Wolves 3 Port Vale 0

14 challenges remain but only one side can now realistically prevent Wolves from an immediate return to the Championship.

Wolves Port Vale

That team is Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He’d never admit it but I bet Kenny Jackett loses more sleep over injuries, suspensions and old fashioned bad luck than he does over Walsall, Rotherham and Leyton Orient.

Who could blame him?

His players proved emphatically yet again yesterday that they’re too good for anything League One can offer up.

Consecutive victory number seven looked like being a contest for nearly an hour, as Wolves poked and probed without infiltrating a workmanlike Port Vale stockade.

During the same period, consecutive cleansheet number five looked in peril after Jack Price’s uncharacteristic giveaway, only for Tom Pope to charitably blaze over.

But after Bakary Sako shaked and shimmied his way into a yard of space and saw a deflected shot loop over Chris Neal, the home side could once more engage cruise control.

Nouha Dicko filled his boots as tired legs opened up spaces – the second of his goals showcasing the raw pace, power and skill he has in refreshing abundance.

The only blemish of course being his failed hat-trick attempt from the penalty spot, which we hopefully won’t have to reflect on should goal difference become a promotion-defining statistic.

On the subject of goals scored, three should have again been five or six. Ricketts hit the bar, Dicko was twice hesitant on the rebound and on countless occasions the final ball wasn’t quite measured correctly.

But it’s almost impossible to envisage the net won’t continue to bulge with regularity as all over the pitch gold-shirted players commit their man, gallop into space and ask uncomfortable questions of the opposition.

Consistency breads success and it’s been pleasing to see Wolves maintain such high performance levels for well over two months, particularly at home where the journey seldom runs smooth.

It’s a credit to management and players that where once Molineux hoped, now Molineux expects.

But with nine of the remaining battles to be hosted elsewhere, it will be what this ever-improving Wolves side can do away from Molineux that could ultimately define their destiny.

It’s a destiny though, which is firmly their own.

Wolves Vs Port Vale Preview

Molineux has been a pleasant environment to inhabit this season.

Port Vale Wolves

This despite less than impressive early performances, which yielded points but gave little confidence.

In particular wins over the likes of Crawley and Swindon, who dominated those matches for vast periods, were considered welcome bonuses.

But in the last five or six home matches Wolves have been much more comfortable, stretching opposition with their improved brand of possession football.

Kenny Jackett heads into tomorrow’s game boasting 12 Molineux league victories from his 17 matches in charge, with just the disappointing losses against Walsall and MK Dons blotting a formidable record.

Port Vale

Port_Vale_logo.svgIt was a fairly even match up at Vale Park back in August until Wolves took the lead and eventually cantered away to a comfortable 3-1 win.

Tellingly, four of the Wolves players involved prominently that afternoon (Griffiths, Doyle, Sigurdarson and Ismail) have either left permanently or been sent away on loan. Two others (Davis and Forde) barely get a look in. It’s been a fast evolution for the team this year.

Micky Adams is doing a splendid job at Vale Park, especially when you consider that the club nearly went under just two years ago.

He’s managed to get them out of League Two and sitting comfortably inside the top half of League One. The play-offs are probably not quite within their reach but progress must be pleasing for all concerned.

Our old friend Lee Hughes is of course no longer at the club after leaving in the January transfer window. That will take some of the spice out of a fixture that is tentatively referred to as a derby.

Their away record is pretty poor with 10 defeats from their 16 matches to date. They have won 5 but having conceded 27 goals on their travels (7 more than Wolves have let in overall) it’s clear they can be got at.

Wolves

It would be surprising if Kenny Jackett made any changes to the team that saw off Brentford last weekend. Every player is justifying their place on current performances so who could he possibly sacrifice?

Wolves team for Port Vale

With the stacked up midweek fixtures to come in March, fringe players like Dave Edwards, Lee Evans, Matt Doherty and hopefully Leon Clarke should all get considerable game time.

Whilst decent strength in depth exists to cover injuries, you wonder whether the loss of a key figure like Kevin McDonald or Nouha Dicko could be catered for?

The odds

Wolves are red hot favourites to win this one at 1/2. Port Vale are a generous 7/1 and the draw is 10/3.

