Wolves 3 Sheffield United 0

With the night sky thick with smoke from the pyrotechnics, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the early minutes of this match were taking place at the San Siro.

Ruben Neves wouldn’t look out of place at any of Europe’s premier venues and as soon as his dreamy opener kissed the post on route to goal, everybody knew this contest was heading in one inevitable direction.

The Rossoneri can but dream of scoring a goal like Diogo Jota’s these days, with four of our best and brightest ping-ponging the ball around before ruthlessly dropping the axe.

After that, it was the familiar stranglehold to which we’ve grown accustomed.

Complacency was the only danger, but once their keeper was correctly dismissed for attempted decapitation the last quarter hour was spent in full warm down mode.

Benik Afobe got his run out in ideal circumstances and nearly scored too. Bonatini also looked sharp again as the bonus balls kept rolling out of the machine.

Nuno grinned like a cheshire cat from the touchline, the South Bank hit the high notes and everyone just had a jolly good time.

If the Blades managed a shot on target all night, I don’t remember it and despite enjoying some possession and territory, lets be honest, they never laid a glove on the league leaders.

Chris Wilder was magnanimous enough to admit as much in his post-match comments.

They deservedly came out on top in the reverse fixture, but I think this victory lays down yet another marker about just how much this team has evolved since those early months.

There’s more cohesion, better organisation and a total understanding of what it takes to win games in the Championship.

We’ve always had the quality but quality alone isn’t enough.

Meanwhile, the chasing pack are doing an admirable job of chasing, so there’s a hefty workload still to undertake.

But the message booming out of Molineux remains the same – catch us if you can.

Wolves Vs Sheffield Utd Preview

After tonking Brentford, I was probably a bit optimistic with my ‘we could win every home game’ assertion.

Forest soon put pay to that.

But there are nine matches still to contest at Molineux and a solid return will all but guarantee promotion.

This looks, on paper at least, like one of the tougher challenges but in this helter-skelter division, who knows?

We comfortably saw off Villa and Fulham, but toiled against Forest and Sunderland. There’s no second-guessing how these games will unfold.

Sheff Utd

I watched the Blades fall to defeat against Villa in midweek and felt they were desperately unlucky. They were the ones pushing for a winner before Snodgrass administered the last minute sucker punch.

Bristol City stitched them up in similar fashion earlier in the campaign and those two moments alone are the difference between chasing the top two and drifting outside the play-off places.

Chris Wilder has really got it going at Bramall Lane. They play on the front foot and press high, which sometimes leaves them exposed at the back. An away record of won six, lost six and drawn two underlines their ‘all or nothing’ approach.

They completely overwhelmed Wolves in the reverse fixture. Even before Coady was sent off they were swarming over our midfield and forcing mistakes.

Several new faces were brought in during the window to refresh their flagging promotion hopes including Lee Evans. He’s started well and will return with a point to prove.

Richard Stearman is another likely starter, along with Leon Clarke who scored twice against his former club back in September. It’s a right old reunion.

Wolves

Does he start? That’s the immediate dilemma facing Nuno. You would assume Benik Afobe hasn’t come to sit on the bench, but I reckon that’s where he’ll begin his second stint at the club.

We played so well against Ipswich, the same starting eleven seems the logical choice. And I think the power of N’Diaye will be important for winning the midfield battle and freeing up Neves to do his thing.

The more fluid, interchanging front three is better suited to away games, but if it’s not working there are now a couple of options at the head coach’s disposal.

Someone pointed out you can only have five loan signings in your matchday squad, so that means one of Afobe, Jota, N’Diaye, Boly, Bonatini and Vinagre will always miss out. That’s something else Nuno will have to contemplate on a game by game basis. Vinagre seems an obvious choice but he’s the only cover we have at wingback.

Predictions

I know I always predict a win these days, but this season you can’t question the logic. Wolves have won 20 out of 29 matches.

They’re going to push us hard and ask a lot of questions. If they do what they did at Bramall Lane and cancel out our midfield, it will be another long night.

But I think Wolves are more streetwise these days and the more cohesive unit.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Sheffield United 2 Wolves 0

We were never in this one.

Even before Conor Coady was sent off for hauling down Leon Clarke the home side were well on top.

They were quicker to the ball, snappier in the tackle and effervescent in their efforts to stop Wolves playing out.

That enthusiasm forced the mistake and from that point on it was one way traffic until they made the breakthrough.

For all their intricate build up play, the goals that won it were meat and drink, with Clarke inevitably there to connect with the crosses.

It’s disappointing in that sense they didn’t have to play through us to win the day. It all felt too easy.

Ruben Neves should have made life significantly more uncomfortable by tying things up from the spot, but truthfully he never looked like scoring.

It was one of those jittery half-baked run ups that rarely inspires confidence and the contact was then less than perfect.

Had Helder Costa still been on the pitch he might well have taken responsibility but on a night of disappointment he was hooked in the tactical reshuffle after Coady headed for the shower.

Still, it’s good that he’s now considered fit enough to feature and you would think he’ll get a relaunch on Saturday.

Beyond that crumb of positive news you’re hard pressed to find anything else.

The lesson to learn is start faster.

Teams will press high and try to force mistakes. Wolves have to show more tenacity, more imagination and a greater appetite to establish a foothold so they can play their game.

This was a blip but it was a blip you could see coming.

Take the medicine and go again.