West Ham Utd 1 Wolves 0

If you’re still thinking about the defeat at Upton Park, you’re in the minority.

Edwards West Ham

Even without the news Benik Afobe was heading for the exit, this was a tedious cup tie of few chances that won’t hang about long in the old grey matter.

Unless you’re Bjorn Sigurdarson of course, who suffered what looks like a serious re-occurance of the troublesome back injury that’s kept him sidelined for months.

That must be considered a serious blow to our immediate fortunes, given that our talisman is off to Bournemouth and Adam Le Fondre hasn’t looked up to leading the line all season.

On a more positive note, Michal Zyro impressed on his debut and with Kenny Jackett stating he can play in any of the forward positions, he’s certain to be consistently involved.

With injuries and outgoing transfers, yesterday’s squad was bolstered by the return of a few forgotten faces.

Along with the unfortunate Sigurdarson, Rajiv van La Parra was also thrown straight back into the action and George Saville made an appearance on the bench.

With Afobe’s exit imminent and Jed Wallace loaned out to Millwall, it seems likely those loaned out players will get a chance to play themselves back into contention.

But there will surely be fresh blood added and a level of re-investment through January to support the head coach for the remainder of the season?

Many are rightly skeptical that sizable sums will be spent, but with the spectre of early bird sales on the horizon, the club know they need to galvanise the support.

That must count for something.

If nothing else, yesterday’s performance was another strong rearguard action with the team defending manfully throughout and restricting a Premier League side to limited opportunities.

That solid platform will continue to serve us well, but I don’t think anyone believes we have adequate artillery to be consistently successful.

An experienced head at the back to further improve our defensive options and and preferably two good forwards must be added.

Anything less and this will be another transfer window the fans most certainly won’t forget.

West Ham Utd Vs Wolves Preview

There was an interesting stat doing the rounds this week.

West Ham celebrate2

Based solely on away form, Wolves would be 4th in the Championship table this season (and 20th based on home form).

Looking at the makeup of our team, that kind of makes sense.

Whereas last term we were more swashbuckling going forward and able to open teams up at Molineux, this season we’ve been more effective playing on the break.

This was again the case at Brighton where we were forced to endure long spells of pressure, but counterattacked effectively, particularly in the first half.

I suspect the lads will be doing their share of defending tomorrow and it’s a good test against a strong West Ham outfit.

West Ham

West_Ham_United_FC.svgSlavan Bilic may ring the changes, but he’s limited by their lengthy injury list. Moses, Sakho and the impressive Lanzini are all on the sidelines.

But Dimitri Payet is back and he’s been an integral part of their impressive season to date.

Andy Carroll is also enjoying a run of games and he’ll be a handful for our burgeoning centre half partnership.

They’re a difficult team to beat these days because they have both physical power and technical ability.

They’ve won their last two Premier League matches and are unbeaten in seven, which has seen them rise sixth.

It’s been a great start for Bilic and they look ideally positioned for a decent cup run if they can avoid banana skins.

Wolves

There’s a midweek Championship game hot on the heels of tomorrow, but I don’t think Kenny will ring the changes.

Wolves team for West Ham

Jordan Graham is rated as 50/50 and it’ll be a shame if he doesn’t get the chance to test himself against a good Premier League side.

But if he doesn’t make it, perhaps Michal Zyro will get an immediate start? I’m looking forward to seeing if he can add something different to our attacking threat.

The team will have to be compact defensively as they have been in recent times, but West Ham will have better quality and more importantly a variety of ways to hurt us.

The gaffer

Predictions

We’re well overdue a cup run and to do that you normally have to cause a couple of upsets, so this would be a decent start.

But it’s tough to expect anything other than a defeat if you’re examining the evidence logically.

I just hope the players give a good account of themselves to keep confidence in the camp high ahead of some winnable home fixtures in the league.

I think we’ll get skittled tomorrow but I’ll back us to get on the scoresheet.

3-1

Up The Wolves!

West Ham 2 Wolves 0

If Mick McCarthy’s New Year’s resolution was to instil a ruthless streak in place of a familar hard luck story, then he might be pretty irritable right now.

The chances are however, that despite our eighth defeat in 10 games, he’ll be reflecting on the positives after West Ham eventually brushed us aside 2-0.

West Ham moved up to 15th with victory

Hopefully, Mick’s other resolution is a couple of new signings as soon as is humanly possible, because however plucky our performance and however uplifting our win at Anfield, eight defeats in 10 away games is simply not good enough.

While we don’t appear a side consigned to our fate with displays like this, we equally don’t look a team capable of grabbing our season by the scruff of the neck.

