Wolves 2 Notts County 0

Notts County striker Jimmy Spencer gave his local rag the kind of sparkling soundbite every journalist dreams about last week.

Wovles Notts County

When asked about his side’s prospects ahead of their visit to Molineux, he nonchalantly replied ‘It’s a harder game this week, but Wolves aren’t Real Madrid, are they?’

I wonder if he thought about the comment yesterday as he exited the field after being substituted on the hour mark?

By that time Michael Jacobs had deservedly steered another game in the home side’s favour with two goals fit for Bernabeu consumption.

The first, a rising header after a slick passing move that resulted in Scott Golbourne lifting a perfectly weighted cross into his path.

The second, a thunderous low drive that exploited the tightest of spaces between goalkeeper and post following a brilliant interception and forward dash from Richard Stearman.

And two should really have been four or five.

The resurgent Bakary Sako twice channeled Roberto Carlos with missiles that only instinctive saves from the County keeper could repel.

Nouha Dicko, again impressive as the lone forward, was uncharacteristically wasteful when presented with a tap-in by his French compatriot.

James Henry too, intelligently darting in behind a static County defence couldn’t find the finish his smart run warranted.

All afternoon the chances flowed like Sangria as Wolves showed the far greater attacking menace in a match that wasn’t always one-way traffic.

Shaun Derry’s side took an equal share of the possession and spent the last twenty minutes camped inside the opposition’s half.

But whilst the hosts peppered the County goal with 18 shots, the away team could only muster one effort on target all afternoon.

And that’s the difference.

Kenny Jackett has cleverly engineered a Wolves side that play with both precision and purpose. It’s lovely to watch.

Still, Callum McGrefgor and Jack Grealish could have spoiled the party had either managed to hit the target with glorious chances in either half.

It’s unlikely Brentford will be as forgiving next week. But with Wolves playing their best football of the season, the Bees will have just as much to fear.

And it’s not like they’re Bayern Munich is it?

Highlights

Wolves Vs Notts County Preview

I was at Meadow Lane back in November to see Wolves secure a narrow 1-0 victory.

Wolves Notts County

That was a period in the season when the performances weren’t particularly inspiring, but the results were still coming.

But it was actually a 20-minute spell in the second half of that game that I first started to feel truly encouraged about what Kenny Jackett was building.

McDonald started to get on the ball and dictate play,  Golbourne was bombing forward and the likes of Sako and Henry were creating chances for the forwards.

It certainly wasn’t a complete performance, but you could clearly see the intention for neat, possession-based football. We were just a few players short of doing it efficiently.

Fast forward to now and we have filled the holes and look a very good team, by League One standards at least.

Notts County

Notts_County_LogoFortunately, I didn’t go to the other fixture between these two sides, which was the Johnstones Paint Trophy stalemate at Molineux that ended in penalty shootout win for County.

Wolves were woeful that evening and would have lost the game in regulation time had it not been for a string of Carl Ikeme saves.

But that victory for County was a rare highlight of a disappointing first half of the season. They’ve changed manager since, brought in a shed load of loan signings and are now a completely different proposition.

Result have been mixed of late, including a 5-1 home defeat to Walsall, a narrow 4-3 loss against Peterborough, but most recently a solid 3-0 victory over Coventry.

The Magpies easily have the worst away record, with 12 defeats from 16 games to date and only 2 wins. They have firepower though, in the shape of midfielder and Wolves-target Callum McGregor, currently on loan from Celtic.

Wolves

Carl Ikeme could feature tomorrow after returning from injury. I’d be happy to see him back between the sticks, but equally have confidence in Aaron McCarey, whose done little wrong in his clutch of appearances.

Wolves team for Crawley

Others that could come into contention for a start are James Henry, Lee Evans and Matt Doherty (I think he’s back in the squad). But I don’t the above eleven will be far off.

With so many games to come in March, the strength of the squad will be severely tested. Although we have the above options waiting in the wings, I’d worry if we lost the likes of McDonald and Dicko for any period of time. I’m sure KJ will be dipping into the loan market.

The gaffer

The odds

Wolves are strong favourites for the win at 9/20. County are a favourable 15/2. A £1 bet on any County win returns £8.50, so if you’re feeling pessimistic, this is a good game to put that insurance policy in place.

Nouha Dicko is the most likely first goalscorer at 15/4. The prolific (of late) Kevin McDonald is 7/1, while Callum McGregor is 11/1.

