Spurs 1 Wolves 1

If you could bottle whatever it is that brings out the very best in Wolverhampton Wanderers at White Hart Lane, relegation predicaments would be nothing more than a distant memory.

Indeed, an unsettling whiff of deja vu must have swept like wildfire around the home crowd as the old gold once again supped their half-time cuppa a goal to the good.

Steven Fletcher’s ninth Premier League strike of the season (moving him level with Adebayor and two ahead of Defoe in the top scorer charts incidentally) gave Wolves the lead in this fixture for third consecutive season.

Me again - 3 in 4 against Spurs

One chance, one goal, ruthlessly gobbled up by our increasingly prolific talisman. Yes, it was a tap-in but no coincidence to see him once again emerge from the pack to poke home after Roger Johnson’s towering header was cleared off the line.

Speaking of Johnson, I thought this was one of his best games in a very long while, winning everything in the air and making timely interceptions to break up the free-flowing Spurs attack. That’s what we paid for.

The skipper no doubt benefits more than anyone when the gaffer deploys a 5 man midfield, closing the spaces and making his chronic lack of pace much less of an issue.

And Mick picked a good 5 yesterday I thought.

With Henry and Frimpong offering much needed protection, Edwards, Jarvis and Kightly were all able to get forward to decent effect when the opportunity presented itself.

Finally, some balance.

That theme also applies to the Foley and Kightly (as opposed to Stearman and Hunt) partnership down the right. For the first time in what seems a very long time indeed, we weren’t solely reliant on Jarvis as an outlet ball. I’m praying that continues.

Kightly continued his promising comeback with another hard working display including more sporadic moments of quality. It was lovely to see him cut inside his man in the first half and get a shot away, even if it was scuffed over the bar. The point is, he’s asking questions of the opposition again and trying to make something happen; things Hunt hasn’t been able to do of late.

As a side note, it was curious that Hammill didn’t even make the bench.

I thought Frimpong was immense yesterday, bombing into tackles, using the ball well and even bursting forward to support Fletcher.

That said, Mick was wise to withdraw him when he did as the home crowd definitely smelt blood with the Arsenal loanee on a booking. I would hate to have seen him sent off given that he already looks a vital cog in the midfield engine.

A mention too for Berra, who very rarely gets a nod. In his 100th league appearance for Wolves he did what he so often does these days, heading and kicking everything that came near him and making zero errors. It’s a mantra that has served Jody Craddock well in recent years and encouragingly it seems to have rubbed off on the Scot.

Ultimately though, aside from individual positives it was a disciplined, well-drilled team effort that won us this point. Tottenham poured forward time and time again but Wolves always did enough to slowdown their attacks restricting them to shots from distance for the most part.

Hennessey will probably feel he could and perhaps should have kept Modric’s fierce drive out, but given the quality of the strike and the fact it flew through legs, I think we can let our keeper off the hook. He was otherwise assured once again.

It was probably a measure of Spurs frustration that they felt the need to contest a ridiculous drop ball inside our penalty area late one, despite the fact Wolves clearly had possession of the ball prior to the stop in play.

You can blame the ref all you want, but it was despicably unsportsmanlike behaviour from the Tottenham players in my book.

Thankfully it came to nothing.

And yes, it probably should be noted we got the benefit of a few questionable decisions yesterday, for a change, but after recent events you’ll forgive me if I don’t cry a tear for the opposition.

I doubt they would for us.

Spurs Vs Wolves Preview

When Spurs sauntered into Molineux back in September, they were struggling at the bottom after a tricky start and Wolves were riding high after snaring 7 points from 9.

However, the 2-0 victory Harry’s boys inflicted on us that sunny afternoon proved the catalyst they needed to go on a sensational winning streak, elevating them all the way up to third place in the table.

Losing at the Lane last season

We did actually play well in that match and were more than a little unlucky to lose. However, things deteriorated from that game onwards so it would certainly be fitting if we were to kick-start our faltering season with a big result at White Hart Lane.

And although that seems highly unlikely, recent history at least suggests we shouldn’t give up all hope.