A defeat at West Ham, featuring a man-of-the-match for Rob Green, could be interpreted as another sign of regression, seeing as we won there so comfortably in 2010.

Even the most ardent of optimists can’t deny that it underlines a complete incapability of stringing two results together. Again.

Is it bad luck? Or is it an indicator that every scant victory we’ve mustered takes too much out of our admirable players.

Does an Anfield performance sap too much speed from thought when we’re operating at our absolute optimum?

How else do you explain a defensive aberration for West Ham’s opener, and Zubar’s subsequent brainwave for the own goal?

If we were able to win by playing within ourselves once in a while, then there’d surely be far fewer bland platitudes following so many courageous defeats?

This result might be as equally damaging as our Liverpool win was encouraging.

It shows we again can’t string back to back results together, even when pitted against the worst team in the league with two measly home wins to their name.

It shows we are literally incapable of fighting back from a goal down away from home – Everton aside.

More worryingly, it bears all the hallmarks of a doomed side, who can count on a shock 1-0 win as exception to this season’s rule, instead of a springboard on which to build.

We were competitive, first to many balls and apart from a late rally in the first half, by far the better team.

But in typical Wolves style, we gave away a stupid opener when we peppered Rob Green with a great start to the second half.

After that, we didn’t muster a shot on target in anger, with an Ebanks-Blake header against the bar our only meaningful retort.

As Mick said after our defeat to Wigan: “We aren’t good enough or experienced enough to be able to fight back from the early setbacks we suffered.”

Well if that’s the case, what chance have we got with a cock-up halfway through the second half?

It might be a New Year, but within 17 hours of it beginning, it feels horribly like 2010 again already.

West Ham Vs Wolves Preview

There’s very little time to savour a famous victory at Anfield as Wolves head to Upton Park tomorrow for another monumentally important clash with fellow strugglers West Ham.

Having registered their first win and their first cleansheet away from Molineux, confidence should be high, so hopefully Mick and the boys can pull off another big result and perhaps even escape the bottom three in the process.

Wolves won convincingly last season

A visit to the Boleyn Ground always represents a tricky proposition, but the Hammers home record this season is far from intimidating. Of their 10 games to date, they’ve won just 2, drawn 4 and lost the same amount.

Of course, Wolves away record is even worse, despite picking up the maximum at Liverpool, so Avram Grant will rightly be looking at this fixture as an excellent opportunity to secure a much-needed win in front of an expectant home crowd.

You would imagine Mick will pick the same eleven that started on Wedneday night, but with three fixtures in a week, might he be tempted into one or two changes? Probably not unless neccessary, so my predicted line-up is:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Stearman
Elokobi

Hunt
Milijas
Foley
Jarvis

Ward

SEB

There are options at Mick’s disposal, should he feel the need to freshen things up. Ward came off with a dead leg on Wednesday so maybe that could open the door for Fletcher? Edwards and Jones both represent decent options in midfield, but I can’t see who he’d drop. The back four will surely remain intact after a strong showing last time out.

Prediction League

Well done to Super Kev Doyle for boldly predicting a 1-0 win against Liverpool. He picks up an unlikely three points and moves to within touching distance of the top of the Prediction League table. That has to be right up there for the award of ‘Best Prediction of 2010’. Anyone else feel they deserve this accolade?

Ben also nicked a point with a cheeky 3-1 forecast, so congratulations to my esteemed colleague, although I can’t help but feel he was far from sincere when plumping for victory.

This is a tough match to predict. I’ve certainly got renewed confidence in the side after Wednesday but it would just be so typical of our season to date if we got stuffed.

My heart says Wolves win, my head says West Ham win so I’ll sit on the fence and say draw.

2-2.

If you’re going to Upton Park, have a great time and roar the lads home. A repeat of last season’s win will do just nicely.

Up The Wolves.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wolves 1 West Ham 1

Whilst we’ve finally managed to stop the rot of four games without a point, the shared spoils from this game leave Mick McCarthy and the rest of us with plenty more questions than answers going in to a torrid series of fixtures.

Two games against United, with a sprinkling of Arsenal, Chelsea and City to boot are enough to put you off your pint of Mild at the best of times, let alone after the abject second 45 minutes at Molineux today.

Wolves bossed the first half and were deservedly ahead

I don’t use that word lightly.

In the first half, at times, it was a thrill to see Fletcher, Doyle, Jarvis and Jones combine at pace, with movement and guile. It was reassuring to see Richard Stearman offer some pace at the back when he was called upon to replace the injured Jody Craddock at centre back early on. And it was satisfying to see almost any attempt from West Ham to get going after the first ten minutes fizzle out in to thin air, as we neatly kept shape and composure.