Tom Pope is the visitors most likely first goalscorer at 10/1 and with 9 league goals this season, he could be a decent insurance bet.

Nouha Dicko has gone a couple of games without scoring, so if you fancy him to end the drought with tomorrow’s opener, he’s 15/4. All odds available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

46 of you believers correctly thought we’d win at Brentford last week. Only Dalmation Wolf was audacious enough to go all out for the 3-0 win though. A well deserved double haul for him (or her).

The pessimist inside me is tempted to predict a reality check after last weekend’s dizzy heights. But I’ve realised I haven’t shown enough faith in my predictions this year.

I think we have a splendid manager and a good set of players. On our day we’d beat anyone in this league and probably most of the teams in the league above.

4-1 for me tomorrow.

Up The Wolves

Port Vale 1 Wolves 3

Celebrating an impressive away win at Port Vale with a McDonald’s meal on the M6 was the most fitting conclusion to an away day to savour.

Kevin McDonald Port Vale

After our Scottish number 11 Kevin put in a virtuoso display to feast over, a bite to eat at the namesake restaurant was the least I could do to show my appreciation.

Make no mistake though, we’re not settling for a beefburger here but a prime steak, who was tastier than any other player on the Vale Park pitch – or any other Wolves player on a full league debut for that matter.

Thanks in no small part to the meaty man from Carnoustie, we eventually ran out worthy winners against a largely impressive Port Vale side, who will point to one or two missed chances, the width of the woodwork and an inspired Carl Ikeme with the score at 1-0.

For the first half there was nothing to choose between the teams, even if Wolves looked marginally more threatening on the break.

What appeared to be a stubborn insistence to make the wrong decision at all costs was the overriding reason for the stalemate.

That Wolves managed to shake off the affliction in the second half as the home side continued the trend explains the eventual scoreline.

A moment of genuine quality was required to separate the teams and when it came it was worth waiting for, as Leigh Griffiths worked an opening before lashing the ball high into the net past the keeper’s near post.

Our new number nine then etched his name into the cult hero ranks with a mock imitation of Lee Hughes’ god awful goal celebration, in front of 4,000 joyous away fans.

As the game became stretched we then unleashed another discernible touch of class, in the shape of Sigurdarson.

Siggy ran 70 yards to get on the end of a low Griffiths cross to hammer home the second and when the Icelandic marksman returned the same compliment to ‘that man’ McDonald to make it three, the game was well and truly over.

Port Vale away

Sitting in the Railway Stand with a staunch Vale supporting friend of mine offered an insightful perspective from a different vantage point, while my five year-old’s celebration to Griffiths’ opener gave me brief palpitations, amongst some less enamoured home fans!

The one cause for concern on today’s showing the performance of Kevin Doyle, who was guiltier than any player of either making awful decisions in promising positions, or just making a mess of things altogether.

Compared to the triumvirate of Griffiths, McDonald and Siggy, he was something of an imposter who will not be catching any scouts’ eyes amid such company.

Scott Golbourne was also largely anonymous in a left midfield position before going off injured and if he is a replacement for Bakary Sako, then I’d also be raising an eyebrow.

But the positives far outweighed any marginal gripes in a memorable trip to the Potteries, featuring one bargain Big Mac to tickle the taste buds…

…Followed by another one at Stafford Services on the way home!

Highlights

Player ratings

Ikeme: One wonder save at 1-0. Commanded his box brilliantly all game, to the increasing annoyance of the home fans. 8

Doherty: Didn’t see him as an attacking outlet for the second game running. Made timely interceptions though. Solid. 6

Ricketts: Not his finest game featuring terrible distribution in the first half. Got forward well in the second half however. 6

Batth: Handled Hughes and Pope brilliantly and was a rock throughout. Did the dirty stuff better than anyone. 8

Stearman: Another who didn’t shirk the physical challenge, infuriating the home fans with his grapple-fest with Hughes in the process. A vital cog in today’s wheel. 7

Ismail: A genuine outlet who offers a genuine goal threat. Whistled one over in the first half and suffered from others’ poor decision making when ideally placed. Switched sides regularly. 6

Davis: Very good game and extremely easy on the eye. Another robust performer who broke up play and started counter attacks with minimal fuss. Well played! 7