Two years ago we did the double over Spurs, tasting victory on their patch thanks to an early Kevin Doyle goal and the mother of all defensive performances.

We almost repeated the trick last year too, leading 1-0 with 20 minutes to go only to eventually lose out 3-1.

As I write this preview (ahead of their game against Everton this evening) they’ve currently played 9 games at home, won 7, drawn 1 and lost just the once.

Dauntingly, the only points they’ve dropped were against Man City and Chelsea. Gulp.

The Team

I’ve decided to abandon predicting Mick’s team selections from now on, in favour of listing the side I would personally pick.

I would also encourage you to do the same, just so it gives us all something else to kick around in the preview.

So, this is my XI:

Hennessey, Foley, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Frimpong, Henry, Milijas, Kightly, Jarvis, Fletcher

I just think we need to retain possession better than we have been and with only Fletch really doing the business, 451 is the obvious choice for me.

Foley must play at right-back. He’s infinitely better on the ball than Stearman and brings balance to the side.

With Frimpong and Henry anchoring the midfield, I think giving Milijas freedom to wander around and find passes would be a wise move.

The most controversial inclusion is Kightly over Hammill and Hunt.

There’s certainly an element of favouritism in that choice, but neither Hunt or Hammill have done enough for me to suggest giving Kightly a start would be a mistake.

Prediction League

The home defeat to Chelsea seems a lifetime ago now.

Still, 19 people correctly predicted the loss and 6 of those got the scoreline spot-on.

Well done to Hamlet, Ade in China, gebb, Michigan Wolf, Ventura Highway and kinhaven for collecting the maximum 3 points on offer.

Call it foolish optimism if you will, but I just have a suspicion we’ll get something this weekend. We’ve been a bit of a bogey side for Spurs in recent years and I can see that continuing.

I’ll go the whole hog too – 2-1 Wolves.

If you’re heading to the Lane on Saturday, have a great time and get behind the lads as you always do.

Up The Wolves.

* Just a reminder that Wolves Blog are raising money for Acorns Children’s Hospice by taking part in the March to Molineux event. If you can spare a few pennies, I would be chuffed to get your support. You can donate by clicking here.

Wolves 0 Spurs 2

If you can look back on a loss and fail to criticise a single player, it’s safe to assume there can’t have been too much wrong with the team performance.

This was a close game, for the most part, between two Premier League sides.

Breakthrough

The general quality of football was good, but I have no problem with admitting Spurs were that little bit more incisive in the final third, which ultimately decided the outcome.

I felt that without Jarvis in the side, we lacked pace and genuine width. Hunt and Kightly, both neat and tidy, seemed to prefer coming inside to get involved with the play. Both delivered telling crosses from set pieces, but neither were able to really test their full-back and carve out an opening.

Some felt Henry had a poor game, but I personally thought he did pretty well. Yes, he was caught in possession once or twice, but his interchange with O’Hara was generally impressive and his driving run forward early in the first half – which ended with Friedel turning his fine solo effort wide of the post – was a firm two fingers up to anyone who suggests he’s a midfielder of limited ability.

O’Hara was also heavily involved against his former club and I think he can feel satisfied enough with his contribution, although he might be disappointed not to have seen more of the ball in and around the penalty area.

When you consider that our midfield two were up against Parker and Modric, I was pleasantly surprised by how well they not only competed, but moved the ball around and asked questions of their illustrious opposition. Maybe 442 can work all season after all?

Up top, Fletcher and Doyle both did their jobs, although neither were able to threaten Friedel’s goal.

I felt Doyle in particular had a great game, holding the ball up, twisting and turning away from defenders and finding simple passes to feet. The only problem was, his best work was often 40 yards away from goal or out wide where he’d drifted out to find space.

It’s so difficult to knock a player of his ability but I’d definitely sacrifice some of the stylish interplay to see more of him inside the box getting on the end of crosses.

At the other end of the pitch, I think the back four and goalkeeper can all take a lot of positives despite shipping two goals.

Hennessey was largely untroubled up until Spurs made the breakthrough, save for one smart first half save, which Stearman completed with a superb goal line clearance.

