Wolves 2 Reading 0

However long Walter Zenga remains in the home dugout, I doubt he’ll ever enjoy a more serene Molineux experience.

With the sun shining, the South Bank packed and Wolves coasting to victory against a Reading side I could scarcely believe were so bad, the Italian’s only concern was remembering to acknowledge the crowd as they sang his name for the umpteenth time.

He’ll know better sides won’t be anything like as charitable as the Royals, but will take heart from several individual performances and the team collective.

The visitors had 66% possession but that consisted almost exclusively of stroking the ball along the edge of their own penalty area and inviting Wolves to pounce.

And pounce they did, repeatedly until Matt Doherty slammed home the opener after a host of earlier chances had been repelled by the mercurial Ali Al-Habsi.

Joe Mason’s header just after half time killed the game and saved the striker’s blushes as he sandwiched his goal with two guilt edged misses that would have given the result a merited coat of gloss.

Speaking of gloss, Joao Teixiera was silky smooth again, dancing over challenges and sliding passes through lines all afternoon. He was at the heart of everything good in the final third and brings an added dimension to a previously one paced side.

Up front Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was the ideal focal point, occupying defenders, bringing others into play and when opportunity presented itself, running towards goal.

The big Icelander might be disappointed he didn’t bury a late header to get on the scoresheet but his all round performance was to be admired. He’s already an established and key member of the team.

Credit to for Conor Coady who impressed at right back, albeit against meagre opposition who rarely asked the question. One wonders if that’s a temporary fix or a longer term solution to our full back shortage?

For Coady it might be his only way into the starting eleven, with Edwards, Evans, Saville and Price all seemingly preferred and some bloke call Prince also on the cusp of signing.

Many were surprised to see Jack Price omitted after Tuesday but nobody could complain about the efforts of Saville, Edwards or Evans who were all industrious and continually first to the ball, setting the tone for the team performance.

If this is what’s possible when you take last season’s workhorse approach and sprinkle in some final third impact, then our prospects for the season appear promising.

More players will be added before the end of the month and others will hopefully return from injury, meaning there’s no reason the feel good factor won’t continue.

But right now at least, things feel pretty damn good.

Wolves Vs Reading Preview

With no disrespect to Rotherham or Crawley, I think this fixture will provide a more accurate measure of progress.

Reading aren’t in particularly great shape, but like us they’re a midtable team looking to improve on last season.

It’s a winnable game but any result we get in these early rounds must be considered a bonus as Fosun look towards reshaping and upgrading our squad.

The reported big money bid for Derby’s Chris Martin was welcome news, providing the first clear evidence our new owners are prepared to invest heavily in proven domestic talent.

Looking down the squad, I think we’re short another three or four players if the objective is a promotion push this season.

Reading

200px-Reading_FC.svgAll change at the Mad Stad over the summer with Brian McDermott given the shove after just months in charge and replaced by Jaap Stam.

The Dutchman is already tempering expectations, openly stating he thinks it will be tough to get near the top six. One wonders if he’ll be given the time to execute a longer term plan?

Still, they couldn’t have asked for a better start, beating Preston by a goal to nil last weekend and coming through two nil against Plymouth in the League Cup.

I got this from Reading supporter Dan from the Tilehurst End Blog:

2016/17 looks to be the most unpredictable season we’ve had since Tommy Burns ripped up the squad ahead of our first season at the Madejski in 1998. Brian McDermott was sacked (again) and shockingly replaced with Jaap Stam who’s at least brought a bit of a buzz back around the place after four successive seasons of decline.

Financially we’re nowhere near the big boys despite as evidenced by selling Oliver Norwood to Brighton and Aaron Tshibola to Aston Villa, so the club’s new approach has been to use the European market and bring in a lot of players from the fringes of big teams to see if they can click at Championship level. It’s an ambitious but a big gamble as the squad looks painfully thin on experience right now BUT if everything does click and Stam manages to add a couple of heads before deadline day it could be an exciting season.

