Wolves 0 Wigan Athletic 1

Anyone reading the programme notes of Kevin Thelwell and Danny Batth who didn’t know better would think Wolves are a club riding an upward trajectory towards the upper echelons of the Championship.

According to Thelwell, ‘there is a feeling that everything is coming together and that there are promising and exciting times ahead’.

Batth, on the other hand, believes that Saturday’s defeat to Newcastle showed that ‘there was very little between us and them’ and that ‘we all came away from the game thinking that we are not too far away from where we want to be’.

I pride myself on being a positive thinker but the posturing of our Sporting Director and Captain, regardless of tonight’s result, is delusional.

Wolves are 18th in the table on merit and are in real danger of sinking further if they don’t learn to raise their game against opposition of Wigan’s ilk.

No disrespect to the Latics, but they were begging to be beaten tonight.

From the get go it was clear to see why Warren Joyce’s men have been entrenched in the bottom three for much of the season and yet we rarely pressured them.

In a similar vein to our showing at Burton Albion, our default tactic was to either hit long balls to an isolated frontman or play sidewards passes within our own half.

All too easy for the opposition, with only teenagers Bright Enobakhare and Connor Ronan attempting to drive play forward.

As the game dragged on, you could sense the familiar feeling of impending doom engulfing the terraces. We all knew what was coming.

And yet when Jake Buxton bundled in the winner late on, you can’t help but be apoplectic. How can a team self implode with such regularity?

The reality is that these sort of games simply expose the truth that Thelwell, Batth and co. are seemingly in denial of – we’re just not that good.

Morgan and Moxey’s reign of frugality left us with a spirited but ultimately limited and unexperienced squad that staved off relegation only by retaining togetherness and through the unpopular but ultimately effective tactical manoeuvrings of Kenny Jackett.

Rather than improve that group in the summer, Fosun empowered them by commissioning an agent led recruitment drive that saw us add an eclectic mix of nobodies of which only two – Bodvarsson and Costa – have thus far proved to be of any use.

What we’re seeing now is the results of such lax mismanagement – a team that is worse than the one that cantered to the League One title three seasons ago and indeed in real risk of taking us back there come the season’s end.

To perform with such brazen indifference tonight was an insult to the opposition and the fans, many of whom abandoned their better halves on Valentine’s night to endure proceedings.

If this season’s not to end in disaster, it simply cannot happen again.

Wolves Vs Wigan Athletic Preview

Please don’t lose this one Wolves.

After such a positive start to the year, getting reeled in by the bottom three would put us on a right downer heading into the Chelsea game.

As stated in the match report, I felt the team were unlucky and toothless against Newcastle in almost equal parts. We can’t afford to be either tomorrow.

Let’s approach it with a positive attitude, play on the front foot from the start and get a useful result to push us up towards midtable.

I think that would also be a useful confidence boost before playing the best team in the country at the weekend.

Wigan

It was late heartbreak at Craven Cottage on Saturday for the Latics as Fulham turned the game around to secure a 94th minute 3-2 victory. What is it about Fulham?

That leaves Warren Joyce’s team five points off safety, albeit having played a game less than Burton in 21st. Not insurmountable by any stretch, but they’ll want to get a few more points on the board soon.

They’ve lost six of their last ten and won only twice, which is relegation form in itself so hardly a glowing endorsement for the manager who took over from Gary Caldwell in October.

I thought Caldwell might have been given a bit more time having got them out of League One at the first attempt, but I suppose that’s the nature of the Championship?

Scoring goals has been their major problem all season. They might have Will Grigg but even with him burning a path, they’re still the joint lowest scorers in the league with just 28 goals.

Wolves

I really feel Bodvarsson should be starting up front. Nouha Dicko looks shot of confidence and while the big Icelander hasn’t scored for yonks, he seems more likely to find the net sometime this year.

While we’re at it, I think Hause is unfortunate to be out of the team after some big performances at Stoke, Liverpool and Barnsley. Evans will likely get the nod with Jack Price ruled out.

I’m torn about whether Connor Ronan should start down the left. He’s a big talent but this is an important game that we need to win, so perhaps the experience of Weimann would be wiser, even though he was off colour at the weekend.

Ben Marshall is another contender but Paul Lambert has suggested he’s short of fitness so hard to know if he’d be considered ready yet.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

As part of my ‘be positive’ mantra, I’ll back us to get it done.

No doubt Michael Jacobs will score or their goal-shy forward line will ping one in from thirty yards, but hopefully we can overcome those kind of setbacks to win.

I suspect this might finally be the night for at least one of our forwards to shine.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wigan Athletic 2 Wolves 1

As bad days at the office go, Sam Allardyce’s Tuesday will take some beating.

But losing his best player and losing in the last minute to the league’s bottom club wasn’t the plan Walter Zenga had contemplated over his morning espresso.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was ruled out with a minor groin injury and after that was announced an hour before kick off, you sensed a kick in that area for the rest of us was forthcoming.

That suspicion was confirmed minutes in when we were behind to the inevitable Adam Le Fondre goal.

So predictable that one of the former Wolves quartet would score it was almost a relief to get it out of the way early.

