Sheffield Wednesday 0 Wolves 1

If the footballing purists weren’t purring over our latest victory in front of the Sky cameras, the ‘stattos’ certainly were.

Our fourth consecutive away win without conceding a goal for the first time ever, keeper Ruddy’s 12th clean sheet to put him above any other, the first team to amass 50pts across all four leagues and the highest points haul at this stage of a Championship season since Mick’s 2008/09 vintage.

It’s inevitable then, that our minds cast back to the days of Big Chris, Kites and co, when they’re the only team on a stats sheet to come close to Nuno’s heroes of today.

We think of that 5-1 drubbing of Forest – which history decrees as the pinnacle – some swaggering down at The Valley and some sauntering up at Deepdale. We came, we saw and we bloody well conquered didn’t we? Usually in style.

But the memory airbrushes the more mundane of matches, including one particularly drab 1-0 win up at Hillsborough (ironically enough), which was worth as much as the 3-1 win at Bramall Lane ever was. Likewise a Collins header at Doncaster which barely registers when thinking of Big Chris and Sylvan away at Cardiff.

Of the 16 wins racked up so far this campaign, this one probably won’t be purred over with quite the same relish as so many others. It might even be forgotten completely. Nuno might view it differently though, knowing that successful campaigns are built on foundations such as these.

The fact is we’ve been spoilt rotten to date, gorging on a brand of attacking football not known in these parts since…well…2008? But with teams clogging Jota to within an inch of injury, Bonatini looking knackered and Cavaleiro mercurially frustrating, there has to be more than one way to skin a cat.

So if our previous thrashings of Bolton and Leeds induced giddy comparisons with Pep, then these three points were spirited from an early George Graham, chiselled from an impenetrable back line who dealt with the dirty side of the game without ever looking flustered. John Ruddy never tested.

In most triumphant seasons, particularly those in the Championship, top drawer performances can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The largest proportion comes from disciplined 7/10s and the rest come from a moment of magic or misfortune.

This win at Sheffield Wednesday probably sits somewhere between the last two categories, with Ruben Neves’ strike the one bit of discernible quality on show all night. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough.

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Legendary golfer Ben Hogan once admitted that he’d only hit three pure strikes in any given round. With a record breaking front-nine already carded, we should bear this in mind as we prepare to tee off again.

In a career that spanned nine majors, that raking one iron at Merion will be remembered by everyone, if not the umpteen clutch putts to save his bacon elsewhere.

This was a tricky six-footer we sunk in Sheffield. It was worth its weight in gold.

Sheffield Wednesday Vs Wolves Preview

If you need reminding about the difficulty of escaping the Championship, look no further than the teams that contested last season’s play-offs.

Reading, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday all came close, but six months on are marooned in midtable.

Maybe one of them will rally over the second half of the campaign, but still, their struggles prove that progress is never guaranteed. You’ve got strike while the iron is hot and all that.

Wolves suffered similarly in the post Sako/Dicko/Afobe era. When that little axis was disbanded after failing to crack the top six, we wandered the dessert until Fosun came along.

It’s the same this time. We have the best team, the best players and the best manager. We’ve got to make it count.

Sheffield Wednesday

The Owls were on the charge briefly but haven’t won any of their last five. Midtable beckons.

They’ve got some good players in that squad, but so do a lot of teams. Individual quality isn’t enough.

When you’re successful for a couple of seasons without getting promoted it’s hard to keep things fresh and I get the sense it’s gone a bit stale for Carlos Carvalhal.

The Portuguese man is moaning about decisions a lot and when that starts happening regularly, you sense things are unravelling.

There are noises he could be close to the sack if he loses this one, so it will be interesting to see what sort of response he can get from a decent group of players.

Wednesday have only lost once at Hillsborough this season, so a difficult contest in prospect.

Wolves

Annoying we couldn’t find that winning goal against Sunderland but at least Cardiff weren’t able to take advantage.

This is a challenging period and none of the games look straightforward.

If we can emerge from December still top of the table and with distance between ourselves and third place that will be a great result.

This Wolves team have the pedigree to beat Wednesday, Ipswich, Millwall and Bristol City, but when the games come thick and fast, it’s unlikely they’ll have it all their own way.

I hope to be proven wrong.

Does the team still pick itself? Probably, for this one at least.

The odds

Wolves are 11/10 favourites to win this one. You can get a slightly more generous 7/2 on a Wolves victory with both teams scoring at Betfair. There are promotions at Betfair currently so make sure you check them out on that site to make your dosh go further.

Predictions

I said after the Sunderland game that I thought Wolves would benefit from teams attacking them and I expect Wednesday to show more adventure, particularly at home.