Roy Beerens is a name more familiar for his Pro Evo & Football Manager skills than an actual footballing pedigree but he could be magic if Stam gets his head straight. Likewise if Garath McCleary can return to anything near his form of a couple of years ago he’s one of the best in this division. Through in a lot of promising Academy products and this season is going to be interesting at the very least. As to how I think it’ll go, I can see us settling down in mid-table and I’d be very happy with that!

Wolves

Still almost impossible to predict Walter Zenga’s preferred XI, as evidenced by Tuesday’s team selection. This would be my best guess for tomorrow:

Wolves team for Reading

If Costa is fully up to speed there must be a temptation to throw him in from the start, but more likely he’ll get another go from the bench.

Teixeira looks further along in his fitness and I’d imagine he might be given license to roam in behind Bodvarsson, backed up by the workhorse Edwards and the pick of Tuesday’s midfielders – Jack Price.

Dominic Iorfa will surely return to the back four and the defensive unit need to rapidly improve having looked creaky so far. No more set piece concessions please boys.

Predictions

There are far too many variables on both sides to have any real grasp on what might happen in this one, but I’ll focus on Wolves.

If Jon Dadi Bodvarsson influences this game in anything like the way he was able to at the New York Stadium last weekend, we’ll have a great chance.

Defensively, I think individually and collectively we’re capable of doing much better than we have been, but still not confident about keeping a cleansheet.

I’ll go for a narrow home win – 2-1

Up The Wolves!

Save

Reading 0 Wolves 0

Kenny Jackett is unlikely to be an avid reader of local newspapers.

Doherty Reading

But the results of a midweek poll run by the Express & Star will have made interesting reading.

Because, when asked if Kenny should be allowed to continue in his role next season, the general consensus was that a change is needed.

Personally, that’s not a view that I share but it does reflect the frustration that is burgeoning amongst an under appreciated fanbase.

Once again, we forked out for the privilege of being underwhelmed in the freezing cold. Though the performance was a slight improvement on Tuesday’s debacle, the end result was the same and respite from our mediocrity seems more illusive than ever.

But how much blame can be laid at the door of our Head Coach?

Surely he hasn’t encouraged, let alone orchestrated, the disassembling of the fluid, free scoring team that had entertained us so very much over the last two seasons.

Cast your eye over yesterday’s starting eleven and you’ll find an assortment of players that, despite their willing, can only be considered downgrades on last season’s alternative.

You only need to consider how many players we have tried in Bakary Sako’s old left wing berth to see the folly of our pre and mid season recruitment drives.

Yesterday’s team selection was once again a case of flinging resources out of the pan and hoping that a winning formula would stick.

Forgotten man Tommy Rowe was restored to the nether regions and Joe Mason, quite amazingly, found himself benched just days after his goal scoring debut.

The result of this latest bout of tinkering was another languid display. Though we saw a lot more of the ball than was the case against Bolton, a lack of pace meant we rarely stretched our opposition.

The injuries that have befallen a number of key players have made Kenny’s job even more tasking but that is unlikely to stave off criticism, especially when we are made to wait three quarters of the game for a substitution.

Such perplexing behaviour is enough to make you consider whether our Head Coach is acting out of protest. Though I suspect otherwise, the reintegration of players formerly deemed surplus to requirements is behaviour befitting of a man who is trying to shine a light on the scarcity of his resources.

One resident of the Last Chance Saloon is at least grasping the opportunity with both hands. Bjorn Sigurdarson worked tirelessly in the lone striker role and, along with the improving Ethan Ebanks-Landell and dependable James Henry, was one of the few players that shined for either side.

However, that is but a crumb of comfort in an increasingly dispiriting tale of mid table mediocrity. The board’s seemingly relentless desire to run the club as little more than a profit centre renders a turnaround in fortunes unlikely and an easing of the dissension amongst the terraces even more so.

