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.

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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!

Preston North End 1 Wolves 1

Not winning this game has probably done little to lift the mood, but the significance of not losing it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Wallace Preston

Had Wolves failed to breakdown a side inside the bottom three who played two thirds of the game with a significant disadvantage, the fallout would have been infinitely worse.

But thanks to Kevin McDonald’s injury time rescue act, some of the sting has at least been drawn from the disappointment.

The Scot’s wonderful goal is a timely reminder of his importance to a team that must now be rebuilt around his considerable talents.

Indeed all around McDonald are problems that need solving sooner rather than later.

Defensive shortcomings have been widely documented and even Danny Batth’s eagerly awaited return couldn’t stop Wolves conceding the first goal – again.

And chasing the game – even against handicapped opposition – made life harder for what increasingly appears a toothless attack.

Our only two senior strikers have impressive scoring records but neither are yet to fire and there’s little sign of a blossoming partnership.

Afobe hasn’t notched from open play in a month and seems to be struggling to make headway without the support of Mali’s finest.

He might point to a lack of service, which is fair when you consider  none of the wide players – save perhaps James Henry – have delivered on an even semi-consistent basis.

Can Ojo, van La Parra or Byrne be relied upon to continually serve up chances for our forwards? I’m not convinced.

Only Bolton, Preston and MK Dons have scored less goals than Wolves thus far, neatly underlining the need for reinforcements.

Kenny Jackett pointed to a lack of aggression in attacking the countless balls hoisted into the penalty area.

That scenario was precisely why the manager tried to bring in Chris Wood and was reportedly interested in a loan move for Bournemouth’s Yann Kermorgant.

Neither arrived and such was his frustration yesterday, Danny Batth was urged forward to contest the aerial duels.

The reality is that Wolves must adapt their approach from what we’ve seen in recent years.

Sako and Dicko are seemingly irreplaceable so an alternative solution is required.

And muscle in the final third to make the ball stick and bring Benik Afobe into the game should be the first point of business.

Resigning Kevin McDonald was a positive step but there are many rungs on the ladder to climb before anyone can feel positive about our short term aspirations.

This was after all supposed to be a season of evolution and progression, but with each passing disappointment it feels like we’re simply starting all over again.

Preston North End Vs Wolves Preview

By the time we play Huddersfield at Molineux next Saturday, we could be languishing in the bottom three or knocking on the door of the top six.

Preston

There are two tough looking away games before then, starting tomorrow at Deepdale before heading south to Craven Cottage next Tuesday.

Kenny Jackett always says 10 games is a good point to assess what a team’s likely aspirations will be for the season ahead, so our position next weekend will be interesting to assess.

I suspect we’ll likely end up somewhere in the middle, which to my mind is exactly where we are in the Championship pecking order.

Preston

PNE_FCIt’s been a tough old start to Championship life for all three of the promoted teams from League One.

Preston come into this game in 22nd place and with just a single victory (against fellow newbies MK Dons) to show for their efforts.

Scoring goals has been the major issue for Simon Grayson’s men and with just 5 on the board, only Bolton (4) have managed less.

Striker Joe Garner has been their main man for a few years now and they’ll hope he can rediscover some form to kickstart their season.

They don’t concede truckloads though and that could prove their saving grace in what looks like being a challenging campaign.

Wolves

It’s practically impossible to second guess Kenny Jackett at present but this is my best guess for tomorrow’s team:

Wolves team for Preston

They say players can often become better when they’re sitting in the stands and in that respect, Danny Batth has gone from jobbing, no-nonsense centre half to Franz Beckenbauer in the space of a month.

I don’t think he’s as good as some people have suggested in recent years, but he’s certainly more consistent and more reliable than the cumbersome Ebanks-Landell.

With Coady suspended and Edwards out injured, I think Kenny will want to revert to tried and tested performers, but Nathan Byrne should get his debut.

The gaffer

Predictions

Tough to predict a win against anyone at present, even one of the struggling promoted sides.

Preston strike me as a solid, workmanlike team who very easily beat us if we don’t tighten up ourselves.

I do expect a response from the walloping at Middlesbrough though and there are players who should come in and make a difference.

I’ll go for a score draw.

1-1

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