Newcastle United 2 Wolves 0

If Saturday was about the collective team performance, the positives to take from this tame League Cup exit were all about individuals.

Silvio being one such example, appearing on the teamsheet after a month and a half in the wilderness and turning in a steady seven out of ten.

Former Benfica team mate Ola John also got his debut and impressed in a 45 minute cameo, showing pace and flair in an otherwise toothless attacking effort from Wolves.

Jed Wallace squandered the team’s only meaningful effort, running through on goal but shooting tamely at the goalkeeper. His wastefulness against Barnsley proved costly and so it proved again last night.

To Newcastle’s credit the two goals they scored were Premier League quality. First Matt Richie’s neat one-two opened the door for a neat finish before the winger laid on the cross for Yoan Gouffran to let rip with an unstoppable volley.

I suppose after that double blow it has to be considered a positive that Wolves stuck at it and didn’t go to pieces.

And after John’s introduction, there was some hope of finding a way back into the contest, albeit fleetingly. But he’ll be a weapon in the weeks and months to come.

More disappointing was Paul Gladon, who again tried his very hardest to impose himself on the game but struggled to lead the line with anything like the effectiveness of Jon Dadi Bodvarrson.

With the Dutch man failing to impress and Joe Mason playing deeper, that puts a lot of pressure on the big Icelander, meaning Nouha Dicko’s return can’t come soon enough.

He scored for the U23’s on Monday and looked close to match fitness judging by the highlights. I wonder how much longer it will be before he’s considered ready for first team activity?

You probably won’t get a direct answer out of Walter Zenga, who continues to talk in riddles and metaphors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody will be second guessing Wolves while he’s in charge.

Least of all, any of us.

* Highlights of the game can be viewed here.

Newcastle United Vs Wolves Preview

I was wrong.

In the post-Barnsley discussion thread and my preview for Saturday’s game I felt Wolves would lose, regardless of the team selection.

Perhaps I was giving Newcastle too much credit or Walter Zenga and his players not enough, but could you blame me after Tuesday’s collapse?

Prior to the first leg of the St. James’ Park double header, I felt the most important thing was to at least see the emergence of a team. And boy did we get that and more.

Hopefully it’s the start of something and not just the first of many high points in a topsy-turvy season.

Newcastle

newcastle_united_logo-svgThe Magpies had most of the ball and forced Carl Ikeme into a couple of worldies, but I didn’t hear anyone begrudging Wolves what turned out to be a comfortable away win.

Rafa Benitez perhaps paid the price himself for rotation, as the likes of Mitrovic and Gouffran were dropped after featuring in the blitz of QPR.

Or maybe they were tired or maybe they thought they’d win comfortably. Whatever the reason, Wolves were well on top and that won’t sit well with the Toon supporters.

You’d expect the manager to ring the changes again and much like Wolves, it’s hard to know whether their supposed second string will even be inferior to the team we faced on Saturday.

Newcastle fan Jake hosts a Championship Podcast (which I’m due to be on early next week) and he sent me a few Tweets ahead of this one:

“Wolves looked to be a good team on Saturday, but previous results suggest a lack of consistency. Play-offs the ceiling? We have recovered well since bad start. Saturday was a reminder that we won’t be able to win every match. I’m not sure what team we will put out on Tuesday. That said, I can’t see you winning twice at SJP, so a home win this time!”

Wolves

Since Kevin McDonald’s absence and subsequent sale, we haven’t had any matchwinners in the middle of the park. Hopefully Romain Saiss can be that man.

team-for-newcastle-cup

The Moroccan was a key performer on Saturday and given how flaky we looked against Burton and Barnsley, he must be nailed on to start against Brentford.

As for tomorrow, I can see Zenga going big and changing the entire side. The above represents a completely different XI to Saturday, save for Doherty at full-back.

Speaking of full-backs I’m not sure how far away Silvio is from getting a game or Ola John. Zenga has been fairly tight-lipped on their status but would be great to see them back fighting for a shirt.

Predictions

I wanna go to Wembley baby. It’s long overdue and we haven’t even got anywhere close in the last 10 years and more.

This is a tough tie, but you would hope that whatever the team selection we’ve got a few players that can produce a moment of magic to help us progress.

Newcastle will be fired up after getting turned over at the weekend, so expecting a tough test, but with the residue of optimism still in the air from Saturday I’ll back us to squeak through.

2-1.

Chelsea Vs Wolves Preview

Visits to Stamford Bridge seldom end happily for Wolves, hence why I’m weighing up whether the timing of this fixture will benefit Ståle Solbakken.

Scraped by at the weekend

In our three previous visits, all in the Premier League, we’ve been on the end of 4-0, 2-0 and 3-0 losses.

Our manager has already shown his hand by naming a squad that excludes many of the players that started on Saturday.

We’ll go there, play a second-string (as our opponents will) and not fret too much about the result. That’s a sensible approach.

While in many respects it would have been interesting to see what questions our best eleven could ask of Chelsea reserves, getting a pasting could drastically effect the confidence of a team beginning to find it’s feet.

