Wolves 1 Preston North End 0

After finishing last season in midtable with 58 points there was insatiable appetite for change.

New owners, two managers, circa £30 million of investment, endless recruitment and where did it get us?

58 points and a midtable finish.

Change it would seem, isn’t always for the better.

Success in the Championship relies on building up incrementally over time, not constantly sweeping the decks and starting from scratch.

History supports this stance. Only two managers have won promotion to the Premier League with Wolves and both of them accomplished the task in their third season.

Dave Jones and Mick McCarthy were given resources to sculpt their teams and more importantly time to get things right. They both wobbled and faltered at times but ultimately succeeded.

Learn the lesson.

Every manager will annoy you at some point. Every manager will pick players and choose formations you don’t like. If it’s not Paul Lambert it will be someone else, but the revolving door strategy seldom pays dividends.

It’s for this reason I banged the drum for keeping the faith with Kenny Jackett last season and it’s why my opinion is the same this time around.

Back Paul Lambert, afford him the resources and I’m confident we’ll get there quicker than the alternative path.

This was a decent enough performance to sign off on. Yes, it was a dead rubber against an average side, but there was plenty to feel good about, especially when you consider most of our key performers were absent.

Helder Costa, Ben Marshall, Ivan Cavaleiro, Matt Doherty and Carl Ikeme all sat it out and not many Championship teams could lose so many influential players and still be able to play with a degree of fluency.

Silvio, Graham and Enobakhare were all able deputies, resplendent in the Molineux sunshine and getting bums off seats with slick, incisive football.

Jordan Graham in particular was excellent in the first half, ruining Preston’s full-back at will and bending dangerous crosses into the box. His perfectly placed corner gave Danny Batth the ammunition to win the game.

The great thing about our returning winger is that his game is centered on finesses and footwork rather than pace and power, so unlike Nouha Dicko he probably isn’t as encumbered by his long stint on the sidelines.

What we don’t know about Graham just yet is whether he can give us a whole season at the level we’ve grown accustom to. If he can get anywhere close, then the team can be built around his considerable talent.

Enobakhare’s performance will be remembered for two gilt edged misses with an open goal at his mercy, but his potential remains undoubted. Find that killer instinct and we do have one hell of a player.

I’d give Silvio a contract extension if we can feel confident he’s over the worst of his injury problems. As with the aforementioned players, he obviously possesses the talent but must overcome his personal demons.

These three individuals highlight that there is talent at Paul Lambert’s disposal and coupled with those sidelined, not mentioning academy prospects like Ronan, Gibbs-White and Wilson, we should feel confident about our prospects.

Retain as much of the talent as possible, select carefully from the water carriers that give them a platform to shine and add the necessary steal and we certainly won’t be far off.

It might be all that wonderful May sunshine going to my head, but I’m already feeling good about next season.

Have a great summer. Up The Wolves!

Wolves Vs Preston North End Preview

Nearly there.

A season that was supposed to sparkle and shine will mercifully fizzle out on Sunday giving us all much needed respite – for a few weeks at least.

But the club can’t sit around watching the garden grow. There’s a mountain of work to get through reshaping this squad to ensure we avoid these dead rubbers next year.

For what it’s worth, I’d give Helder Costa the Player of the Season gong based on the fact we’ve only looked anything close to capable when he’s been on the pitch.

Dave Edwards is the only other realistic candidate and rightly so for hitting double figures and putting in the miles. I wouldn’t begrudge him the award.

Preston

Although they’ve drifted back towards midtable, you’ve got to say Simon Grayson continues to do a splendid job at Deepdale.

There’s no money there and a couple of key players left last summer, so keeping them up was probably about par for the season. The fact they’ve occasionally flirted with the play-offs is testament to the former Leeds and Blackpool boss.

I tend to think of them as your archetypal Championship team, keeping it tight at the back and going direct, but the statistics suggest otherwise. They’ve scored 64 and conceded 62, both at the higher end of the scale.

They come into this game off four straight defeats and a draw against whipping boys Rotherham, so perhaps they’re also keen to get the beach towels out?

Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson have netted 24 goals between them, while Aiden McGeady has rediscovered some form in a drifting career to notch eight himself with a further nine assists.

Wolves

We already know Helder Costa is out and Ivan Cavaleiro suspended so we’re short in wide areas. But maybe Jordan Graham can manage an hour to at least occasionally get us off our seats?

It would be nice to play with some actual width at home for a change and with the above wingers on the pitch, as well as Enobakhare in the middle, there’s actually a chance Dicko might get some decent service.

Including the loan signings (Teixeira and Borthwick-Jackson) I’m expecting at least 10 players to leave with Saville, Price, Silvio, Stearman, Williamson, Henry, Wallace, Gladon all off and others possibly not far behind.