All odds are available from here.

Predictions

No game last weekend so no PL points. I’ve updated the table so please do make sure you have the points you think you should have. Email me any errors via the contact page.

I don’t think County are as bad a team now as their overall position suggests. As Kenny said in his pre-match interview, they’ve used the loan market well and have some useful players.

Still, I think if Wolves play well, as they have been of late, I can only see one outcome.

3-1

Up The Wolves

Notts County 0 Wolves 1

I’m used to watching Wolves from way up high.

Notts County away

So to find myself situated pitch side in the Jimmy Sirrel stand, no more than a George Elokobi throw-in from the action, made for a slightly surreal matchday experience.

Up close and personal you take in a much tighter, compact game, seeing players you’ve sat and judged countless times before in a totally different light.

Scott Golbourne caught the eye, strutting confidently up and down the line second half, always a yard quicker than the opposition.

The full-back’s reading of the game, his neat control and ability to thread a pass, made him a standout performer in what was mostly a bitty and fractious affair.

Ethan Ebanks-Landell wasn’t so imperious and at times his full debut made for uncomfortable front row viewing as Jamal Campbell Rice continually turned the screw.

But credit the youngster, he kept at it and after robbing his nemesis of possession just prior to the interval, saw out the remainder of the game in relative comfort.

His finish wasn’t too shabby either, sweeping home a loose ball to send his side top after a handful of senior teammates had squandered better chances.

He’s not a full-back, there’s no escaping the fact and if he is to have a long term future at the club, it must be in the middle where his build and skillset are more suitably matched.

Much like Landell, the team’s collective performance was sluggish at the outset but found another gear midway through the second half to wrestle away the points.

Meadow Lane

Leigh Griffiths was a major factor in the upward trajectory. His omission from the starting eleven in favour of Jake Cassidy and an extra body in midfield was a great source of frustration amongst the away contingent.

Cassidy cut an isolated figure for most of the first half, but forced a decent save from the keeper with a smart turn and low drive from the edge of the box.

The Welsh forward will be disappointed with his second half, twice failing to convert clear chances and toiling with his general play. Griffiths was sharper and his smart runs in behind opened the door for the likes of James Henry to bomb forward.

Henry was again our best attacking outlet, creating clear chances that Griffiths and Cassidy should have converted. If his late injury proves serious, Kenny Jackett has a sizable void to fill.

But the gaffer will be pleased to have come through another stern test with maximum points, despite being without key personnel.

A run of tough winter fixtures await, so hopefully League One’s new front runners are like me, more comfortable from up high.

Highlights

Reaction

Talking Point

Did the win justify Kenny Jackett’s decision to start with just one forward and leave top scorer Leigh Griffths on the bench?

Notts County Vs Wolves Preview

This fixture put Wolves in a tough position.

Notts County

Circumstances dictated they could only request postponement on Monday after all the international call-ups had been made.

With several thousand supporters (including myself) already having bought tickets, the powers that be had a decision to make.

Play the game without key players or risk the wrath of supporters by cancelling at short notice.

Personally, I think they made the right call, but anything other than victory over the league’s bottom club will no doubt raise debate.

Notts County

Victory at Molineux in the JPT a month ago wasn’t enough to keep Chris Kiwomya in a job. Shaun Derry has taken over in a player-manager capacity and tomorrow marks his first home game.

In that sense, it’s terrible timing. Not only are we missing the influence and experience of players like Doyle and Ricketts, but we must also contend with the extra bounce a new manager brings to the table.

All three of County’s wins this season have come at Meadow Lane and crucical victories they were too against fellow stragglers Crewe, Tranmere and Oldham. Without those results they’d be completely cut adrift.

Sean Derry, like Kenny Jackett, must utilise his squad for this one because they also have players away on international duty, as well as suspensions and injuries.

Wolves

There are so many things Kenny Jackett could do with the team tomorrow. With Ricketts out, there’s some shuffling to be done at the back. Kevin McDonald could return to the midfield, so any combination in there is also possible. We also welcome Michael Jacobs to the fold.

Wolves team Notts county

KJ has a choice between Foley, Elokobi or Ebanks-Landell. I suspect he’ll go for experience over youth with two senior players already missing. I might be wrong.