The Welshman couldn’t be blamed for the goals either, left woefully exposed as both Defoe and Adebayor found ample space inside the box and applied cool finishes on both occasions.

The defence will no doubt be upset to have been undone twice, but overall they should be commended for running a tight ship.

Johnson was imperious in the air and made a handful of superb interceptions. During the first half as we hassled and harried Spurs high up the field – stealing possession in dangerous areas – it was the skipper who played an important role in pinning them back.

Berra was even better for me, going about his business with quiet aplomb and looking assured throughout. He nearly scored too with a towering first half header that was agonisingly cleared off the line, denying the Scot his first Premier League goal.

The full backs both did very little wrong and restricted the dangerous Bale to a bit-part contribution.

Stearman and Ward have found consistency to match their effort, turning in the kind of reliable 7/10 performances you want in those positions; something the likes of Elokobi and Zubar have too often failed to achieve.

All of this combined; the arrival of Johnson, his effect on Berra, the marked-improvement and consistency of the full-backs, has made Wolves a more organised and stable unit. Long may it continue.

Of course, it’s impossible to claim all is well after a disappointing loss.

Indeed, the lack of cutting edge in the final third and the worrying dearth of cover up front have certainly provided some food for thought.

But when you’ve got eleven guys out there giving everything and showing encouraging signs of improvement, it’s tremendously difficult to lambaste them for the odd moment of slackness.

QPR next weekend will act as a far better barometer of what we can expect from this season.

And if we can turn in the kind of performance we did in this match, I don’t think we’ll go too far wrong.

Bring it on.

Wolves Vs Spurs Preview

A two week break from Premier League football might seem like a hard slog, but if you’re a Spurs fan right now it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Having had their first scheduled fixture postponed, they then suffered back-to-back pummelings from Manchester’s United and City, meaning they headed into international fortnight with zero points on the board.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a team that lit up last season’s Champion’s League.

Can this fixture live up to last season's?

But I think we can all accept that their stay inside the bottom three isn’t likely to last very long, given that they boast a squad packed with quality in most areas of the pitch.

And if they were a strong outfit before the transfer deadline, the signings of Parker and Adebayor have only served to reinforce their position as one of the Premiership’s heavyweights.

Wolves, as we know, have made a flying start to the season but this match represents the sternest test of how far the side have come. Questions will be asked, and I’m intrigued to see if Mick and the boys have the answers.

Can we defend as resolutely against one of the best attacking sides in the league?

Can we retain anywhere near as much possession as we did in the last home match against Fulham?

Can we create as much going forward?

Can we retain the same shape against a top side and still be successful?

The Team

If there is going to be a change to the team that drew with Villa last time out, it’s likely to be for Matt Jarvis who is reportedly struggling with an ankle injury. I haven’t heard Mick saying he’s out, so I have to assume he will play. So that would mean the following XI:

Hennessey, Stearman, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Hunt, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher

It goes without saying that I’m keen to see Jarvis start, but should the winger fail to make it, I’ll be intrigued to see what Mick does. Will he go like-for-like and bring in Hammill or Kightly? Will he push Ward up to left midfield and bring Elokobi in at the back? Perhaps he’ll play Hunt on the left and bring Foley in on the right?

Decisions, decisions.

Prediction League

Well done to the 21 people who correctly predicted we’d draw with Villa last time out. Only one pundit went for nil nil though, so a big pat on the back goes to Kowloon Wolf, who gets his season up and running with the maximum 3 points on offer. Bravo my friend.

A mention too for Andrew N, whose 1 point took him clear at the top of the Prediction League after the third round.

As regular readers will know, I have a strong suspicion that we’ll come a cropper in this one.

Spurs scare the life out of me as an attacking force and I feel certain they’ll score a few. The question is, can we cause them similar problems?

I’m going for 3-1 Spurs.

If you’re at Molineux for this one enjoy the match and get behind the lads. We’re back up to four stands so the atmosphere inside the ground should be even better than against Fulham.

Up The Wolves.

Guest house: Tottenham

This week I’m thrilled to welcome my Spurs-supporting work colleague Joe into the Wolves Blog Guest House for a friendly chat ahead of Saturday’s clash at Molineux.