McDonald: Sumptuous. A class act boasting mobility, skill, speed of thought and an ability to be in all the right places at the right times. Man-of-the-match. 9

Doyle: Poor. Off the pace and was the biggest culprit for surrendering possession or making the wrong decisions in promising areas, almost exclusively. Still showed for the ball and offered usual work ethic. 6

Griffiths: Cult hero! Busy, tidy on the ball and an insatiable appetite to hit the back of the net. Will be disappointed not to score after his first, too. Goal celebration worth the admission fee. 8

Golbourne: Not sure what to make of his performance, which lasted about 40mins. No bigger than Zeli and less of an outlet going forward. I see him more as a rival to Ricketts than Sako. I hope Kenny sees it the same and finds a genuine left midfielder if Sako departs. 5

Subs:

Evans (for Golbourne): Steady. Good in possession and had a hand in the opener. 6

Sigurdarson (for Ismail): Brilliant! Scored one, set one up. The perfect environment for Siggy, versus tiring legs, defending a high line. 8

Forde (for Doyle): Typically anonymous, although not on long enough to affect his anonymity 5

Port Vale Vs Wolves Preview

It’s been over 13 years since this fixture was last played.

Lee Hughes

On that particular occasion, Carl Robinson scored a late winner at Vale Park to secure victory on the final day of the 1999/2000 season.

Wolves were still in with a shout of the play-offs, but despite victory lost out on sixth place to Bolton. Port Vale were already relegated.

Since then, the Valiants have sunk down to League Two, stood on the precipice of liquidation, survived and gradually clawed their way back.

I’m looking forward to this game as it’s a fixture I grew up watching all through the 90s.

They had some useful players back then and the likes of Foyle, Guppy, Naylor and McCarthy were all names who heaped misery on us at one time or another.

Port Vale

The current Vale team contains a few familiar faces.

Lee Hughes can expect his usual reception from the 4,500 Wolves supporters heading up the M6, but even at 37 years of age, the former Albion striker remains a potent goal threat. He’d love to score in this one.

The less controversial figure Daniel Jones will also be lining up against his former club on Saturday. He watched the Crawley game last week and feels confident they’ll be able to get at our defence from wide areas. Hopefully not Danny.

After escaping League Two last season with their third place finish, they’ve had a solid enough start this time, with 4 points from 4 matches.

Their home record thus far is strong with a win over highly fancied Bradford and a draw against Brentford, another promotion hopeful.

Mickey Adams has got them playing fast, attacking football so this promises to be an exciting and open game in front of Vale Park’s biggest crowd for years.

Wolves

Things are just starting to bubble up on the transfer front. Barnsley left-back Scott Goldbourne appears to have been lured down a division presumably by a larger pay packet, whilst the first official bid for Bakary Sako has been rebuffed. Something tells me that won’t be the end of it though.

With no confirmed ins or outs as I write this, I think we’ll see two changes from last Friday’s win over Crawley:

Wolves team for Port Vale

Kenny will be keen to get Kevin McDonald into the team I would have thought and last week’s impressive cameo against Crawley gives him an opportunity to do just that. Whether it’s Davis or Evans that makes way, I’m not sure.

I’d be surprised if Griffiths didn’t regain his place at the expense of Siggy, but it’s nice to have the option either way. I’d fancy either of them to score.

The odds

Wolves are favourites to win this one at 11/10, with Port Vale at a more generous 11/4. The draw is 13/5. Live bets can be made using the bwin sports app, and while you wait you could try out the bwin poker app too.

If you fancy a flutter on Kevin McDonald to bag his first Wolves goal, enticing odds of 14/1 are available.

Or for the doomsday scenario, Lee Hughes is 7/1 to open the scoring.

All odds are here.

Predictions

Well done to AmberWolf, Gold Wolf Sven, Sleachy, SOIAW and Number 9, who all got the score spot on against Crawley for a two point maximum.

93 others predicted a win for a single point return with most of us getting a bit carried away with the scoreline.

Everything about this fixture screams banana skin to me. But I can’t possibly predict a defeat, so I’ll take a score draw.

2-2.

Up The Wolves.