They’ll cause us problems because they have some good creative talent and more worryingly, players who can stick the ball in the net e.g. Jordan Rhodes.

But if Wolves play to their maximum, they’ll win and I’ll back them to do just that.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Wolves 0

I suppose this result was predictable given the way I’ve lambasted our defence in recent weeks.

But hats off to Batth, Stearman and co for a much needed cleansheet to help secure a very useful point against a solid Wednesday otufit.

Carl Ikeme also deserves a pat on the back for one particularly fine stop to keep the scores level. His contribution has been questioned lately but I think he’s a reliable number one for second tier football.

The only downside to the afternoon is that we couldn’t put the ball in the net at the other end.

Two strong penalty shouts were turned down, the woodwork took several rattles and continued wastefulness from our forwards meant the winning moment failed to materialise.

But again, how the team approached the game and their general play was positive. Paul Lambert said he wants to get on the front foot and his selections in recent times mirror that comment.

Even by taking out Dicko, Caveleiro and Enobokhare today the team was able to retain fluidity with Bodvarsson, Mason and young Connor Ronan equally proficient in possession.

Ronan in particular caught the eye in his first Championship start and was universally praised afterwards. Lambert said it was the best debut he’d seen and his trust in the teenager suggests there are more opportunities to come.

The same can probably be said of Joe Mason. He squandered the golden chance today, scooping over the bar when it seemed almost impossible to miss. He has a wonderful knack of getting into great positions but then wasting the chances that fall his way.

Nearly a year into his Wolves career and I still don’t quite know what to make of the busy forward, but he’ll need to re-discover his shooting boots if he wants to survive beyond May.

By my reckoning it’s now four and a half months since a center forward scored a goal for Wolves. Astonishing.

Perhaps they’ll have better luck in the FA Cup? I hope so because a decent run is long, long overdue.

I suspect this league campaign will ultimately end in mediocrity so I hope we can keep the dream of Wembley alive for at least a few weeks longer.

Sheffield Wednesday Vs Wolves Preview

I felt really low after the defeat to Wednesday back in November.

They beat us without exiting second gear in Paul Lambert’s first home game in charge with the new head coach fielding a horrible, scraggy, lop-sided team that offered very little resistance.

Thankfully, the team selections, performances and results have all picked up since then and I’m in more confident mood heading to Hillsborough than I thought I might have been a month ago.

That said, the defeat to QPR was a setback and the Owls are looking as strong as anyone else in the division at present, so this is going to be a tough introduction to 2017.

Sheffield Wednesday

Carlos Carvahal’s men have won three of their last four matches and only conceded a single goal during that period. They’re nicely poised in 6th place ready to attack the second half of the campaign.

Callum McManaman has already been added to their squad having arrvied on loan from West Brom prior to start of the transfer window. He’s eligible for his debut tomorrow and will likely feature.

Striker Fernando Forestieri – who has often been a major thorn in our side – missed the Preston game but could feature in this one.

With 8 victories from their 11 home matches you can certainly call their famous old ground a fortress. It’s inconsistent away form that’s curtailed their aspirations for top two contention. That looks a big ask.

Wolves

Paul Lambert said there would be changes, even before we lost to QPR so I expect to see a couple of adjustments to the team.

The obvious place to start is with the front two and I fully expect to see both Bodvarsson and Mason get a start with Dicko and Enobokhare dropping out.

After the last two defensive outings there’s an argument to say one of Stearman or Batth should pay the price, possibly with Iorfa or Hause coming in at center back.

Lambert is keeping his cards close to his chest as far as Mike Williamson goes, but I think his name will be on the teamsheet sooner rather than later.

Predictions

Got to be a defeat I’m afraid.

They’re not prolific goalscorers by any stretch of the imagination but I think their consistency will be enough to get them over the line. We still have far too many mistakes in the team to compete with the better sides.

I hope to be proven wrong. If we can get our attacking talents into the game, I’m sure we’ll cause them more problems than we managed at Molineux, but will probably still get edged out.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2

Claiming to have witnessed the worst Wolves performance in 30 years loses its meaning after a while, after saying it so often in recent times.

But that was, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst Wolves performance I have ever witnessed in 30 years.

On a day we celebrated Bully and Thommo’s magical milestone before kick-off, their modern day contemporaries blackened the shirts they wore with such pride.

Never mind ‘new manager syndrome’ for Paul Lambert. This was dead cat bounce of bottom-three proportions, doing absolutely nothing constructive other than cement our two heroes’ legacy further.