Thomas: Joe, welcome to the plush surroundings of our Guest House. What can I get you to drink?

Joe: I’ll have a bottle of Peroni, cheers.

Thomas: Ah, a man of impeccable taste. Lets get down to business. It’s been a disappointing start for Spurs, with two heavy defeats against the Manchester sides. Were you surprised to lose both of these matches in the manner you did or was it to be expected?

Spurs lost heavily against big spending City

Joe: The result at Old Trafford wasn’t much of a surprise as that’s what we’ve come to expect but the heavy defeat to City was a bit of a shocker. We usually do much better against them but they’re much stronger now so maybe it’s the shape of things to come.

Thomas: Parker and Adebayor were brought in before the transfer window closed, with Crouch, Keane, Hutton, Palacios and Jenas leaving. Are you happy with all of these ins and outs? I’d be pretty happy with the two ‘ins’.

Joe: Definitely happy with the ‘ins’ and won’t miss any of the ‘outs’. But I think we needed to buy more. Another decent striker and a centre back would have been nice.

Thomas: What do you think constitutes success for Spurs? It’s going to be very difficult for you to break into the top four this season, but is that still the primary objective?

Joe: Spurs are in a strange situation at the moment. We broke into the top four at last and I think most of the fans were expecting some serious investment last season to try and cement our place there but it never really happened. We did better than expected in the Champions League but our league form dropped off quite considerably in the second half of the season and we were very disappointing in the domestic cups. So although it was seen as a good season because of the Champions League, it actually felt like we were going backwards.

Now we’re in a position where the top four is a less realistic goal for us than it has been for the last two or three seasons, and the Europa League is seen as an unwanted consolation. So no one’s quite sure what we should be aiming for or what our ambitions are as a club. I’d like to see us have a real crack at the Europa League and also the domestic cups but I expect the league will take priority, even though top four is unlikely. So even though we’re not a top four club, we’ll probably carry on acting like one by putting out weakened teams in the cups. You could say Spurs are a club with an identity crisis at the moment.

Thomas: What are your thoughts on Harry Redknapp? Has he taken the club as far as they can go or is there more to come?

Joe: Redknapp has done a great job but I sense there might be friction behind the scenes at the moment. I’m not sure the chairman is backing him as he’d like, and I’m not sure the chairman has the utmost faith in Redknapp to move the club forward. It’s been a bad start and a few more poor results will heap the pressure on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spurs have a new manager by Christmas. God knows who, though.

Thomas: What did you make of the two games between Spurs and Wolves last season? They were both hotly contested with the game at Molineux a tremendous advert for Premier League football I thought.

Joe: Wolves always give us a good game. They seem to enjoy playing against Spurs. It was difficult to enjoy the game at Molineux at the time because it was so frustrating but it’s one of those you can look back on and fully appreciate.

Thomas: When you think about Wolves as a club, what immediate thoughts enter your head?

Joe: I think of Wolves as a big club with a proud history, but a club that never seems to quite get the success that it should – a bit like Spurs, really.

Fletch scored a late equaliser last season

Thomas: What’s your opinion on our manager?

Joe: I like him. He doesn’t mince his words and comes across well in interviews. And from what I saw of Wolves last season I can see why he’s frustrated that his team doesn’t get more credit for the way they play the game.

Thomas: Were you disappointed to see Jamie O’Hara leave or do you think his time had come to move on? He’s done fantastically well for Wolves and looks every bit a quality Premier League midfielder. Any regrets?

Joe: I’m not surprised he’s done well. He looked full of potential when he was at Spurs but I’m not sure he would have been happy to stay without having a regular place in the side.

Thomas: Which others players in the Wolves team stand out for you?

Joe: Kevin Doyle always seems to work the opposition’s defenders hard for their money.

Thomas: Where do you think Wolves will finish?

Joe: I think they can build on their good start. It’s a long season but a mid-table finish shouldn’t be beyond their grasp.

Thomas: And finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s match? I’ve got a theory that it’s the worst possible time to be playing Spurs and fear a backlash of biblical proportions. I assume you’re expecting victory?