But all of the above XI seem certain to be here (Iorfa might be an exception) so lets try and extract a decent performance from the remain camp to give us a grain of optimism about next season.

Predictions

I think we might win this one. Preston look to have checked out worse than us. OK, most of their recent defeats came against the top sides but only taking a point against Rotherham must give us hope.

I’ll say 3-1.

Well done to Ash K who I believe has already won the Prediction League (a second triumph is that?) with a game to spare. I’ll update the final table on Sunday to confirm. Thanks to everyone who has taken part. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

For the final time this season…Up The Wolves!

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Preston North End 0 Wolves 0

“We have a threat going forward but we have to be stronger at the back than we have in the last few months. So I decided to come here and be strong.”

“The whole team has been too wide open, the game was too wide and you can’t defend like that – no slight on Walter Zenga.”

Probably a touch difficult to not see that as a criticism of his predecessor, but I’m inclined to agree with Paul Lambert’s assessment.

The team has been too open. They haven’t got close enough to the opposition and that’s been reflected in the goals that have been conceded lately.

A cleansheet and a respectable point isn’t too shabby a debut, even if the attacking performance left much to be desired.

There were few surprises in defence with familiar personnel in a familiar setup and after our first successful shutout since the middle of September we shouldn’t grumble.

That said, the same frailties and individual errors surfaced at crucial moments, which could easily have taken the game away.

Dominic Iorfa was lucky to escape punishment after a clumsy challenge in the box and Kortney Hause’s slip (albeit in an otherwise strong showing) in the final minute sent their striker through on goal.

Focus and decision making are two key attributes for any defender at any level and unfortunately these are the precise areas our promising young stoppers have repeatedly been found lacking at the crucial moments this term.

I can’t help but feel the team would benefit from Richard Stearman’s experience in attempting to navigate this difficult period. He must be close to a start.

Many point to a ‘one big mistake every few games’ track record, but his colleagues are averaging one a game so that argument goes flying out the window.

Further forward, Lambert did raise eyebrows by bringing in Jack Price and George Saville who’ve seldom featured in recent times, as well as a shock start for Bright Enobakhare.

Two of those changes were in line with the head coach’s ‘lock it down’ game plan but the inclusion of Enobokhare was the major statement of intent.

If the young striker can suddenly jump the queue, it’s a reminder that nobody’s position is safe and there’s opportunity for all.

Not much went for Bright in a tight, congested contest and it was only in the final knockings when Dicko, Cavaleiro and Wallace entered the fray that Wolves began to threaten.

Cavaleiro produced the two best crosses of the afternoon for Wolves, both for Dicko and both unfortunately squandered.

Still, there will be an expectancy for those forward thinking players to start next Saturday in Lambert’s Molineux curtain raiser.

He alluded to the fact that the team needs to be setup differently to play at home, so I would expect at least some of those changes to happen.

It’s a scrappy, low key start. But maybe a few months of ‘low key’ is exactly what we need?

Preston North End Vs Wolves Preview

It was a real treat to be invited down to Compton Park last week to sit with Paul Lambert.

The new head coach gave us two hours of his time, answered every question we could throw at him and even returned fired with a few of his own.

He spoke passionately about his time spent shadowing some of the world’s best managers at the world’s biggest clubs and the lessons he’d learned.

In particular, how to manage an entire club. Not just the team, but the whole infrastructure. I like that big picture thinking and his early actions already center on creating a strong, united front.

As others have commented he looks refreshed, energised and full of ideas. But as he himself admitted, we need results quickly.

Preston

pne_fcSimon Grayson’s men had a terrible start to the season, but six wins in their last ten matches have elevated them up to eleventh.

That run includes wins over Norwich, Huddersfield and Aston Villa so it certainly isn’t a case of favourable fixtures.

I look at Preston and think ‘Steady Eddy’. That’s reflected in their 22 goals scored, 20 conceded record. There’s never much in their matches.

They got spanked 5-0 at Brentford but other than that all of their games have been tightly contested.

Their talisman Joe Garner left for Rangers in the summer, but Jordan Hugill has stepped up to fill the gap. He has 5 league goals so far.

Former Villa striker Callum Robinson and perennial thorn in our side Jermaine Beckford are two others to watch.

Wolves

Paul Lambert did offer two contrasting views that made me wonder how he’ll go about setting up his team.

team-for-preston

On the one hand he talked about ‘going for it’ and playing on the front foot. But equally he was keen to stress we need to be compact and tough to beat.

Dave Edwards is suspended so that opens the door for someone like Jack Price to fill the void. Plenty of people in the meeting were vocal about the fact he should be in the team.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see two up front and the experienced head of Richard Stearman brought in at the back either.

