Wolves Vs Bristol City Preview

We could do with winning this.

Lee Tomlin

I think a victory would extinguish any lingering fears of a relegation scrap and in stark contrast to last week, history is on our side.

Much like Boro’s stranglehold over us at the Riverside, Bristol City haven’t won at Molineux since 1931 according to the BBC.

That’s 18 matches undefeated at home against the Robins. Now would be a bad time for our reign of dominance to end.

Bristol City

Bristol_City_FC.svgThere’s no doubting things have been looking up for City since giving Steve Cotterill the shove.

A run of three successive wins came at just the right time, elevating them away from immediate danger.

They’ve since sandwiched a win over Notts Forest with defeats against Cardiff and Brighton, meaning they come into this fixture on mixed form, but still with a five point buffer to the drop zone.

As well as Scott Golbourne, they also recruited Lee Tomlin on loan from Bournemouth in January and he has match winning ability at this level.

From the outside looking in, I get the sense they’re on the up, so this fixture is a tougher challenge than the league table suggests.

Wolves

How much of Friday was Wolves playing poorly and how much was Boro just being better? They obviously had more quality but it was disappointing that they were quicker to every ball.

team for Bristol

McDonald had a poor game and invariably if he’s not firing, the rest of the team struggle to get into a rhythm. Hopefully he can do better tonight.

I wouldn’t abandon the shape because I still think it offers us the best chance of being successful, but I would throw Mason on in place of Sigurdarson.

We keep hearing he’s not really cut out to play the lone forward role, but he did it for Cardiff against us a few months back and I seem to recall they did rather well, so why not give it a go?

Hause for Ebanks-Landell represents an upgrade to me, so I’m not too despondent, but the sheer volume of injuries is a concern. We have hardly any defensive cover.

The gaffer

Predictions

I’m playing it safe and going for a draw, which would just about suit us I reckon.

The thing about the Championship is it’s not really about the league table, it’s about what sort of form the team you’re playing are in because the difference in quality is usually negligible.

At present, I don’t think there’s anything between these two sides on paper (they might even be better), so it’s more or less anyone’s guess.

And my guess is 1-1.

Up The Wolves!

* I’ve also managed to update the PL table (finally), so hopefully this is right as of the end of the Boro game. Check it out here.

Middlesbrough 2 Wolves 1

Few will have been surprised by the outcome.

Boro Wolves

But although only one goal separated the sides, to say the scoreline flattered Wolves is an understatement.

Aitor Karanke’s expensively assembled squad never looked likely to succumb to our patched up eleven and should have won the game by a much healthier margin.

In a disappointing sequel to last week’s morale boosting victory, Wolves were passive throughout and never got to grips with the fluidity of Boro’s midfield.

Though it seems folly to castigate particular players for their performance, we were particularly poor on the flanks and I imagine both Dominic Iorfa and Nathan Bryne will want to forget this particular Friday evening in a hurry.

The marking of Gaston Ramirez (or lack thereof) for the first goal was pitiful and it was no surprise to see the diminutive playmaker net his second, albeit fortuitously, from their side of the pitch.

Bjorn Sigurdarson, though admittedly feeding off scraps, once again did little to justify being selected ahead of Joe Mason, who did more in his late cameo than any of his colleagues had prior to his introduction.

Given the considerable outlay that was committed to securing the player’s signature, it goes without saying that Kenny Jackett needs to find a way of accomdating him in the side.

I suspect there will be many more evenings, afternoons and lunchtimes (depending on what Sky deem fit) like this to come before the end of the season, so it’d be wise to contemplate what the next campaign will bring.

Though investment is unlikely to be forthcoming from our stay away owner, we can at least look forward to welcoming some considerable talent back into the fold.

Dicko, Edwards, Graham, Williamson and Zyro will improve the team immeasurably and it’ll be interesting to see how we fare when afforded a clean bill of health.

Perhaps it’s naivety speaking, but I believe we’ll be much more formidable next time round.

Before I sign off, allow me to raise a glass to the supporters who made the trip to Teeside last night – you’re all a credit to our great club.

