Wolves 2 QPR 1

There was a time, not so long ago in fact, that practically every victory played out like this one.

Buttocks clenched tight as crosses rain down in the final moments, stray passes being intercepted in dangerous areas of the pitch and a goalkeeper with sudden onset butter fingers.

We’ve been spoilt this season with Premier League quality, but that second half was real Championship fare.

By the finish QPR can count themselves unlucky not to have taken a point.

Ruddy for all his juggling, produced one fine save to keep his team ahead and Conor Coady performed his trademark goal line heroics as Wolves hobbled over the line.

A thrilling climax that never should have materialised after a first half in which the league leaders established clear water.

Two well worked goals, a hatful of chances wasted and barely out of second gear. Things have never felt easier.

Maybe that was the problem?

But if complacency contributed, Ian Holloway must take credit for whatever he said and did at half time.

Big Matt Smith came on and won everything, they pressed higher and harder and once the door creaked open, they were hammering to get through.

Nuno will be disappointed by the goal conceded. Nobody was switched on for the short corner and after Ruddy clawed out the first attempt, his defence were second to the rebound.

After that it was real helter-skelter stuff with hooped shirts swarming all over the pitch and cross after cross after long throw after cross had to be repelled.

The whole side looked unusually ruffled but credit to Boly, Coady and in particular Bennett who stood up strong to the bombardment.

Midfield was where this game turned. Once we’d stopped controlling possession, it gave QPR a foothold to launch diagonal balls forward.

Saiss would have been the man to bring on, but with the Moroccan still absent it fell on Gibbs-White to help plug the gaps. He’s a talented technician but wasn’t the answer to the problem.

Wolves were still, as always, dangerous on the break and could have got the resistance killing goal had Afobe or Jota found the finish.

But it mattered not, ultimately, with the 70 point barrier now in the rear view mirror.

It’s all still firmly in our hands and nerves, thankfully, are for days gone by.

Wolves Vs QPR Preview

After dispatching Sheffield Utd, there are now only three teams yet to suffer a league defeat at the hands of Wolves this season.

QPR are one of them.

You couldn’t begrudge them the victory at Loftus Road back in October. They didn’t park the bus. Far from it in fact. They kept pushing and got their reward.

That was the game that convinced Nuno changes needed to be made at the back. Out went Miranda and Batth and in came Boly and Bennett.

We’ve been stronger for that decision ever since.

QPR

Rangers are that team that went big and couldn’t see it through. If they’d been able to sustain their Premier League status longer, they might still be paying out silly fees and silly wages.

As it is, they’re now having to cut their cloth and even that is probably an understatement.

Survival and stability are the order of the day and in that sense you probably can’t grumble about the job Ian Holloway is doing with modest resources.

They’re 10 points clear of the relegation zone and will be in the Championship again next season. More recently, they’ve won three of their last five so come into this one in decent form.

That said, their away form is atrocious. Just 11 points yielded from 15 matches. Only two wins to go with five draws and eight defeats.

Wolves

Same again yeah?

I remember watching Man Utd in their pomp and Ferguson would just keep turning up the heat if the game wasn’t going their way, introducing more and more attackers from the bench.

With the likes of Bonatini, Afobe and Bright waiting in the wings, Nuno can do the same if this one is getting away from us. That’s reassuring.

Helder Costa has rediscovered his swagger of late and that makes the front three a truly terrifying combination.

Worth noting we’ve scored the most goals and conceded the fewest, so it’s still very much a team effort.

Prediction

I expect us to win and logic dictates we should do so comfortably. The Forest game is still fresh in the memory though and proof positive if you don’t reach the levels, you can be found out by anyone.

There should be a spring in the step though after last Saturday’s heroics and a week to rest up, so I don’t anticipate a blip.

I’ll go for a 2-0.

Three more points. One game less. Keep it going lads.

Up The Wolves!

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QPR Vs Wolves Preview

Pep Guardiola’s comments about the ball after Tuesday night were ill-judged.

Not least because it revealed he hadn’t even heard of Mitre. Call yourself a football man.

More seriously, I don’t understand how he can say it was ‘impossible to score’ after his team effortlessly dispatched four penalties.

Both teams were spraying the ball around the pitch all night and if you can play a 30 yard pass, you can certainly stroke the ball into the goal from inside the penalty area.

Even if the ball is a bit naff, I thought it lacked class to make those comments in the immediate aftermath of the game, particularly as he gave Wolves no credit at all for their performance.

QPR

Back in the real world QPR haven’t won any of their last 7 matches, turning a solid start into a rapid slide down the table.

Looking at some of their fixtures, they can hardly bemoan tough opposition either. Bolton, Sunderland, Burton and Barnsley have all taken points off the Rs in what’s been a disappointing spell for Ian Holloway’s side.