It will certainly be interesting to see what sort of response is given to Jez Moxey’s impending Early Bird offer. Surely the CEO can’t be expecting a rapturous uptake given the tripe we have had to put up with both on and off the pitch this season?

Periods of apathy are often remedied by a gesture of sorts and one wonders whether last week’s poll may become more prevalent if performances continue to stagnate.

Kenny has been bullet proof up until now but nobody is safe from the axe in this modern day iteration of the beautiful game.

Food for thought then for a man that needs to learn how to help himself during times of adversity.

Because one dimensional play and tactical inconsistencies are not going to capture the hearts and minds of a fanbase that deserves so much more than what we are currently receiving.

Reading Vs Wolves Preview

At least Kenny Jackett saw the same performance we all did on Tuesday.

James Henry Wolves

Which is to say, awful.

Some of the comments in his pre-match interview (video below) are worth a listen.

In a typically statesmanlike manner, he alludes to the fact that it’s not easy to keep the wagon rolling, given the players sold or lost to injury.

There have certainly been times this season when I’ve felt he hasn’t picked his best team or given us the maximum chance of winning. I’d include Tuesday in that too.

But equally, I think overall he’s done as well as he could have done with the increasingly limited talent he has at his disposal.

Reading

200px-Reading_FC.svg I swapped a few thoughts with my old mucka Dan from The Tilehurst End blog this week, so here’s the Reading perspective:

Since meeting on Boxing Day, precious little has changed for Reading. Sure Nick Blackman’s gone for close to £4 million and is now showing Derby fans why for 2 1/2 years Reading fans thought him useless but style and substance wise it’s as you were.

Yann Kermorgant has also pitched up to replace Orlando Sa so that’s an upgrade but it’s still a team hoping that Matej Vydra comes good to win us games and while he’s done that with six FA Cup goals in three games, we’re yet to see him explode into life on the Championship stage.

While we’ve not won away from home since September, at the Madejski we’re pretty hard to beat and have won 4 of 6 home games since Brian McDermott returned.

Every one of his eight fixtures home or away have been settled by a single goal or less and I can see that pattern repeating itself on Saturday.

Still, I think we’ll have enough in the tank to squeak out a win so I’ll go for a 1-0 Reading win.

Wolves

This would be my team tomorrow based on what’s currently available:

Team for Reading

Although Kenny said we played 442 against Bolton, it never really felt that way to me. Joe Mason wandered around in the spaces Dave Edwards would normally occupy and Sigurdarson was often isolated.

With Tommy Rowe the only outlet down the left, we were then heavily reliant on RvLP to create from the opposite flank and after a good performance at QPR he failed to reproduce.

James Henry must play, if only for the reason he’s our top goalscorer (7) and on his day – a match winner. Much like RvLP he can be a wildcard but right now he feels integral.

I also don’t feel Siggy is quite sharp enough yet to carry the burden of leading the line. Le Fondre hasn’t impressed me but maybe we should give him a run of four or five games to see if he can produce the form he’s shown for pretty much every other club he’s played for?

The gaffer

Predictions

Not feeling overly confident about our immediate prospects, so think this one will be a defeat.

As Dan says, they’ve been solid at the Mad Stad this season and I think they’ve got the players to hurt us.

We’re a better team away from Molineux though and if we can play with the drive and tenacity we showed in the second half at Loftus Road, we won’t make it easy.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Reading 0

‘To put it in gentleman’s terms, if you’re looking for a young lady and you pull one, some weeks they’re good looking and some weeks they’re not the best. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi.’

Henry Reading

Ian Holloway, last seen traveling the country in a tour bus that had his face plastered along its side, offered this pearl of wisdom during his tenure as QPR manager. Though it teeters precariously along the lines of chauvinism, it’s certainly rings true when applied to our most recent performance.