As it is, whatever the result tonight we can restore the first team against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and pick up where we left off at Peterborough.

I don’t need to tell you anything about Chelsea. European Champions, top of the Premier League, lots of talented players. Their ‘reserves’ will include the likes of Victor Moses, Ryan Bertrand and maybe even one or both of Frank Lampard and John Terry, who were left out against Stoke at the weekend.

Wolves

So we know the Wolves team will consist of: De Vries, Ikeme, Stearman, Zubar, Foley, Margreitter, Batth, Davis, Edwards, Jonsson, Price, Forde, Peszko, Ismail, Hunt, Boukari, Nouble, Sigurdarson.

This would be the team I’d pick from that lot:

I think like most supporters I’d love to see a glimpse of Ismail, but I doubt he’ll actually start at Stamford Bridge. More likely to come off the bench.

Somebody told me Saturday that Hunt is prepared to play at left-back so will be interesting to see if he’s selected there tonight.

Predictions

When we played Northampton in the cup a few weeks back I was inundated with emails from people asking why their Prediction League points hadn’t been added.

To be clear: There are no Prediction League points on the line for cup games.

So, just for fun, I’ll go for a narrow loss – 2-0.

It’s a shame that our chances of progressing in this competition seem to be constantly hampered by difficult fixtures at early stages. To get Man Utd twice, Man City and now Chelsea in the last four years is desperately unlucky.

But if we can stay organised and get a bit of luck, who knows?

Up The Wolves.

Northampton Town 1 Wolves 3

If you can make nine changes to your starting eleven and still run out convincing winners, there are definite reasons to be cheerful.

Now that’s what I call Clack!

Only Carl Ikeme and David Davis remained from Saturday’s snore-draw against Derby, with Ståle’s new boys taking center stage.

And come full time, this was very much Solbakken’s Wolves.

Sigurdarson and Nouble up front, Sako and Peszko on the wings, Doumbia in the middle, Margreitter at the back.

Times are a changing and if the second half is anything to go by, probably for the best.

Passing to feet, moving the opposition around quickly, opening up spaces. Much like the Barnsley game, plenty of encouraging signs.

Bakary Sako’s venomous drive was the icing on the cake and dare I say it, the sort of no-nonsense goal Matt Jarvis just wasn’t capable of scoring. Ball into feet, shift, bang. Welcome to Wolves.

Razak Boukari was also impressive, offering pace, trickery and a definite eye for a pass as demonstrated with an inch-perfect through ball for David Davis.

Will both of those players start on Sunday? I’d like to think so.

It’s harder to judge Georg Margreitter, as he wasn’t asked many questions, but I suppose the fact he came through the game unnoticed suggests he coped comfortably. Sterner tests await and it will be intriguing to see if Solbakken throws him straight in against Cardiff.

The two forwards also stood out. Nouble in particular deserved his goal and showed not only great physical strength, but also composure with the ball at his feet.

In an opening 45 where we struggled to string together more than two passes before hoofing long, both he and Sigurdarson showed great appetite.

Scrappy would be a kind adjective to use in describing that first half, accentuated by the two goals we bundled over the line.

Northampton’s equaliser was familiar territory. A cross not cut out down the left and a forward finding too much space in the middle to plant a header in the corner.

Like Saturday, we seemed to be lacking any sort of creativity through the middle, so I’d like think we’ll see at least one new signing before the day is out to rectify this problem.

But credit to Wolves, after the break when the game did open up, they really put their foot on the pedal, with the only disappointing aspect being that it took until stoppage time to sew the game up.

The young players like Forde and Davis, who was much improved from Saturday, also seemed to grow into the game and help control the play. That was a pleasant bonus.

As for our aspirations of progressing further in the competition, Chelsea away wasn’t the ideal draw, but it’s a plum tie all the same and a great test.

And who knows, we might even be on TV again?

Northampton Town Vs Wolves Preview

Ståle Solbakken could probably have done without a midweek cup game to contend with as Molineux’s revolving door continues to spin ahead of Friday’s transfer deadline.

Undefeated thus far

Since last Friday, it’s mercifully been a case of reinforcements arriving rather than troops jumping ship as we welcome Razak Boukari and Bakary Sako to the fold.

If you believe what you see on YouTube, they should bring pace and creativity to the side, two things desperately lacking from the weekend’s disappointing performance against Derby.

Relevant clearance permitting, both of those players should make their debut at Northampton tomorrow as Wolves look to advance in the League Cup. Defender Georg Margreitter is also inline for his first appearance.

League Two Northampton, now managed by Aidy Boothroyd, have enjoyed a solid start. With 3 draws and a win in the league thus far as well as a fantastic first round cup win over Cardiff, they’re undefeated heading into this match and hungry for another upset.

Wolves of course went to Sixfields last season at the same stage and won 4-0. Ebanks-Blake (2), Milijas and Sam Vokes were all on the scoresheet in that one. I remember looking at our squad after that win and thinking how much strength in depth we had. Oh well.

