Walsall 0 Wolves 3

When you dispatch a local rival with an inferiority complex bigger than their entire ground with such ease, you know you’re having a good season.

Wolves Walsall

When you then send a text and a ‘3-0’ scoreline is predicted after you’ve typed the word ‘Wolves’, then you know it’s a positively brilliant one.

As Danny Batth jigged along to his signature song and Jack Price kissed his badge at full time, the realisation dawned that only injury, suspension or something bloody stupid can stop us returning to the Championship.

A record equaling eighth successive win and sixth straight clean sheet made for an ultimately stress-free experience, like so many pre-season afternoons at the Banks’ when we indulge Walsall in a friendly.

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‘We’ll never play you again’ sang the 3,400 Wolves fans (amongst other terrace chants), most of them with the purpose of ‘pecking order’ in mind.

Walsall – or ‘West Brom Fans’ Second XI’ judging by the mysteriously high attendance – know their place and will point to the amazing job that their Ginger Mourinho continues to do.

Judging by large sections of the game, Dean Smith deserves such plaudits, as there was little to separate the sides on a bobbly pitch amid a spiky atmosphere.

Indeed, this eventual 3-0 triumph was quite unlike our others of late, as we showed our top-of-the-league credentials in brief snapshots of decisiveness rather than sustained periods of dominance.

Take the opening goal, during a scrappy first half:

Jacobs – Henry – Dicko – GOAL!

Then see the killer second goal just minutes into the second period:

McDonald – Golbourne – Henry – Dicko – GOAL!

Those two strikes, in what must have been about 20 cumulative seconds, effectively won us the game.

And as if to underline the point, Sako smashed a free-kick into the top corner to completely kill off the contest, just when the ‘2-0 is a dangerous scoreline’ adage was creeping into our minds.

You could see what Dean Smith was thinking on the touchline, who will continue to gain plaudits for his humble demeanour, virtuous football ethic and general common sense outlook, no doubt.

Kenny Jackett on the otherhand – who has created fresh air amid poison, ingenuity for deadwood, wage cuts over profligacy and harmony over a near war – will probably be told all this was part of the script.

Walsall Vs Wolves Preview

Seven places separate Wolves and Walsall in the League One table.

Walsall Wolves

But those positions represent a gap of 23 points, with the Saddlers also having played two more games.

If you’d said to me back in September, after Walsall had come to Molineux and earned a deserved victory that we’d be that far ahead of our West Midlands neighbours at this stage of the season, I would scarcely have believed you.

But that’s how this game is now poised. Wolves need to continue the winning run to cement their place at the top of the table and the Saddlers need a big result to reignite a season that’s threatening to peter out completely.

Walsall

Walsall logoHome form has been an issue for Dean Smith’s side. Out of all the teams in the top half they have the fewest home wins (six), the most home defeats (six) and have scored the lowest number of goals (17).

Having seem them play a few times this season that sort of makes sense because they always appear to me to be a team setup to play on the break.

Their form has badly deteriorated of late and they’re without a win in their last six league matches, having lost all of the last three.

A play-off place now looks a tough ask with the top five fairly consistent in terms of their results and Peterborough five points ahead in sixth place, having played a game less.

Another blow was the sending off of Sam Mantom against Preston last weekend, which means he missed this game. Craig Westcarr remains their most likely scorer. He has 12 goals so far.

Wolves

I’m sure Kenny Jackett will want to make as few changes as possible to the side that’s now delivered seven league wins in a row and five cleansheets on the bounce.

Wolves team for Walsall

It appears everyone has survived international week, which is another bonus ahead of a marathon run of games throughout March.

Leon Clarke should bolster the squad tomorrow after his return from injury. I’d be surprised if he was handed a start but I’d expect to see him introduced from the bench at some point.

For a long time in last weekend’s win over Port Vale it looked like Nouha Dicko was going to be muscled out by their defenders, but he kept at it and eventually got his rewards.