Too many draws has been the problem. Nearly half their games have ended in stalemate, which is reflected in their scored 16, conceded 17 stats.

They’re not particularly prolific or miserly in defence. They just look, on paper at least, very, very average.

Individually, they’ve got a few players I’ve always liked. Jamie Mackie, Massimo Luongo and Jake Bidwell are all proven Championship performers and in previous years I’d be weary about their collective qualities.

Interesting to see they’ve been stung with a huge fine (£40 million reported) for their cavalier attitude towards Financial Fair Play following their previous Championship promotion campaign.

That kind of walloping great payout will surely restrict their ability to grow in the seasons to come? Hopefully we don’t end up in the same ship.

Wolves

If you’re one of those ‘the league is all that matters’ people then Tuesday must have been pretty splendid. Most of the key men were rested and many of the others only played a supporting role.

Ruddy, Douglas, Doherty, Neves, Saiss and Jota didn’t play a single minute between them. Cavaleiro and Bonatini enjoyed breezy cameos without overly extending themselves.

I don’t know what’s happened to Willy Boly as I expected him to start at the Etihad, so perhaps he’s being saved with a view to slotting back in tomorrow? Unless I’ve missed something about an injury setback.

If the above guesswork proves accurate, Conor Coady will be the only marathon man asked to back up his exploits in the cup with another performance tomorrow. I wouldn’t back against him.

Predictions

The Championship is rarely predictable but we should win this game. Looking ahead to the Norwich fixture and next Friday’s game against Fulham as a block of three, this looks the most straightforward task.

Looking at the odds at Betway, Wolves are being offered at 23/20 for the win so the bookies are confident of us taking the points.

I don’t mean any disrespect to QPR, but looking at where they are currently, our playing squad and how much we have in reserve, the logical conclusion is a Wolves victory.

Even though they’re overdue a good result and perhaps a bit of luck, I think we’ll get it done.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 QPR 2

I’m not sure I agree with Paul Lambert’s assertion that this was the best we’ve played since he’s been in charge, but the numbers are compelling.

Embed from Getty Images

 

62% possession and 15 more shots on goal than QPR. On paper at least, we probably should have won and almost certainly shouldn’t have lost.

But Lambert will know his side are far too soft-centered and that must be addressed in January if they’re to be upwardly mobile over the second half of the campaign.

The team is jam packed with attacking talent, so we have to expect there will be space for the opposition to exploit, but even so the manner of the goals being conceded is galling.

Both of Bristol City’s strikes on Boxing Day were easily preventable had Stearman and Batth defended with greater authority. But neither of those finishes highlighted the physical defiencies of our center halves quite to the extent as QPR’s winner yesterday.

Pawel Wszolek simply steamrollered through both of them before prodding in what has to be the softest goal of the Championship season to date. Watch it below and tell me if you disagree.

Jack Price, who was outstanding in possession it must be said, can also take a slice of the blame for both concessions. He didn’t do enough to stop the cross coming in for Idrissa Sylla’s well taken opener and was out-muscled in the build up to the second.

Muscle is exactly what we need. Probably a bit more in midfield and significantly more in defence. Mike Williamson could be a short term fix but even he might benefit from a more commanding partner.

More encouragingly up the pitch, some of the interplay between our creative players is very good and had either Dicko or Enobokhare converted their one-on-ones to give Wolves a deserved first half lead, the game would have panned out differently.

But Dicko’s rustiness and Enobokhare’s inexperience are the exact reason we must also look to bring in that most priceless of assets – a goalscoring center forward.

You genuinely feel someone like a Jordan Rhodes would run riot with the current supply line from Costa and Cavaleiro, even if the latter’s final ball so often leaves much to be desired.

Again, a fit and firing Dicko or Bodvarsson have shown previously they can provide what’s required, but it’s not happening for either of them at this current juncture, so other options must be explored. We can’t wait forever.

Whether we can attract a proven Championship poacher to come to a team in the bottom half of the table is another matter entirely. Perhaps if we sell the dream of next season?

In the here and now we’re staring down the barrel of a daunting run of fixtures. Sheffield Wednesday away is as difficult as they come and with games to follow against Villa, Norwich and Huddersfield in January, this clumsy slip-up may soon appear more costly than originally anticipated.

A ball has yet to be kicked in 2017 and it already feels like another journey into the unknown. As usual, we’ll try to enjoy it.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Highlights

Wolves Vs QPR Preview

In a typically flamboyant interview with Gary Lineker earlier this year, Jurgen Klopp gave a brief insight into his footballing philosophies.

One of the tidbits that stuck with me was when he said his main objective was to have ‘memorable games in a row‘, adding:  ‘you (the fans) leave the stadium and you want to see the next game. You can’t wait for the next game‘.

