Fulham 2 Wolves 0

If Wolves do end up in the Premier League next season they’ll benefit from the experience of this chastening defeat.

In a forgettable first half, they moved the ball well at times and kept a dangerous Fulham attack subdued.

Ruben Neves was missed, as he would be by any team at this level, but the structure and organisation remained in place.

That is until a couple of sloppy giveaways afforded the hosts an opportunity and nobody tracked Ryan Sessegnon from the rebound.

The second goal was more about good old fashioned forward play. The strength, the body roll, the turn and shot from Mitrovic were all of top flight quality.

His match-winning contribution only served to underline the lack of cutting edge from the visitors.

Costa, so lithe and pacy in approach, was back in the habit of stumbling at the crucial moment.

Bonatini dropped deep and linked play, but rarely got in the box and never once threatened to score.

Even the usually imperious Diogo Jota fluffed with a miss of the season contender that could have asked a question in the final moments.

No, front to back it wasn’t their night and, as a consequence, painfully routine for the hosts.

Fulham are on a par with many of the teams eking out an existence in the lower echelons of the top flight, which is to say generally tidy and capable of exploiting weakness.

And there was far too much weakness in this performance with only Cavaleiro showing the required drive and intensity.

In the Premier League, this type of treatment will be routinely dished out.

To even get there though, better is required.

Fulham Vs Wolves Preview

This is one of those fixtures you start fretting about weeks in advance.

Had we got the win over Norwich, I would have viewed it as a free hit with the two points per game average already in the bag for February.

But alas, the stoppage time heartbreaker leaves us with 8 points from 4 matches, so anything but a win in this one will see us fall short of that particular benchmark.

I still look at our remaining fixtures, those of the chasers and the head start and struggle to see us throwing it away.

I’ve been wrong before though.

Fulham

As they did last season, Fulham started slow and have gradually picked up the pace. The only difference being this time they could still gatecrash the automatic shake up.

They’re not going to catch us, but the eight point deficit to Cardiff is more achievable if they sustain their current form.

Five wins and two draws from their last seven makes them the league’s top dogs and they’ve scored some notable successes in that run.

Villa were brushed aside in their last game at Craven Cottage and they backed it up with a solid point at Ashton Gate in midweek.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was a notable deadline day addition and the big striker adds to a frontline already boasting the correctly hyped Ryan Sessegnon who is still, unbelievably, just 17 years old.

Wolves

I’ve been repressing the idea Neves would eventually get that tenth booking of the season, but it was always coming.

With the maestro out and Costa possibly injured, I would be sorely tempted to return to frontline that got us moving in the early parts of the campaign.

If Leo is fit and firing, I’d like to see him linking the play and bringing Jota and Cavaleiro into the game.

Saiss and N’Diaye must start in midfield. I like Gibbs-White but I just don’t think he’s ready to anchor the team in such a crucial part of the pitch.

John Ruddy came in for some deserved stick after letting that late goal slip through his grasp, but I think it’s too late in the season to be making a change between the sticks. It could de-stabilise the whole defence and isn’t worth the risk.

Predictions

Getting a result against the division’s in form team after such a kick in the guts against Norwich would be another huge statement.

But being honest, I can see this one getting away from us.

Without Neves I’m concerned that we won’t control the midfield and against such a good attacking side, that could be crucial.

I fear defeat but will back us to get what would be a very tidy point.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Fulham 0

What a difference 11 months can make.

Last time Fulham pitched up at Molineux, the points were shared in an eight goal thriller which, although entertaining, said more for the quality of the opposition than it did the home side.

As Thomas rightly pointed out in his match preview, the Fulham of 2016/17 offered a blueprint for Wolves to aspire to.

Slaviša Jokanovic’s side oozed confidence when slaloming through last season’s ragtag equivalent, and few left the ground on that grisly December afternoon under any illusions about the gulf in class between the two.

When you consider tonight’s routine victory against the Cottagers in that context, it’s hard not to raise a wry smile.

If ever a game demonstrated the progress made by Wolves since the curtain fell on last season, this was it.

Nuno’s men were simply irrepressible in the first ten, claiming an early lead through Romain Saiss’ second goal of the season.

And though the visitors grew in stature after conceding, they were unable to prevent Barry Douglas and the increasingly prolific Leo Bonatini from combining for the second.

From that point on, proceedings were fairly routine in a bonfire weekend fixture low on sparkles.

Nonetheless, only the most hard nosed of supporter could fail to be impressed by the efficiency with which we kept our opponents at bay.

Whereas the Wolves side of years gone by looked flustered when put under the slightest amount of pressure, today’s group look capable of weathering almost all storms that come their way.

Even more impressive is the extraordinary confidence with which they move the ball, regardless of its position on the pitch.

For that we have to thank Ruben Neves, who is beginning to resemble more a gift from the heavens than he is a club record signing.

How such a supremely talented footballer has come to be plying his trade in England’s second division remains a mystery to me, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Tonight’s man of the match performance is arguably his best in old gold, especially given the technical dexterity of his counterparts in white.

Whether it was the ferocity with which he pressed when out of possession or the simple outrage of his passing range, there was plenty to laud the Portuguese for this evening.

Simply put, he makes us tick and keeping him fit has to be a priority for Nuno and his staff moving forward.

That being said, credit ought to be afforded to the performances of Barry Douglas, the provider of two sumptuous assists, and Willy Boly, who alongside Connor Coady looks by far and away the best of our current crop of centre halves.

However, as has been the case all season, this triumph was the result of a concerted team effort, one which leaves us sitting pretty at the top of the division irrespective of what our nearest contenders do tomorrow.

Only the boldest of match goer would have predicted that a year ago, a truth which leaves this writer brimming with optimism – albeit cautious optimism – about what’s still to come.