Away from home, when games get stretched he could very well end up being the difference with his sharp turn of pace. Hoping for another goal from him tomorrow.

The odds

Wolves are favourites to win this derby at 11/10. Walsall are 11/4 and the draw is 13/5.

If you fancy Wolves to make it a third consecutive 3-0, you can get odds of 16/1. Odds of 7/1 on Craig Westcarr for first goalscorer also look decent as an insurance bet.

All odds can be found here.

The gaffer

Predictions

I think everybody predicted a win against Port Vale. 73 people got it right either way. 21 also said 3-0 to double up. Aren’t we an optimistic bunch these days?

Without wanting to sound arrogant, I think if Wolves turn up and play the way they have been, they win this game. Both teams like to get the ball down and play, but Wolves have the better players.

I just hope we’re able to go there and show them that we’ve come on a lot since last we met and really enforce our game on them.

I’m feeling confident.

3-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Walsall 1

It’s difficult knowing what’s more galling about a defeat at home to a vastly superior Walsall side at Molineux.

Wolves Walsall home

1. The fact it’s been on the cards for the last two home games

2. It owes much to unfathomable tinkering with a winning team

3. It featured an infuriating inability to keep hold of the football

For those fans trumpeting the importance of results over performances, perhaps this one will serve as one big wake-up call, because a woeful inability to retain possession like this simply isn’t sustainable.

After Swindon served up their sobering masterclass on Saturday – not to mention the Crawley Town Friday fright a fortnight before – lessons should have been learned.

Instead, our only goal threat is inexplicably dropped, our lynchpin midfielder is prematurely substituted and the Stearman / Batth partnership that had looked so assured was again consigned to the dustbin for reasons unknown.

The net result is awkward on the eye, as we yet again squander possession to a team that clearly values it way more.

But should we all be panicking?

One of the most pathetic, hapless squads in the last 30 years has been shorn of 20 players to date, to be replaced by just three in Ricketts, McDonald and Golbourne.

With kids notoriously taking time to bed down, results like this against a side without a pot to piddle in should not be entirely surprising, however unpalatable it feels to admit it.

Wolves Walsall

Walsall’s dextrous young outfit were quicker in thought and touch than our entire team and it makes you wonder what will become of the Ginger Mourinho’s men come the end of the season if we’re supposed to be the promotion challengers?

Our previously resolute defence under Stearman’s stewardship looks decidedly ropey these days, while the erratic Sako is stinking the place out like a sack of excrement.

The chasm between midfield and attack is huge and even at 0-1, there was no guile, flair or apparent inclination to grasp the game by the scruff of the neck.

With no meaningful incomings during the transfer window to supplement this wafer thin squad, things are what they are.

But with the same Port Vale starting line-up still available to our manager, they shouldn’t be what they were tonight.

Wolves Vs Walsall Preview

The statistics tell us that Molineux has become a League One fortress.

Wolves Walsall JPT

But a 100% home record has certainly covered the cracks of two flimsy performances.

Since battering Gillingham, Wolves have twice played second fiddle on their own patch, conjuring results they’ve scarcely deserved. It can’t continue.

Midfield is the problem.

They let Crawley and Swindon hassle them into surrendering possession cheaply. And when the opposition had the ball, they didn’t do enough to disrupt their rhythm.

If they don’t want their pants pulled down by Walsall tomorrow night, at least one of these issues must be resolved.

Walsall

Victory in the JPT over our neighbours was another close call. After being dominated in the early exchanges they eventually clawed us back and began causing problems.

They’ll be well up for this. Little will be expected from them and they know the pressure is on Wolves to come out win the game.

Aside from a 3-0 home defeat to Preston, the Saddlers have enjoyed a solid start. Having dispatched Crewe at the weekend by the same scoreline, they arrive at Molineux in good shape. A win could take them back into the top six breathing right down our necks.

