Stoke City 0 Wolves 2

It’s difficult to envisage how this might have gone better.

Our star players came to the fore, those who’ve under performed stepped up their game and the few others returning from injury looked like they’d never been away.

There was even a debut for 16 year old Morgan Gibbs-White, hot on the heels of fellow academy graduates Harry Burgoyne and Connor Ronan.

Looking at yesterday’s teamsheet and the subsequent performance against a Premier League side’s best eleven, Paul Lambert now has some serious food for thought.

There were three changes to the back four and all were excellent, in particular the two center backs who kicked and headed everything.

Mike Williamson was straight into the groove, doing the basics well and most importantly instructing his youthful counterparts. Hause in particular benefited from his clear direction.

It’s tough on either Stearman or Batth (or possibly both) after the gutsy cleansheet at Hillsborough last weekend, but I think Williamson must remain in the side.

And if his steady reassurance is enough to coax the best out of Hause and Iorfa then both of those players must also be in contention.

Matt Doherty remains the only nailed on starter across the back line and possibly delivered his greatest performance in a Wolves shirt at the Britannia.

Rock solid defensively against the dangerous Shaqiri and typically dynamic going forward, it’s hard to believe the Premier League aren’t taking notice.

Some were surprised to see him standing over the free-kick that would eventually end up planted in the top corner, but he’s struck from distance repeatedly in recent weeks.

That’s now four for the season and it could easily have been double figures given the unlikely positions he routinely occupies in and around the penalty area.

Helder Costa is close to double figures and his eighth of the season was as impressive as any of the other seven, shifting inside and walloping a rasping drive through Lee Grant to give Wolves a deserved first half lead.

With the midfield anchored superbly by the unlikely duo of Lee Evans and George Saville, Costa, Bright Enobakahare and to a lesser extent Joe Mason were all free to roam.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson lead the line superbly, carrying on where he left off at Sheffield Wednesday and so nearly finding the net himself. On this form, he must be the preferred choice.

Nouha Dicko was similarly unfortunate not to register after coming on, twice coming within inches of finally getting off the mark and adding further gloss to an already lustrous scoreline.

Remarkable really, when you consider Coady, Batth, Stearman, Edwards, Price, Cavaleiro, Ronan and Dicko either didn’t start or didn’t feature at all.

That’s 8 players who’ve significantly contributed to our recent upturn in form all rested while their so-called deputies turned in the most cohesive team performance of the season.

But when they had to rely on their goalkeeper in the second half, boy did he deliver. Carl Ikeme has been back to his best in recent weeks and like Doherty, he can probably count this among his very best in a long Wolves career.

If you’re going to cause an upset in the FA Cup, you need your goalkeeper to go above and beyond and some of the saves were simply out of this world.

What an afternoon. Enjoy it, savour it and most importantly look forward to the fourth round draw for the first time since 2011.

Games like this make it feel like anything is possible and that’s the magic of this great old competition.

Long may it continue.

Stoke City Vs Wolves Preview

I was unequivocal when speaking to Paul Lambert about this – Wolves needs a cup run.

This message will be repeated ad nauseum until we finally make it into the latter stages of one of the competitions, preferably this one.

The draw hasn’t been particularly kind but progression is possible if the stars align. Some of these factors we can’t control, but I just want to see the manager doing everything within his power to help us progress.

That means picking a decent team and giving us a real chance of upsetting a solid Premier League outfit. The army of supporters heading up the M6 deserve nothing less.

Stoke

Speaking of solid, Mark Hughes was a good horse to back after parting ways with Tony Pulis. I was impressed by the teams he built at Blackburn and Fulham. There was a blip at QPR but he’s returned to form at the Britannia.

The Potters are once again safely ensconced in midtable after a slow start and seem like a much different beast to the Pulis-era team that established them as a top flight club.

They’ve still got a bit of muscle, but there’s been a significant upgrade in technical proficiency in recent years with the likes of Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Bojan underlining the shift in philosophy.