We worked our way in to some fantastic positions, turning the Hammers on their heels continually; and when the play did break down, we hassled and harried as a unit to get the ball back and start again.

So having gone one-nil up, with Jarvis volleying accurately in to goal when the ball dropped to him in the area, and having demonstrated such purpose, it was simply disappointing to see us surrender after the break.

Until TV cameras get allowed in to changing rooms, we’ll never have a true picture of what goes on in them at half time. But going on today’s evidence, there were a couple of pots of camomile tea awaiting the home team, with a 70’s Open University maths lecture on a TV in the corner and Mick giving a small talk about his favourite Barnsley brass bands.

In the second, we frustratingly lined up more conservatively – Fletcher looked deeper and adrift from Doyle – and, sensing blood, Parker, Boa Morte, Noble, Piquionne and Obinna exerted themselves as we looked utterly tired, rudderless and lethargic.

The calls around Molineux were, somewhat ironically given recent times, for a tackle – but there was little response offered. Foley was hard done by for the penalty when it came, but our heads dropped further after Noble buried it and the faithful saw little to encourage them to get behind the team.

The truth is that we lost the second half in midfield – Jones and Mancienne in particular didn’t seem capable of recouping things. McCarthy disappointingly withdrew Fletcher for Van Damme, supposedly to get a grip on things but his presence simply removed any remaining balance we had and underlined a lack of authority that was needed from the bench at that point.

Thrown on with barely five minutes to go, you had to feel for SEB when his boss caved in to the pressure from the South Bank for the number 9’s presence. What on earth was he meant to do, with the rest of his team looking so void of energy?

Ending on a positive note though – Jarvis was again the pick of the Wolves players. Crafty and gutsy throughout, we can only hope he inspires some more belief in his team mates. They are, on the first half’s form, undoubtedly capable of weathering the oncoming storm – but on the second half’s, only in fits and starts.

Wolves Vs West Ham Preview

After what seems a lifetime (but was actually just two very long weeks) Wolves welcome West Ham to Molineux for an early season six-pointer. The two sides currently occupy 19th and 20th place in the Premier League table respectively so both will be keen to give themselves a much needed boost.

David Jones - set for a recall?

Despite being bottom, the Hammers are undefeated in their last four games (including a League Cup win over Sunderland) and having endured a tricky run of fixtures to date, they’ll be determined to push-on with a positive result on Saturday.

Summer signings Frédéric Piquionne and Victor Obinha seem to be coming good for Avram Grant’s side and their pace is sure to cause the Wolves defence problems. A more familiar threat comes in the shape of Scott Parker, who seems to only get better with age. Whoever is given the job of anchoring our midfield must ensure Parker’s influence is minimal or it could be a long afternoon for everyone in old gold.

Wolves can certainly take heart from West Ham’s woeful away record, the Hammers having not won away in the Premiership since that opening day victory at Molineux over a year ago. They’ll be looking to arrest that torrid run and will see this fixture as an excellent opportunity to do just that.

Mick McCarthy’s team selection will once again come under fierce scrutiny and with a number of key players out, his options are heavily restricted. Karl Henry serves the first of his three match ban, so David Jones and Nenad Milijas are both in contention for a recall to the starting eleven. Kevin Doyle limped out of Ireland’s defeat to Russia and if he fails to prove his fitness, SEB is waiting in the wings to take his place.

It’s a difficult task predicting the starting lineup this weekend, but my best guess is:

Hahnemann

Foley
Craddock
Berra
Ward

Jarvis
Mancienne
Jones
van Damme

Fletcher
SEB

The logic is that Mick will revert to the side that overcame Stoke on the opening day of the season, with Mancienne for Henry the only change from that eleven. I have a sneaky suspicion Doyle won’t make it (nothing has been said as I write this) so SEB will hopefully be granted the opportunity he deserves to get back amongst the goals. Stephen Hunt should also be in contention but I expect he’ll be named amongst the substitutes as he continues his return from injury.

Prediction League

Only Stourbridge Wolf picked up the maximum last time out correctly predicting a 2-0 defeat at Wigan, but Jed, Dazza in Brisbane, Mark Davies and Lawro all said we’d lose so it’s a point a piece for all of those clever chaps.

You’ll all be glad to know that I remain on top of the overall table (it never gets old saying that).

This weekend, I’m going for a 1-1 draw but hoping the footballing gods smile down and bless us with a victory to lift the dark cloud hanging overhead. It’s been a miserable month.

As always, if you want to join in with the Prediction League, simply leave your prediction for each game in the comment section of the official preview (such as this one).

If you’re going to Molineux this weekend, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.