There have seldom been games under Kenny Jackett’s tenure in which we have been dominated to the extent we were by Reading. Despite being far removed from the Championship elite, the Royals enjoyed three quarters of possession and, according to BBC WM, managed over 20 shots on goal.

However, the most telling statistic of all is Reading’s ‘goals scored’ tally. Despite a pretty calamitous first half showing, our defence managed to keep the away side at bay and, in doing so, offered hope that improvement is on the way.

Ethan Ebanks-Landell has come in for criticism in recent weeks but enjoyed a most impressive second half.

The January transfer window, along with the returning Kortney Hause, is likely to bring the Smethwick born defender some much needed competition but yesterday’s showing suggested he is good enough to make that contest more hard fought than we initially expected.

Indeed, our defensive application was a world away from the recent Keystone Cops tribute act we’ve had to endure. If we can get some more bodies in over January, preferably in the centre and left back departments, then we’ll have cause to hope that Kenny can finally remedy this season long ailment.

That being said, my Mom made the excellent assertion that, for all of the back four’s recent failings, we have largely been guilty of neglecting the defensive shortcomings of our midfield.

There is nowhere near as much energy in the centre as there was last season, irrespective of the combination Kenny has plumped for over the duration of the campaign.

Kevin McDonald, though still our most influential player, is often guilty of indolence and Dave Edwards appears to have been running on empty for some time now.

The cause of this malaise is difficult to diagnose but is something that also needs to be addressed over the ensuing months. We can but only hope that our flustered manager remains capable of solving such conundrums.

This was a big win for him and will hopefully instigate a revitalisation that will silence some of his more over zealous social media detractors.

One win, especially one as cagey as this, won’t be enough to rekindle Kenny’s love affair with our club. This needs to be a turning point rather than another false dawn.

Or, to revert to the tone of Sky Sports’ premier Football League pundit, the start of a long term relationship and not another one night stand.

Wolves Vs Reading Preview

We were victorious in a televised Boxing Day clash last Christmas.

Reading

Watford were the victims and I thought Wolves thoroughly deserved their 1-0, despite a late onslaught.

A year on, we’re now looking over our shoulders at that familiar trapdoor while the Hornets are eyeballing the Champions League.

You couldn’t make it up.

Kenny Jackett won’t find much festive cheer around Molineux if his players don’t deliver the goods, so here’s hoping for a plump, juicy turkey of a performance rather than another dusty lump of coal.

Reading

200px-Reading_FC.svgThe Royals lost patience with their manager and gave Steve Clarke the old heave-ho. A funny one that as not long before he was linked with the Fulham job and opted to stay in charge at the Madejski.

Brian McDermott is back in the saddle now, which isn’t a bad move. He’s got them out of the Championship once and knows the club well.

They’ve got some dangerous players in Vydra, Robson-Kanu and Nick Blackman the striker Wolves were heavily linked with in the summer. He’s got 12 goals already this term.

After beating Blackburn last time out to arrest a run of four straight defeats, they’ll be looking to get back up towards the top six where they’ve spent most of the season.

With 6 defeats already and 18 goals conceded, they have the worst away record of any team in the top half. Cause for optimism?

Wolves

Kenny deployed an attacking lineup against Sheffield Wednesday but was it too gung-ho for a team struggling at the other end of the pitch?

Wolves team for Reading

I wonder if bringing Conor Coady into the side to sit deeper than McDonald and Price would take some of the pressure away from our centre halves?

Creatively, I think the midfield is one of the stronger aspects of the side, but it’s too easily bypassed when we’re not in possession.

I’d also keep Byrne, Graham and Afobe as the front three and restore Scott Golbourne at full-back in favour of the error prone Ebanks-Landell.

The gaffer

Predictions

I’ve been predicting draws like they’re going out of fashion, principally because I don’t think we’re as bad as our league position suggests, but the results just haven’t been there.

And so the fence squatting continues – 2-2.

Have a great Christmas everyone and look after yourselves.

Up The Wolves!