Paul Lambert seems to have taken a leaf out of the German’s book with the last two home matches anything but forgettable. I can’t wait for the next one.

Interesting also to note it was the Scot pulling the troops together at full time on Boxing Day to get the Thunder Clap going in front of a packed out South Bank.

There’s no doubt Lambert is going the extra mile. Sitting down with supporters whenever he gets the chance, listening, engaging and pretty much doing anything within his power to get Molineux bouncing.

If you expected defensive and dour, what we’ve been served up of late is anything but. Long may it continue.

QPR

Things certainly haven’t been dull at Loftus Road since Ian Holloway returned but an upturn in entertainment value hasn’t equated to an upturn in results. Quite the opposite in fact. The Hoops come into this fixture on a six game losing run.

Wolves inflicted one of those defeats and I felt in that particular contest they paid the price for the manager’s attacking impulses.

They could have shut up shop after going down to 10 men but instead kept things very open and were eventually picked off by the extra man.

On a more positive note they fought right to the end and nearly pulled off an unlikely comeback suggesting they’re not a team to just lay down and die.

Scoring goals has been the problem. With only 20 on the board (averaging less than a goal a game), they’re the joint lowest scorers in the league.

It was another blank and another sending off against Brighton on Tuesday. As such captain Nedum Onuoha will sit out this one after being the latest QPR man to take an early shower.

Wolves

Same again for Paul Lambert? It’s hardly been a taxing festive programme so no obvious reason to change a team that’s secured back-to-back victories.

It’s difficult to see the above eleven not creating chances with so much pace and ability across the front line.

Cavaleiro has stepped up his game and been excellent in his last two home performances. When you’ve got wingers causing problems down both flanks it stretches the game and that’s exactly what’s happened of late.

With Dicko still not scoring there’s an argument to give Jon Dadi Bodvarsson another run in the team, but the former’s performances and all round play have been improving so he’s worth persevering with. We all know what he can do at the top of his game.

Defensively you could change the personnel but it would be the same individuals who’ve shipped goals all season. I think we need to look outwardly to solve the problem.

Predictions

If ever you were going to predict a victory it would be now. QPR are sinking, their skipper is suspended and they haven’t scored a single goal in their last four matches.

Wolves should be full of confidence and starting to look up the table now there’s a comfortable buffer below.

Things seldom go to plan in games like this but I’d like to think we’ll once again do enough going forward to get the job done.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

QPR 1 Wolves 2

I’m inclined to call this a victory for the old and the new.

 
The goals symbolic of the performance.

Firstly, great interplay between Iorfa and Doherty allowed that man Edwards to profit as the old guard kicked down the door.

Then a sumptuous cross field pass from Saiss released Costa and the Portuguese man did the rest with a dazzling dribble and finish.

This was how it was supposed to be wasn’t it? The marriage of Championship grit to continental flair.

OK, it was against 10 men and we nearly contrived to throw it away in the final minutes, but at last – something to feel good about.

It was ridiculous QPR even had a sniff given that Wolves squandered several golden opportunities to make it three, four or five before a late scramble caused predictable panic.

Thankfully we didn’t pay for that wastefulness and now have the invaluable building block of a first win in ten matches to begin reconstructing the season.

Paul Lambert obviously saw the same game we all did at the weekend and acted accordingly with wholesale changes to the team.

It’s safe to say Ikeme, Batth, Saiss, Cavaleiro and Dicko brought greater balance to the team than the five who made way.

Ikeme was quick off his line several times in contrast to Lonergan at the weekend. Lets hope the injury isn’t serious.

Batth was solid and dependable, making one fine block in the first half from a goal bound effort that may have altered the course of the game.

Saiss provided a much needed calm head and eye for a pass, particularly after the break when Wolves were struggling to find a rhythm.

The Moroccan’s ball for Costa’s goal was exactly what the team lacked in central areas against Sheffield Wednesday.

Cavaleiro submitted another hit and miss contribution but brought much needed trickery and adventure down the left.

Even in his most frustrating moments, our record signing offers glimpses of the player he could become with a pinch more confidence and a sustained starting berth.

With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson struggling for form, Nouha Dicko was handed a start and looked sharper than he has for a good while.

Much like Cavaleiro, his mere presence is enough to make defenders back off a yard for fear of being caught out by raw pace.

Bodvarsson was dangerous after his introduction but couldn’t find the finish to match the ridiculously good turn that got him a clear run on goal.

Whether it’s the Icelander, Dicko or someone else, getting our strikers scoring goals will likely be the difference between a relegation scrap and upward mobility.

We certainly can’t rely on Costa and Edwards to continually produce the goods.

But that’s for another day. In the immediate can just savour the bonus of a victory for the old and the new at a time when any victory would do.