Wolves 3 Reading 0

Ironic that ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless was blaring on the PA system moments before the teams took to the field, when most of us haven’t had a wink of shut-eye since Saturday night.

In a performance that restored the faith and a 10-point gap to third, Wolves put on another midweek masterclass to suggest that if there is a wobble at the summit, then it’s not as debilitating as some might think – including me.

Being billed as our first genuine ‘six-pointer’ of the season on Radio WM, the pundits couldn’t have imagined quite how prophetic their words were, with Aston Villa losing the three we all thought they’d plunder against QPR, as we chalked up three more to put us in the exact same position we were at 5.30pm in Birmingham the other night.

After five minutes, the game assumed an glorified attack v defence drill with Reading sitting deep, shuffling banks of players left and right in a collective effort to frustrate. After 10 minutes, their keeper was actually wasting time. After 40 minutes, the game was over.

Matt Doherty’s bonce released the pressure valve around Molineux, which might just have become audible had the score remained at 0-0 for much longer.

As it was, this was the most processional victory since…Reading last season come to think of it, with John Ruddy never tested and the back three rarely occupied. On the rare occasions they were, Ryan Bennett looked particularly easy on the eye and slotted back in like he’d never been away. Any fears of Jon Dadi notching his first ever goal at Molineux were allayed, or Dave Edwards scuffing one in as Reading showed absolutely no intent to attack for the entire 90mins. Both were impotent and barely noticeable.

If there was one criticism to be levelled at Wolves (and it would be a tad harsh to do so), then the levels of urgency and purpose could have been higher for a fair chunk of the first half and it was noticeable how the momentum was seized in the second period, with Costa definitely looking to be more assertive on the ball. It was he who set-up Afobe brilliantly for the second, the striker surely feeling good about life and looking more like his old self. And Cavaleiro occupied the types of positions that even the most defensive minded of sides struggle to cover.

A blot on the evening was the loss of Jota, who looked in agony when going down under a seemingly innocuous challenge in the first half. We can only hope it is not a serious one, but the blow might just be offset with a return to form of Costa, who did form part of a menacing front line with Afobe and Cav. Surely all three have plenty of miles in the tank, too.

As it was, the evening was rounded off by a splendid Doherty strike to seal the points – and the best night’s sleep we’ve all had in ages.

Wolves Vs Reading Preview

If Wolves don’t get in the top two it won’t be because they lost to Aston Villa on Saturday.

It will be because they failed to despatch the teams at the bottom of the table between now and the start of May.

The manner in which the lads put Leeds away last week gives me belief there’s still more than enough left in the tank to get over the line.

I’m expecting a bumpy ride but ultimately, I still think we’ll do it.

Truth be told, I wish it was Burton tomorrow and Reading Saturday, but if we get the performance it shouldn’t make much difference.

Reading

I was nervous about Reading before this fixture got postponed last week and nothing has changed since.

Given how they like to get on the ball and control possession, I think they’re the type of side who can make Molineux anxious, particularly if they get ahead.

That said, the Royals have only managed one win in their last 17 league matches and if the bottom three weren’t making such a dogs dinner of playing catch-up they’d be in real trouble.

Something isn’t right there and I am surprised Jaap Stam is still in a job, despite the success he enjoyed last season in taking them to the play-off final.

An away record of 5 wins, 5 draws and 7 defeats isn’t too shabby though for a team battling the drop.

Wolves

It’s time for Plan B. Batth and Bonatini out. Bennett and Benik in.

We’ve got to see if Afobe can do something from the start. He could be the man to fire us to promotion in these valuable homes games where opportunities will be created. I’ve been a fan of Bonatini but he looks hesitant in front of goal at a time when we need authority.

I could forgive Danny Batth’s meagre use of the ball at the weekend if he didn’t get the basics so horribly wrong. Sliced clearances, poor defensive headers and mistimed tackles put wind in Villa’s sails. Bennett has a misplaced pass in his locker, but his overall game inspires greater confidence.

Saiss for N’Diaye is another possibility as the big man lacked a bit of precision in his passing on Saturday, which restricted the team’s fluidity going forward.

Predictions

It’s going to be twitchy but I back us to get the win. Every time we’ve lost there’s been a response so I expect the same again tomorrow.

As much as we talk about the attack, it’s defensively where we’ve been found lacking most in this poor run. The team was built from the back (in Nuno’s words) and it’s that solid foundation that’s given our forwards the chance to shine.

Tighten up and use the ball well when playing out from the back and we’ll be fine.

2-0.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves Vs Reading Preview

I’ve been optimistic about our prospects all season and that hasn’t changed despite a disappointing couple of weeks.

However, we’re in a difficult moment.

Cardiff and Villa have collected some very useful results of late and both get their opportunity to further chip away at our lead ahead of this late kick-off.

By 5.30 there could be a fair amount of pressure on Wolves to get the result, particularly with two difficult games to follow, so a big performance is required.

This group of players should relish the challenge though and are perfectly capable of winning the next three to all but confirm promotion.

Reading

Thanks to Simeon from The Tilehurst End for providing the Reading perspective. I also answered some questions for them if you’re interested in taking a gander.

Reading go into Saturday’s game at Molineux with morale as low as it’s been all season, if not in many years. A run of just one win in the last 14 league matches has the team looking anxiously at the bottom three, which is now just four points away, and the fans asking why Jaap Stam is still in his job. The football has been tedious at best, with Reading apparently prioritising keeping the ball over doing anything useful with it.

Added to that, the last two outings (3-3 draw with Derby, 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United) has seen some truly shocking defending, with players unorganised and shirking out of challenges. Injuries certainly haven’t helped – experienced centre halves Paul McShane and Tommy Elphick are out for a few more weeks, key creative player John Swift has barely played this calendar year, while Reading desperately missed the pace of Modou Barrow in Tuesday’s loss – although he should return on Saturday

When the two sides met earlier in the season, Reading fans took heart from what we accepted as a good performance despite the result. The attacking play was better than it usually is, but in the end quality shone through, and the key moments went in your favour: two well-taken goals and a terrific save from John Ruddy to deny Barrow in the second half. However, we’re certainly not expecting a repeat this weekend – Reading look as far away from a good performance right now as they ever will be, and Saturday is likely to just be damage limitation. 

Wolves

Even without Neves, I’m convinced if we get the average performance out of the following team there’s a high likelihood we’ll get the victory.

I wouldn’t start performing major surgery on the team just because we were out played by Fulham. I’d still keep N’Diaye and Saiss in the middle and a front three we know can deliver.

Afobe still hasn’t been given a start, so this could be his moment, but Jota is well overdue a big performance so I’m hoping we’ll get it tomorrow to put us firmly back on track.

Predictions

I’m feeling jittery about this one (not least because of the ex-Wolves connection), but I’m going to back us for a 2-1 victory. I think Reading will have a lot of the ball as they always do though, so patience might be required.

Here’s Simeon’s view on how it might unfold to give us all a lift:

I always like to think of myself as an optimist, but I’m struggling to see any way Reading can come close to getting a point against you. Although it’s unlikely you’ll match our points record for the division, you’re undoubtedly one of the best sides the Championship has seen in recent years, and you’ll have fun on Saturday against a particularly poor Royals side. Can we persuade Sky not to broadcast it? Wolves 4-1 Reading. 

Up The Wolves!