In this instance, Lambert brought it on himself by playing Conor Coady, George Saville and Dave Edwards in the same midfield. Not so much a recipe for disaster, but a lethal concoction to earn any head coach the sack before the ink has even dried on his contract.

It’s bad enough having one of your midfielders locked into your ‘worst ever Wolves XI’ side. It’s absolutely terrifying that there’s another one there alongside him, with deferential Dave Edwards shuffling between opponents with all the impact of a junior waiter between the Toby Carvery tables.

‘Everything ok for you sir?’ he’d politely enquire, after the ball has been zipped from whence he’d came.

We got relegated with Edwards as a mainstay four years ago and if Lambert plays that midfield for a single game ever again, then we’ll be heading the same way.

Back in 2012/13, the prospect of the drop didn’t dawn until February time. This season, that rotting stench is there already – and we haven’t even reached December yet.

Back then, we had Bakary Sako, Karl Henry, Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Foley in our squad. This time around, we are caught between two stools:

1. Play the proven dross that got Jackett and Zenga the sack

2. Play the batch of waifs and strays who are probably no better

My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that option 2 cannot be any worse than 1. And I never want to see the likes of Coady, Saville and Edwards in the same midfield ever again.

On this latest performance, we need eight new first team players (unless Saiss, Oniangue and one or two others can convert into first team material).

Only Kortney Hause, Price and Costa looked anything like respectable against Wednesday, while Stearman also gets a modicum of sympathy for being largely fine, but still unable to eradicate the one howler-per-game that always ends up in the back of our net.

Bodvarsson looks spent – and starved of any service – Doherty looks half arsed, while Iorfa appears to be unable to control his own faculties, let alone the ball to feet. His shocking loss of form is arguably the most depressing sight of all.

The one paced plodders ahead of them speak for themselves and frankly, they’re not fit to lace the boots of Phil Robinson, Nigel Vaughan and Keith Downing back in the day.

It’s not like we’re hankering after those Old Gold heroes anymore – never mind dear Bully and Thommo.

So passionless, leaderless and rudderless is this side that I’d settle for Nigel Quashie.

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Wolves Vs Sheffield Wednesday Preview

Walter Zenga often talked about his desire to see a full house at Molineux.

Ironic then that his successor will (almost) achieve that aspiration in his first home game in charge.

OK, it’s more to do with half price tickets and tremendous visiting support than an insatiable appetite cultivated by last weekend’s pulsating draw with Preston, but all the same it’ll be nice to see a big crowd.

27,000 plus are expected and after a solid if unspectacular start at Deepdale, we’re all hoping Paul Lambert can extract more from the group.

He himself said we need to take more risks as a team, so it will be interesting to see if that’s reflected in the starting lineup.

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield_Wednesday.svgTwo defeats and a draw at Fulham last time out have seen the Owls slip from their par position in the play-offs down to ninth.

There have been murmurs of discontent amongst the Hillsborough faithful as a consequence, which I suppose is understandable.

They couldn’t have come much closer to promotion last time out, losing the play-off final to Hull and further investment in the team over the summer meant expectations of a top two push didn’t feel unrealistic.

Carlos Carvalhal said this week he expected more from the new signings, as it hasn’t real clicked for the likes of Almen Abdi, Adam Reach or ex-Wolves pair David Jones and Steven Fletcher.

But that’s the risk you take when you add lots of new players to an already well-established team. Perhaps  there’s been too much change too soon?

Already 10 points off second placed Brighton and with Newcastle rapidly disappearing over the horizon, the play-offs look like a best case scenario.

Wolves

With Danny Batth suspended and Dave Edwards returning from his ban, Paul Lambert has some decisions to make.

team-for-sheff-wed

I think on recent form Edwards has to play, not least because he frequently seems to be the only one capable of getting on the end of crosses.

Price’s steady presence is always welcome and I think the combative Coady give us the necessary running to allow the likes of Costa and Cavaleiro to thrive.

Cav should start and do exactly what he’s done in his last two appearances, which is to say, make half a yard and deliver. If both he and Costa could do that consistently, they’d take some stopping.

Bodvarsson is labouring, but again a chronic lack of service has been an issue. You could start Dicko, but he himself isn’t up to speed.

A straight Stearman for Batth swap seems the smartest and easiest choice, but moving Iorfa central and playing Silvio or Borthwick-Jackson down the left is another avenue.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

I’ll be brave a go all out for the win. I’m expecting Sheffield Wednesday to be the better team for periods, but hopefully the lads can tough it out and do more in the final third.

The Owls have only scored 18 goals, which is the lowest of any of the teams in the top 11 of the table and one less than Wolves.

And given that they’ve only conceded one fewer than us, there’s no reason to feel we should get swept aside.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!