Wolves

I’m expecting the starting eleven in this game to consist of new signings and players in and around the first team squad. This is the sort of thing I mean:

Starting the two forwards is surely a no-brainer? I’d like to see what they can both do from the start, particularly if there’s a chance Doyle could leave before Friday. Someone has to fill the void.

If the three new lads can play, it would be nice to see them get a run out. The likes of Elokobi, Stearman and Davis should also benefit from a run out.

Opposition view

Thanks to Danny from A Load of Cobblers:

Aidy Boothroyd has mentioned that fringe players may get a chance. With a trip to Plymouth coming two days after this match there could be a fair bit of chopping and changing from the Town boss.

On paper it’s another potential upset for the Cobblers but I can see this being just as much of a challenge as last season and we’ll have to be well on our game to come close. I would imagine Wolves would field a stronger side than Cardiff City did a few weeks ago and the best we can hope for will probably be a shot at extra-time. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes!

Predictions

No PL points at stake for this one, but just for fun I’ll tip us to edge through 2-1.

I’d like to say the performance is more important than the result, but I’ll be disappointed if we get knocked out.

Either way, what happens off the pitch over the next two days is probably going to be a lot more telling for the season ahead than what happens on it.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 5 Millwall 0

If Carlsberg did football matches, then they’d be hard pushed to beat what Carling hosted at Molineux last night.

A stunning free kick, a goal of the season contender, a Roy of the Rovers story and most important of all…

…A couple of performances that simply can’t be ignored when selecting the team for Saturday.

Who's following me to Anfield then?!

While it will take a bit longer yet to completely erase the memory of Saturday’s no-show, this performance went further than most could have imagined in easing the pain.

It wasn’t so much the scoreline either, but more the sight of Dave Edwards,  Adlene Guedioura and Adam Hammill, who simply have to feature at Anfield at some stage.

In a perverse way, the only negative was in the overall positive itself.

Namely, that we looked fluid, creative and largely elusive for Millwall as we drifted ‘in behind lines’ and interchanged frequently, making you wonder what could have been if we’d have showed similar aptitude three days earlier.

The static, rigid, clueless defeat against QPR was a world away from what we saw last night, albeit against a limited team, featuring the lumbering Darren Ward in a statuesque testimony to a bygone era.

Adding some of our bigger hitters to a similar 4-5-1 set-up will surely hold us in better stead for the Premiership tests that await, particularly if Fletcher is out and the new-found midfield options available to us.

For most reporters inside Molineux, the match report will be the easiest they will have to write all season.

The game was over after six minutes.

What will be more difficult to decipher is whether Mick will want to play any of last night’s star turns on Saturday.

So without further ado, here is a Wolves Blog perspective, starting with the question: “Should he be involved on Saturday?”

De Vries: No. But like Hahnemann before him, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit worried if he did. Looked very assured and commanding.

Doherty: No. But looks a whole lot more assured than the last time I saw him v Doncaster (away) in the cup. Didn’t put a foot wrong and just been rewarded with a contract extension. One to watch.

Elokobi: No. Good on George though. An imposing performance and always showing for the ball which after Saturday’s shocker, deserves credit. Rewarded with a goal and a quite brilliant block to deny a near certain goal at the 2-0 stage.

Berra: YES! As per most of the season, Berra looked commanding, if largely untested. Vocal too, which was nice to hear.

Stearman: YES! He’s an uncompromising, pacy defender and looked assured at centre half. Will revert to right back and he won’t let anyone down.

Hunt: No: But off the bench for me. Waspish and committed from the very first whistle, but I wouldn’t start him.

Hammill: YES! Here’s why I wouldn’t start Hunt. What has Adam got to do to get a start? Brilliant free kick and even better than that, a direct performance full of attacking intent. Plus, the added spice of a game against his home town team means he should start – if we are playing this system.

Guedioura: YES! Yes, yes and thrice yes. Not just for his wonder-goal or equally impressive run and cross for Elokobi’s goal, but for his ability to make more correct decisions than anyone else, his presence and eye for a pass. Either in a 4-5-1 in the middle or if Fletcher is fit, in a 4-4-2 as a narrow ‘wide man.’ He has to play!

Milijas: No. He looked neat and tidy, sitting a bit deeper and marshalling the midfield, but didn’t catch the eye enough to suggest he should get a game at the scene of his finest hour in a Wolves shirt.

Edwards: No. But off the bench, definitely. If Mick does play him off Doyle on Saturday you won’t hear me complaining. He was brilliant last night. So energetic, lively and difficult to mark. To start him at Anfield after so long out just feels a little bit ‘in at the deep end’ in my opinion.

Vokes: No. Looks cumbersome and one-dimensional. Possibly an option off the bench but doesn’t appear to be the answer we are looking for.

And a final mention for James Spray: Please keep him in and around the squad Mick. Please don’t loan him out to some fair to middling League 2 side before he vanishes off the face of WV1. He looked quicker and generally more lively than Vokes and if either of the two were to be farmed out, I’d prefer it to be Sam.