Middlesbrough Vs Wolves Preview

As we all know, this is a guaranteed defeat.

Boro Wolves

If history is anything to go by anyway.

Much better Wolves teams have played much worse Boro teams over the years and we’ve nearly always been routinely stuffed.

The good thing is we can afford to lose tonight. Unlike last season when we went up there desperately needing a point and leaving hopelessly disappointed yet again, the pressure is all on them.

I think you could sense Derby felt the burden of expectation last weekend, so maybe it’ll be the same again tonight?

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough_crest_oldIt looked like Boro would coast to promotion a few months back and their January transfer business was as impressive as their summer recruitment.

Championship heavyweight Jordan Rhodes and Premier League proven Gaston Ramirez both looked like smart acquisitions to help them ease over the line.

But it hasn’t quite panned out for them yet and Hull, Burnley and Brighton have all reeled them back in. There’s a very real threat now that they might not make it again.

I was impressed how they turned the screw on us at Molineux earlier in the season. Once they got back level they just kept coming and eventually forced the win.

The Riverside is a fortress for everyone this year, not just Wolves. They’ve managed 11 victories from their 16 home matches to date with just the 2 defeats. It’s travel sickness that’s restricting their progress.

Wolves

The difference last weekend was the midfield. Kenny got a top notch performance from all three of his central players and they complimented each other very well.

team for Boro

Hopefully the above eleven can do what they did to Derby, which is make their life as miserable as possible when they’ve got the ball and break quickly when the opportunity presents itself.

Unlike Derby though, I don’t think Boro are afraid to scrap it out, so it could become a bit of a chess match and I’m not sure who that suits better?

Pace out wide also gives us opportunity and Helan looks a diligent worker, so that bodes well going in both directions and will help in a tough away fixture.

The gaffer

Predictions

I thought we’d be swatted away by Derby and ended up pleasantly surprised. It’s a repeat this week too.

We go confident and with renewed optimism but I think Boro will just have too much quality at home to hurt us.

So I’ll go for a narrow 2-1 defeat and hope to look foolish again.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Middlesbrough 3

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this third straight defeat is that it felt entirely avoidable.

Wolves Boro

Unlike Derby and Brentford, Wolves remained in the box seat for most of this feisty encounter.

But injuries, fatigue and a chronic lack of defensive cover ultimately allowed Middlesbrough’s quality to shine through in the final knockings.

After Kortney Hause was stretchered off and Conor Coady deemed his most suitable replacement, you always sensed the visitors would open the gates.

Aitor Karanka even had the luxury of introducing £6 million summer recruit Stewart Downing to crank up the heat.

And it was Downing’s neat reverse pass that created the space for the equaliser before his classy free kick sealed the deal.

Meanwhile, we’re all left to wonder what might have been had Kenny Jackett been armed with even adequate options to finish the job.

Nobody knows the anatomy of Wolves’ transfer dealings and who is truly to blame for the glaring imbalance to the squad, but as one fan put it to me yesterday: The chickens are coming home to roost.

While it’s unfortunate Kenny finds himself without Ebanks-Landell, Iorfa and Hause, it’s poetic justice for the head scratching decision to offload Richard Stearman.

Equally, Nathan Byrne’s desperate lunge that handed Boro the lead is a direct consequence of his inexperience.

And if you sign young, unproven players, they make those types of mistakes and you have to suffer the fallout.

With all this considered is it overly simplistic to suggest that the two teams respective transfer policies are where yesterday’s game was won and lost?

On a more positive note, there was much to be admired about Wolves’ performance for three quarters of the contest.

A classy opening goal showed that there’s requisite talent within the squad to open up even the meanest defence in the league.

Benik Afobe had chances too and occupied Boro’s back four with an encouraging display of power and menace.

It’s just a shame Afobe and a few other guilty parties couldn’t provide the killer second goal that may have won the day.

But on such fine margins games are won and lost in this league and those small percentage points normally come from individual talent.

Talent that Wolves seem loathe to pay for.