Craig Westcarr scored twice at the weekend and if Walsall create as many chances as Swindon did, an in form striker might well be the difference. Ashely Hemming is another to watch. He scored in the JPT defeat and will be keen to heap more misery on his former employers.

Wolves

I thought Kenny Jackett got both the team selection and shape of the side wrong on Saturday. You might point to the result, but anyone who watched the game will know we were too open without the ball and too disjointed on it. Therefore this is the team I hope he plays tomorrow:

Wolves Walsall lineup

There seems to be an acceptance that Davis must play because he’s the only holding player we have on the books. I disagree. Based on Saturday and the Crawley game, I didn’t see enough blocking or tackles to justify this argument. Additionally, his distribution was appalling and he didn’t cover nearly enough ground.

I’d shift Evans into the middle, ask him to sit deeper and just look after the ball. Take Davis out the firing line for a game. Evans was wasted down the right against Swindon. Ismail was lightweight when he came on, but his presence at least helps us get on the front foot.

If Kenny wants to further freshen things up, he might also consider giving Siggy a game at the expense of Doyle or Griffiths. But I’d probably maintain the status quo. I thought their link up play for Doyle’s goal was impressive and Griffiths is always a threat, even when he’s squandering chances like he did at the weekend.

The odds

Wolves are favourites to win again at 4/6. A Walsall victory is a generous 4/1, while the draw is also good value at 14/5.

If you back Wolves to be winning at half time, but the game to eventually end in a draw you can get 14/1 odds, which seems a good bet based on how recent home performances have played out.

No surprise Leigh Griffiths is favourite to open the scoring at 10/3. Craig Westcarr is 8/1 to continue his recent good form.

All odds are available from here.

Predictions

The combination of optimism and sweet, sweet victory continues to provide an avalanche of PL points.

81 people thought we’d beat Swindon at the weekend and 9 of them got the 3-2 scoreline spot on to double up.

Hats off to Chris in Dublin, Hamlet, sleachy, SG Wolf, DealWolf, Wight Wolf, PeakWolf, Erick1011 and SOIAW.

We’re into serious heart versus head territory now.

Logically Wolves can’t keep winning and if they’re going to come a cropper, a local derby against in-form rivals seems as good an opportunity as any to slip up.

However, I think we’re due a better home performance than we’ve seen of late and I think we’ll score more than once.

So, I’ll go for a hopeful 2-1.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 2 Walsall 2 (Wolves win 4-2 on penalties)

Being proven wrong twice within 24 hours has never felt so good.

Bakary Sako Wolves Walsall

Progressing in the JPT and keeping Bakary Sako at the club were positive developments I didn’t expect.

Sako would leave, that much was certain (to me at least), not just on Monday, but throughout the summer months.

I was also harboring secret fears of an upset last night at the hands of our near neighbours, despite being strong favourites.

I needn’t have worried.

First the board and then our young team found the resolve to continue healing the scars and extend the feel good factor beyond the international break.

And just how good do things feel right now?

The squad we have at our disposal has the requisite quality to continue a promotion charge and supporter/club relations haven’t been this positive since the early years of McCarthy.

But the one thing Kenny Jackett will have to battle that Mick didn’t in his debut season is expectation.

Unlike the class of 2006 who, against the odds, made that exciting journey to the Championship play-offs, a top six finish will be considered the minimum requirement this time. Even the play-offs might be viewed as failure by some.

And based on what we’ve seen so far, perhaps it should be.

Last night demonstrated Wolves can compete with opposition of League One caliber without many of their best players even turning up.

Winning without the experience of Ricketts and Doyle or the vision and goals of Evans and Griffiths shows the sort of depth other teams at this level can only dream of.

Walsall got the draw in over 90 minutes of course, a fact that shouldn’t be overlooked, but that owed as much to sloppy finishing and slack defending on our part as much as anything else.

Save for a few short spells, the Saddlers rarely threatened our goal, yet somehow still managed to register twice.

When they return to Molineux in two weeks, I hope Wolves aren’t as charitable.