I should state this is a total guess loosely based on a few thoughts from Lambert about how he likes his teams to play. Little was said about specific individuals as you might expect.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Obviously we’re hoping for that ‘new manager bounce’, which we got to a degree with Walter Zenga.

I fully expect a Paul Lambert team in the short term to reflect the sort of eleven we saw in those early season wins.

That will probably disappoint a lot of people, but whoever plays and however they play, we need to get some points on the board.

A workmanlike draw would be a decent start tomorrow.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 1 Preston North End 2

I was hoping to hear something about an injury to Kevin McDonald in the postmortem of another disappointing home performance.

Preston Wolves

How else could Kenny Jackett (or anyone else for that matter) justify his omission from the starting eleven?

But there was nothing to explain why Wolves’ best and most influential player was left on the sidelines.

And he is indisputably our best player.

There may have once been a case for Dicko, Sako, Afobe and in more recent times Graham, but of the current hodgepodge the head coach selects his team from, the big Scot stands head and shoulders above everyone else.

Without him our midfield was predictably void of creativity, leadership or presence and the collective team effort was arguably the worst of the season.

Are we to seriously believe this club is moving forward when the spine of the side is made up of players the manager has already deemed surplus to requirements?

Ebanks-Landell, Saville and Sigurdarson have all been around for years and have never been preferred choices.

It’s only now, as we continue to dismantle the best squad we’d had for years, that these forgotten men have suddenly been thrust back into contention.

And disregarding Sako and Afobe, what about everyone else we’ve chosen to get rid of?

Scott Golbourne would have improved yesterday’s team (playing left back and moving Doherty over to give Iorfa a much needed rest).

Michael Jacobs would have improved yesterday’s team.

And yes, Kevin McDonald would have improved yesterday’s team.

Instead, with the clock ticking down and Preston cantering home, we turn to Tommy Rowe to rescue the points.

Has there ever been a more damning indictment of just how badly managed this season has been by everyone connected to the club?

And now these same people want the fans to pony over £4 million plus in advanced ticket sales? You are indeed having a laugh.

Back to yesterday and a few players emerged from the wreckage with an ounce of credibility.

Matt Doherty continued the impressive form he’s displayed since returning to the team and was often our most potent attacking outlet, driving forward from deep.

I also thought Connor Coady showed the requisite drive and tenacity, qualities that were supposed to shine alongside a certain Scottish colleague.

And a nod to Joe Mason who made it two goals in one and a half matches, ghosting in to offer a glimmer of hope.

But with Le Fondre and McDonald sitting on their hands as Rowe entered the fray, the glimmer soon turned to black.

Wolves Vs Preston North End Preview

Apathy is the word that best describes my feelings towards Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club at present.

Wallace Preston

As a consequence, I haven’t commented on the Benik Afobe Punch & Judy show, the Fans Parliament or any of the other drivel that’s seeped out this week.

I struggle to care because none of it changes what we’re seeing out on the pitch, which is something the club don’t seem to fathom.

Midtable is where we are and midtable remains where I think we’ll finish, floating in purgatory until the summer and dreaming of Nouha Dicko’s glorious return.

Preston

PNE_FCSimon Grayson’s team have steadily climbed the league after a slow start and will actually move above us with a victory tomorrow.

Forgive me Preston fans but they strike me as a boring outfit. Don’t score that many but keep things tight enough at the back to remain competitive at all times.

They’ve won four and lost just once in their last seven matches, so it looks like they’ve discovered that few extra per cent to emerge on the right side of the scoreline.

A player I’ve always liked is Paul Gallagher. He’s been around for ages now and once scored a bicycle kick for Plymouth to give them victory at Molineux back in 2009.

He’s not quick but has good delivery and is capable of the spectacular. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him again tomorrow. Garner, Browne and Reach are three other danger men.

Wolves

I’m on a downer about Joe Mason. I’ve seen him play four or five times now and still not a fan. Yes he scored against Bolton, but was a ghost from there on out.

Preston team

Therefore it didn’t bother me that Kenny dropped him against Reading, but it does further fuel my suspicion we’ve spent big money (for us anyway) on a player whose no better than those we’ve already got.

I think Mason will play tomorrow, but I’d personally stick with 433/451, bringing Price in to anchor the midfield and pushing McDonald into the number 10 position.

Since most of our attacking talent is in plaster, we need our best players to come to the fore. I think Macca could give us something extra in the final third that he struggles to deliver playing so deep.

The gaffer

Predictions

There’s still enough in our team to realistically expect we can beat the majority of the clubs in and around or below us in the table.

Preston will be well organised and difficult to breakdown, which will likely give them a platform to expose our significant shortcomings at home.

I’m pretty certain it will be settled by the odd goal and I think I’ll just give us the edge.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!