favour of bringing in an additional midfielder. Solbakken has been reluctant to stray from his preferred 442, but surely now is the time?

Admittedly, I was advocating similar change prior to the game at Ashton Gate and he made a mockery of that idea, but Selhurst Park represents a much tougher challenge.

I’d love to be proved wrong again, but I truly believe if we don’t get a foot on the ball and control the play, we’ll be taken apart.

The defence has taken a pounding (and rightly so), but our crippling inadequacy going forward is really putting us on the back foot. Teams know they can just sit back and wait to pounce. Until we get some creativity into the side, this will continue to be the case, particularly at home.

Predictions

In stark contrast to the Peterborough game, the majority thought we’d get turned over by Mick.

26 people correctly thought we’d lose and of those, 8 got the correct scoreline too.

Well done to Alf White, Slider, Rob in London, Twixfix, johnok, Tettenhall Wolf, Bagsy and Wolfman Steve for doubling up. A single point for everyone else.

It’s difficult not to arrive at the logical conclusion of another defeat, even taking into account Palace’s recent struggles.

That said, we haven’t drawn away from Molineux yet, so hopefully we can stink the place out with an attritional, stubborn show of defiance.

1-1.

Up The Wolves.

And of course…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY 2013 BRING YOU ALL GOOD THINGS (STARTING WITH A BETTER FOOTBALL TEAM HOPEFULLY)

Wolves Vs Crystal Palace Preview

Much like their opponents tomorrow night, Crystal Palace come into this game in great form.

Late win at the Reebok on Saturday

After losing their first 3 league games of the season, the Eagles strung together a run of 4 wins from the next 5, including a last gasp victory over Bolton at the weekend.

In Wilfried Zaha they have one of best young talents in the league and nullifying his threat will be vital if Wolves are to make it 5 league wins on the spin.

Striker Glenn Murray is also in fantastic form with 6 goals already. His confidence is sure to be sky high, which makes him a danger.

We know their manager very well of course. I always thought Dougie Freedman was a fantastic player for Wolves and definitely one who left before he should have done. Nice to see him doing well for the club he spent the majority of his playing career with.

Wolves

If there was a negative to come from Saturday it was the injuries we accrued. Boukari has been ruled out for several weeks, there are reports Ward won’t make it back in time and of course poor old George is out for the season. Get well soon big man.

I just wonder whether Ståle will contemplate rotation as he did at Portman Road a few backs? Either way, this would be the team I’d put out assuming Ward is injured:

As you can see, not much rotation in my XI, with only the enforced changes and Sigurdarson added to the team.

Moving Foley across to the left and bringing in Stearman/Zubar at right-back is a no-brainer. We don’t have many other options.

Sigurdarson is probably worth a first start at Molineux to give Ebanks-Blake a rest, so I’d give him a crack.

The only other player I can see coming in would be Dave Edwards and he can be deployed pretty much anywhere across the midfield. It wouldn’t surprise me to see his name on the team sheet.

Opposition view

Thanks to Palace fan Andy Watkins for sending me the following:

After a fairly hap-hazard start to the season, Dougie Freedman’s re-jigged Palace side is starting to take shape. After key departures in the summer by the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Anthony Gardner and Darren Ambrose left us somewhat bereft of quality heading into the new season, a combination of shrewd signings to plug holes at the back and the welcome return to goalscoring form of Glenn Murray has renewed optimism around Selhurst Park. It’s still very much a case of work in progress but four wins from five outings in September mean Palace should be full of confidence ahead of Tuesday night.

Wolves appear a bit of an unknown quantity after relegation but they’re one of the title favourites for a reason. It’s no great surprise, especially under a new manager, they needed a few games to readjust to life back in the Championship but they too seem to be coming into form again now.

Palace are not to be underestimated, though, as Bolton and Cardiff have found out to their detriment in the past week, and there’s no reason why we can’t keep our recent purple-patch going. Successive wins on the road might be too much to ask but, for as long as this new-found optimism lasts, a repeat result of our last trip to Molineux (2-2 in the FA Cup three seasons ago) might yet be a realistic shout. Unfortunately, for Palace fans at least, it doesn’t look like we’ll have Danny Butterfield to call upon in the reverse fixture this time around …

Predictions

Well done to the 52 who correctly predicted we’d win on Saturday.

Only 3 pundits got the correct scoreline though, so it’s hats off to Louie, These are the days and dave h.

Until the run ends, I can’t predict anything other than a win.

I saw nothing on Saturday to make me believe we’ll struggle in this one and if we can nudge ourselves into the lead again, I think we’ll get another 3 points.

I’ll stick with 3-1.

Up The Wolves.

Terrible: Crystal Palace 3 Wolves 1

Not. Good. Enough.

No passion. No fight. No ability.

Butterfield - Humiliated Wolves

How can we be outplayed for ninety minutes by Championship side pulled apart by administration? How can we allow a full-back to plunder three goals?

Pathetic Wolves. Pathetic McCarthy.

Say whatever you like about signings we have or haven’t made, but the manager and squad of players we do have let the fans down badly tonight. That kind of performance is just unforgivable.

I’m so appalled by such a weak, inept, disgusting display, I can’t even consider the thought of constructing a match report.

Oh, Henry’s just smashed one in. What does it count for? Absolutely nothing.

The Morning After

OK, so I’ve had a night’s sleep to recover, but I stand by everything I originally stated.

There’s a minimum you expect from a Wolves side and they fell someway short of that last night.