Wolves Vs Middlesbrough Preview

If Wednesday’s game was supposed to be the more winnable of our Molineux double header, you worry about what’s to come.

Boro Wolves 2

Back-to-back losses is bad enough but with Boro tomorrow and a horrible looking fixture at Blues next weekend, things stand to get considerably worse.

Brentford were achingly average, but thoroughly deserved their win having pretty much controlled the game for the duration.

Wolves were creaky at the back, overrun in midfield and lacking punch in the final third, despite the best efforts of their talisman.

You just wonder how much of that can be fixed within the space of a few days.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough_crest_oldI fancy Boro will be well organised and even more difficult to breakdown than Brentford given that they’ve been consistently disciplined for well over a season.

Aitor Karanka’s team have only conceded 8 goals so far in the league, making them the meanest defence in the division.

Recent form has been flaky with two losses to Reading and Cardiff sandwiching a stalemate against Fulham so perhaps that offers some cause for optimisim?

Prior to that, they’d won five in a row and looked dead set to be among the automatic promotion contenders.

Unlike Wolves, they invested heavily in proven talent and I still believe the likes of Nugent and Downing will give them that extra percentage required to achieve their ultimate goal.

Wolves

I think Kenny Jackett made at least one mistake with his team selection in midweek.

Team for Boro

Dropping Jack Price – who seems to continually be scapegoated for losses without much supporting evidence – was a major error in my opinion.

Conor Coady isn’t doing enough to justify his place in the side individually and there’s no sign of a blossoming partnership with Kevin McDonald.

I would restore Price tomorrow, put another body in midfield (Edwards or Wallace) to try and get control of the ball and push Afobe right up the pitch.

Nathan Byrne should also be given an opportunity to show what he can do, otherwise what was the point of signing him in the first place?

The gaffer

Predictions

In the above video Kenny admits we’re light on numbers at the back and in forward positions. You wonder who is to blame for that situation?

It was obvious to everyone that bodies were required in those positions for the duration of the summer, even before injury and mystifying sales came into play.

Something is going on and the my interpretation of the manager’s comments is that he doesn’t feel he’s been adequately supported.

Anyway, I think we’ll lose tomorrow but hopefully there will be something to be taken from the performance.

2-1 Boro.

Up The Wolves!

Middlesbrough 3 Wolves 0

Well you can’t say it hasn’t been coming.

Wolves Boro

Wholesale changes to the team, chronic individual errors, no leadership. A big old slap around the chops has been on the cards for weeks.

For context, it’s fair to say Middlesbrough away was a tough assignment made all the more challenging with Kenny Jackett opting against fielding our strongest XI.

But the manner in which we were routinely brushed aside by a fellow Championship team with the same hopes and aspirations that we supposedly harbor says a lot about our current plight.

The final scoreline neatly underlines the seismic gap between the two clubs. They have progressed and strengthened. We have regressed and surrendered.

Even the manager who has so often been impervious to criticism for his pragmatic, level-headed approach is suddenly looking confused and vulnerable.

The only episodes of struggle he’s endured in a fairly serene two years have been at times when he hasn’t known his best team.

Unfortunately, unlike December 0f 2013 and November of 2014, there’s a sense that this could be a longer stretch in the wilderness.

There’s been too much change, too much trauma, too much unrest for Wolves to find the consistency for a serious top six challenge.

Realistically, the best we can hope for in the short term is that Danny Batth’s return can help steady the ship.

He’s by no means the all encompassing answer to our defensive problems, but with Ethan Ebanks-Landell costing the team goals every other game, his steady presence could prove a tonic.

But the other senior players must also step forward and be counted.

There’s definitely much more to be had from the likes of Golbourne, McDonald, Henry, Afobe and Le Fondre. All are capable but none are playing anywhere close to their level.

Kenny also eluded to the fact we couldn’t beat our man and really hurt Boro last night and that’s been a problem all season long.

So whether it’s Nathan Byrne making the difference or the likes of Ojo or van La Parra seriously stepping up their game, somebody has to provide that spark.

Without that, two seasons of solid progress on and off the pitch are in serious danger of completely fizzling out.