Joe: I think it’s a good time to be playing Spurs because we’ve got a few injuries in key areas. Plus it remains to be see how fully Modric will commit to the cause. I’m also assuming the recent acquisitions will take a while to bed-in. And Wolves’ confidence will be up while ours will be on the floor. I would be happy with a point but I’m expecting defeat. 2-1 to Wolves.

Thomas: Oh that would be lovely. I sincerely hope you’re right. Thanks for your time Joe and good luck for the season…after Saturday.

Wolves 3 Spurs 3

I think they call this type of game ‘a great one for the neutrals’.

And although I thoroughly enjoyed this action packed, topsy-turvy, end-to-end Super Sunday, I am in no way a neutral.

Remember me?

So predictably, I’m somewhat peeved that Alan Hutton wasn’t sent off for deliberately hauling down Nenad Milijas just prior to half time. And I’m incensed that the same player got away with an obvious handball in the second half that should have resulted in a second penalty. And I’m furious that Richard Stearman’s goal was chalked off despite the fact that he appeared to head the ball over the line without making contact with the goalkeeper.

Just as well then that Steven Fletcher rescued a much-deserved point, to avoid what would have been the biggest injustice of the afternoon – Wolves finishing with nothing.

Still, that scenario seemed the most likely heading into the last ten minutes with Spurs 3-2 to the good and looking a decent bet to kill the game off on the break.

Roman Pavlyuchenko had put them in control, thundering home a superb effort from the edge of the box after Wolves twice gifted Tottenham possession minutes into the second half.

That was after an exhilarating first 45 that saw both sides squander the lead to see momentum swing agonisingly back and forth throughout.

First, Kevin Doyle nodded in the opener, connecting with a pinpoint cross from Nenad Milijas to put Wolves ahead. It was the least we deserved for a sustained spell of pressure.

Jermain Defoe then turned the game on it’s head with two strikes right out of the top drawer. They were his first goals in the Premiership this season, a statistic I had to double check to believe it was true. Still, with Wolves defenders backing off, he was twice given an open invitation to pick his spot and did so in style.

But then the flash point. Milijas ghosts in to get on the end of a wayward cross. Alan Hutton wrestles him to the ground. Penalty. Milijas was 8 yards out and in the middle of goal. Surely that constitutes a clear goalscoring opportunity? Surely it’s a red card? Yellow says the ref. What?!

Ridiculous.

It’s either not a foul and not a penalty or a foul, a penalty and a red card. There is no other logical decision.

Thankfully Kevin Doyle converted the spot-kick to draw us level, ensuring that justice was at least partially served.

But with 11-man Spurs regaining the lead immediately after the interval, you couldn’t help but feel we’d been on the receiving end of some untimely bad luck.

That feeling continued as Wolves went searching for the equaliser. First, Nenad Milijas saw his long range effort tipped onto the post by Gomes. The same player then blasted over after getting on the end of an inviting cross into the box.

Then Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, on for the ineffectual Stephen Ward, skewed miserably over from an excellent cutback from Jarvis. Not our day you sensed.

At the other end, Defoe was denied his hat-trick by the post and the imperious Gareth Bale shot wide after slaloming into a wonderful position to kill the game off.

Something had to give and fortunately for Wolves, that something was a looping last minute header from Steven Fletcher to drag the home side level.

Spoils shared.

A fair result.

Overall, I thought Wolves were excellent. Jarvis, Henry and Elokobi really stood out for me, but the likes of Milijas, Doyle and Hammill also contributed significantly.

The mind boggles at why Mick persists in using Ward to fill each and every gap in the side. I actually felt sorry for the bloke today, as he looked lost at sea in a position that quite obviously he had no clue about.

Thankfully, when the cavalry arrived in the form of Fletcher and SEB, we had the necessary firepower to turn the screw on a shaky Spurs rearguard. Perhaps one of those players should have started?

But on a day when many questions remain unanswered, it’s probably best to walk away happy that Wolves were able to extend their unbeaten run to 3 games.

It’s all still to play for.

Plenty for the neutrals to savour. Plenty for the rest of us to suffer.