I always like to find one positive in any performance though, so I’ll point out that I think Zubar had a pretty solid game. The other ten just didn’t want to know.

I don’t know whether I’m more shocked by our lack of fight or the fact that Karl Henry scored a goal.

Think I’ll leave it there.

Let Off: Wolves 2 Crystal Palace 2

Given the fact that Wolves could really do without a tricky cup replay at Selhurst Park, I suppose it was always obvious this match would end in a draw.

On a more positive note, it was a decent game of football, which kept the crowd of 14,449 entertained throughout. There were some excellent goals too, most notably Ronald Zubar’s chest high volley that whistled into the top corner to earn us a second chance in the tie.

Zubar - Deserved his goal

The big defender did himself no harm with his performance either. How Mick can’t see that this guy should be in the team every week is beyond me. Whenever I’ve seen him play, he’s done well and a good run in the team seems long overdue. Perhaps now could be the time for the former Marseille man to step up and make a big contribution to our survival mission. He certainly has all the attributes to do just that.

Mancienne had a decent game too, sweeping up at the back and keeping Victor Moses in his back pocket. Berra wasn’t as convincing and struggled to contain the aerial threat of Alan Lee, most notably in the fourth minute when the forward powered home a header to give the Eagles the lead.

That put paid to Hennessy’s hopes of a clean sheet and things didn’t really get much better for the Welsh international. He had very little to do in the match, so will be disappointed to have shipped two goals. He couldn’t do much about Lee’s bullet header, but I’m not so sure Darren Ambrose’s free kick should have been able to find it’s way in.

Elokobi enjoyed mixed fortunes and despite some powerful and incisive runs forward, he let himself down again with poor distribution. I can’t see him unseating Ward from the left-back slot anytime soon.

In midfield, Jones was the real bright spark and must surely have played himself into contention for the Liverpool match. He picked out some clever passes and got into good shooting positions, culminating in a well-taken goal from the edge of the box.

Henry, Surman and Foley all showed nice touches but none of them really had the ability to hurt Palace in the final third, which probably says a lot about why we’re so toothless in attack at the moment.

Up top, Vokes won a lot of headers and was up for the game from the very start. Maybe he deserves a chance alongside Doyle with SEB and Iwelumo struggling to make the desired impact on the Premiership stage. Speaking of SEB, he can be reasonably pleased with his performance, but unfortunately, his long wait for a goal continues and for all his good play, he didn’t really get a sniff in this one.

By contrast, new boy Mujangi Bia got into some great positions when he came on, but ultimately failed to capitalise. I wouldn’t say he convinced me about his future potential with this second-half cameo, but the one thing he did was put Palace on the back foot. We’ve been crying out for a player (other than Jarvis) that can get defences turned and this guy might well give us that spark. The jury’s still out.

Overall, a few decent performances but as a team, we didn’t do enough at either end to get the win. And I’m afraid that until we start playing with two proper wide men, we’ll continue to struggle in the ‘goals for’ column.

Come on Mick, sort it out.

Wolves Vs Crystal Palace Preview

OK, hands up who remembers the last FA Cup clash between these two sides at Molineux? Normally I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting a 4-1 defeat, but that game will live long in the memory for some quite unbelievable goals. Here’s a video to jog your memory:

I didn’t go to that replay, but I remember vividly watching at home on the TV and shaking my head in disbelief at that last goal from Armstrong. What a finish. However, I did go to the first game at Selhurst Park (what a dump), where Gordon Cowans assaulted one of their players before curling in a neat finish to earn us the draw. I suppose justice was done in the end.

To be honest, I won’t be heading to Molineux on Saturday expecting a similar cup classic, but will definitely settle for a decent performance, a win and maybe even a few goals if the footballing Gods are smiling down on us.

I’m sure Neil Warnock has other ideas though and will have his side up for the game and hellbent on causing a mini-upset. It will be interesting to see whether the ‘next big thing’ Victor Moses turns out for the visitors, as many of their fans seem to think they don’t want to get him cup-tied. Makes sense I suppose given that his exit seems inevitable and they want to get top dollar for the striker. If he does play though, I’ll look forward to seeing what he’s about.

For Wolves, I expect a lot of changes from the side that were blown away by Wigan. With Liverpool to come on Tuesday, I can’t imagine Mick risking any of our better players for this one so it could well be a complete second string. That’s not necessarily bad news though, as all of those players should be well up for the game and a chance to force their way back into the first team.

Here’s the kind of lineup I’d expect to see:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Elokobi
Hill

Surman
Jones
Castillo
Foley

Iwelumo
SEB

I include SEB in that eleven, simply because it seems like a good opportunity to try and get him a goal. That must be something Mick is contemplating, but I’ve given up trying to second-guess our manager. For all I know, he might field our best side.

To be honest, the one result I really wouldn’t like to see is a draw. I think win or lose, get this fixture out of the way and move on, whether that be to the next round or focusing completely on survival. I’d love to see us win it and continue the cup run, especially with the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool already out, but staying in the Premiership must remain the number one priority.

Ben put the question to me earlier in the week:

‘What would you prefer, an FA Cup win or Premiership survival?’.

I opted for the latter. You might well think differently.

Either way, I do believe we’ll overcome Palace in this particular encounter. Had the game been at Selhurst Park, I wouldn’t have been quite so confident, but seeing as it’s at home, I’ll go for a 2-0 win.

If you’re going to the match, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.