If McDonald is fit, I’d play him. Could be any of Price, Davis or Evans alongside him. Dave Edwards played in a more advanced midfield role against Oldham, so maybe KJ will consider sticking with him too at the expense of a striker?

It will be an interesting team selection whatever happens and a few players will get a chance to stake their claims for greater first team opportunities.

The odds

No surprise to see that Wolves are big favourites for this one, with odds of 3/4. The draw is 29/10 and County are 4/1.

It’s probably about time Danny Batth got on the end of something and if you fancy him as first goalscorer, a generous 25/1 is on offer.

All odds are available to view here.

Predictions

Slim pickings in the PL after drawing at Carlisle. Everyone had Wolves down for the win, aside from three visionaries.

Well done to Chris in Dublin, who predicted 2-2 for maximum points. Ash K and Number 9 also plumped for a draw, but it’s only a single for them.

Wolves should still win this tomorrow, regardless of the names missing. I suspect it won’t be easy, but I think we’ll just about scrape it.

2-1.

Up The Wolves

Wolves 0 Notts County 0 (Notts County win 3-1 on pens)

Having overseen the PR for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy over the past five years, last night’s turgid 0-0 draw was particularly painful on two levels.

Wolves Notts County JPT

1. The footballing fare offered up a compelling solution for insomnia

2. The upshot of which – screened live on Sky – further undermined the value of a competition that I genuinely hold close to my heart

BBC WM’s Richard Wilford claimed before kick-off that getting to the final of this competition would be an embarrassment for the club.

The unpalatable truth for a Johnstone’s Paint PR guy – who would find pushing water uphill an easier task than rebuffing such views – is that the radio presenter has a point.

When my entire evening centred around Q I conundrums including the amount of material in Notts County’s shorts and their exact number of away fans (113), I have decided that things need not be this way.

In an attempt to consign such miserable evenings of non-descript football to the dustbin, I propose a radical overhaul of the JPT to engage fans and ensure that when the greatest player in a club’s history is given a send-off, it won’t be in front of 7,166 fans.

Proposal number one:

Make the JPT a summer competition, in a widespread pre-season shirt sleeved event, over no more than a month. This would replace many of the obligatory pre-season fixtures and add a welcome element of meaning to a most sanitised time of the year.

Attendances would rise because the trophy would signal a welcome return to domestic action after an end-of-season famine. Fans would also enjoy supporting their teams far more when the temperatures are warmer, in sociable, family friendly hours, with the prospect of a Wembley carrot so soon afterwards.

Picture the scene…New strips unveiled exclusively in the JPT, star signings making their debuts and injured stalwarts making their long awaited returns to action.

We all remember the Mercentile Credit Fesitval in 1988 don’t we? The culmination of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy could be something like this. But a bit more meaningful.

Proposal number two:

If we are going to be subjected to a rotten game which features no single efforts on goals, can we not just cut to the chase?

Being as managers are always loathed to play their stars for fear of injury in the first place, a penalty-shoot off should be organised from the off, where we delete the big soul-destroying chunk of the game.

The rules are: 11 pens each at one end of the ground, then 11 pens each at the other end.

Because we’d only be inside the stadium for 30 minutes max, clubs can offer crazy admission prices, like £2, to completely fill both ends of the ground. Thus, we could get in 12,000 fans or so.

There’d be few overheads as two stands could be closed and fewer refreshment booths open etc.

And for the greater good of English football, it will hone youngsters in the art of taking penalties in ‘hostile’ environments, thus ridding the nation of an age old infliction. Bear in mind that young future stars are blooded in the JPT. Think Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain at Southampton, not to mention Rickie Lambert back in the days of Rochdale and Bristol Rovers.

If we want to be really radical, we could intersperse the penalties with a ‘rugby sevens’ style game of football over 30 mins, to encourage goals and stimulate budding youngsters like my five-year-old.

Personally, something should be done to rid the domestic fixture calendar of games like this, which does nothing for the image of a competition that every die-hard Wolves fan loves, having pointed to the Sherpa Van Trophy final as the day that many love affairs began.

As for the game…We were outplayed by a slick, muscular side whose levels of fitness actually amazed me. Where Notts County seemed intuitively comfortable, the habits that we struggle so badly to shake off rear their head, like a lapsing alcoholic.

Not that it really mattered, being as most of us were either too ‘embarrassed’ or disinterested to suffer it in the first place. Not that you could blame them.