I think Stoke would be stupid not to go all out to win this match and progress in the competition (what do they have to lose?) so would be surprised if a strong team wasn’t fielded.

Unlike us, they’ve tasted Wembley in the not-too-distant past, making it to the final (after beating Wolves along the way) in 2011, eventually losing out to Manchester City.

Wolves

Despite my protestations, Lambert has made noises about a few changes, but I hope that means one or two, rather than five or six. We have to retain some sort of continuity.

Perhaps giving Iorfa and Hause another crack at the first team after a few weeks out of the firing line might not be a bad move?

But even that seems unnecessary with Stearman and Coady both contributing to a couple of cleansheets on the road in recent times against Forest and Sheffield Wednesday.

Mike Williamson could be given a first team return after over a year out too if defensive changes are the order of the day.

Further forward, there are endless options, particularly with Ronan and Enobakhare both well on their way towards being in regular contention.

I have no idea what sort of team we’ll see, but I suppose like Lambert suggests in the video below, nobody will complain as long as we make a decent fist of things.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Logic dictates we’ll lose and I’d probably have to go with that assessment. They’re a midtable Premier League team and we’re not quite a midtable Championship side, so the gap is significant.

I would see it as a considerable upset if we were to progress, particularly away, but we have the attacking players to inflict damage if they’re allowed to play.

And hopefully the likes of Costa, Cavaleiro and co will relish the big occasion. But overall, I think we’ll get edged out.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Stoke City Vs Wolves Preview

Looking at the fixtures for March at the end of February, I concluded Wolves needed a minimum 5 points to have a realistic chance of survival.

At the start of April we have the same number of points we had at the start of March.

Woodgate should have seen red at Molineux

Surely now even the most chirpy, upbeat, downright belligerently optimistic supporter wouldn’t dare to suggest we can still do it?

Having managed just 5 wins all season, we’d probably need to match that from the remaining 7 games and even that might not be enough.

Don’t forget we also have to play Arsenal and Man City as well visiting Swansea and, this Easter weekend, Stoke.

This wouldn’t be the Great Escape, it would be the Greatest Escape.

Personally, I’ve realigned my aspirations as we await mathematical confirmation. All I want is 7 gutsy performances and a few decent results to at least end the season with some pride intact.

However bad we are, these players are capable of better than what we’re currently being served up.

The Britannia isn’t an ideal place to start of course. Stoke have won more games at home (6) than we’ve won in total and every point is very much a prisoner in Staffordshire.

The Team

Personally, I’d be reverting to 4-5-1. We were just too open again through the middle in that crazy 15 minute period against Bolton. I know it’s hindsight, but after we went a goal up, I was disappointed TC didn’t act sooner bringing on Henry. We needed that extra protection.

Hennessey, Zubar, Johnson, Bassong, Ward, Henry, Milijas, Edwards, Jarvis, Kightly, Fletcher

It’s a no-brainer to put Henry back in if he’s proved his fitness. I’ve opted for Milijas and Edwards alongside him but I wouldn’t object to seeing Davis slot in there to have two holding players.

Considering Jarvis tends to struggle at the Britannia with Wilkinson nobbling him at every opportunity, we’re going to need something big from Kightly to get a result.

It was really pleasing to see Kites step it up again last weekend and score a wonderful goal. As my dad correctly observed, ‘that’s the reason we go to football matches’.

Prediction League

It’s all very much still to play for as we close in on the end of another Prediction League season.

12 people correctly stated we’d lose against Bolton but none of them said 3-2, so all take a single point.

I’ll go for a draw Saturday.

2-2.

But to get that we’ll need to show far greater resilience over 90 minutes than we’ve managed the last month or so.

We crumbled in the reverse fixture earlier in the season having dominated the first half. Yes, we were unlucky as Stoke definitely should have been down to 10-men after Woodgate’s second lunge on Jarvis, but we just didn’t get going in the second 45. It was embarrassing.

If you’re at the Britannia on Saturday, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.