And once Prince Oniangue had brought us level with a smart finish from a Cavaleiro cut-back, hopes of an away victory soared.

But that period immediately before the break was to prove Wolves’ purple patch in a game that Wigan would ultimately wrestle away.

Their late winner wasn’t against the run of play but truly awful all the same, with a punt down the middle of the pitch causing the type of chaos you’d expect in an under 7s game as Batth and Iorfa floundered and Will Grigg profited.

Questions will inevitably be asked about Zenga’s substitutions as none were able to make meaningful impact or even help see out the contest for a not unpalatable point.

Paul Gladon in particular is labouring and the fact he was left out in the first place despite being the obvious replacement for Bodvarsson won’t have done much for his confidence.

Playing with Cavaleiro through the middle was an experiment worth trying, but suffice to say he was never going to offer the type of selfless hold-up play that Bodvarsson has perfected in recent months.

Whether the big Icelander makes it back on Saturday or not, it’s clear that Wolves must develop a Plan B if they’re to be considered credible contenders at the higher end of the table.

Otherwise more bad days at the office seem inevitable.

Wigan Athletic Vs Wolves Preview

10 games is normally a good marker to determine what might be on the table for the remainder of the season.

 

With that in mind, it would be lovely to win this one and almost certainly return to the top six.

After Burton and Barnsley you were left wondering how bad it could get by the end of September.

Thankfully, recent developments have us looking up instead of down.

Wigan

1024px-Wigan_Athletic.svgIt’s difficult to imagine a worse start for the Latics, who find themselves bottom of the table after losing at Preston last Friday.

That’s a bit of surprise. I thought the reigning League One champions might carry over that momentum into this season, but it’s just one win in nine for Gary Caldwell’s men.

Wigan are awash with former Wolves players and all could conceivably feature tonight, which given our recent record against former players suggests an uncomfortable evening for the away side.

I was crushed when Michael Jacobs was sold and it was no surprise to see him tearing up League One again last season. Question marks remain over his ability to do it in the Championship, but he’ll be up for this one I’m sure.

Adam Le Fondre and Nathan Byrne were both disappointing in a gold shirt, but the latter certainly didn’t get much opportunity to impress.

Craig Davies was one of those early signings in the Mick McCarthy era who was short on quality but his electric pace was useful in an enjoyable start to the 2006 season.

Wolves

This is another test of Walter Zenga’s rotation policy. With this game hot on the heels of Saturday, changes do feel inevitable. Obviously, I’d pick the same eleven.

team-for-brentford

I can see Coady, Mason and Cavaleiro (the subs who made it on from the Brentford game) heading the queue for a start. All three could play.

Ola John and Silvio both impressed against Newcastle in the cup but were banished from the squad completely on Saturday. I’d like to see them feature again at some point soon.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

I don’t think Wigan are as bad as the table suggests. Looking at their goal difference (-3) it doesn’t seem like they’re being totally outplayed, rather just edged out in close matches.

Added to that our goal suddenly becomes a magnet for former players and I wouldn’t bet against the likes of Jacobs or Byrne netting tonight.

But overall, we should beat Wigan and I think we’ll just about get it done, assuming it’s not a completely different eleven and team retains some level of cohesion.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

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Wigan Athletic 0 Wolves 1

Whatever transpires next weekend, Wolves can feel proud they went the distance.

Afobe Wigan

It’s only a slim chance, but it’s still a chance if they can overcome Millwall and rely on an unlikely sequence of events elsewhere.

Sadly, good fortune has been in short supply this term.

Kenny Jackett reiterated his side will be unlucky if they hit the 78 point mark and fail to land a play-off position and the record books confirm that assessment.

I went back 20 years and can’t find a single instance of any team amassing such a high total and not making the top six.

Even the 75 points already on the board would more often than not be enough to extend the season, putting Wolves’ efforts to date into clearer context.

Grinding out this narrow win over a team with nothing to lose speaks volumes about the character of the team Jackett has assembled.

And his most valuable acquisition yet looks like being the most recent – Benik Afobe.

The striker’s 32nd goal of the season made sure his side carried the fight to the final day. Without his January arrival, they’d have been written off weeks ago.

At the other end of the pitch it was Richard Stearman’s experience and commitment to the cause that helped ensure one goal was enough.

Regardless of the club’s divisional status, his presence will be crucial again next season in helping advance the development of Iorfa, Hause and Ebanks-Landell.

All three got on the pitch yesterday and another cleansheet is testament to their huge potential.

So onto Molineux we go for that all too familiar final day feeling of being one agonising step behind.

Chances are we’ll leave disappointed again but perhaps with a sense that there are better times ahead.

Highlights

Wigan Athletic Vs Wolves Preview

You could be forgiven for thinking the season ended last weekend.

Wolves Wigan

Post Ipswich, most of the talk has been about planning for next year and coming back stronger.

I hope that hasn’t transferred to the players.  Yes, Wolves are now an outside bet, but they’re still a bet.

As we saw last weekend with Derby and Brentford’s results against bottom half opposition, nothing can be taken for granted.

Forest and Blackburn won’t roll over for Ipswich, so it’s vital that Wolves do their bit and win both of their matches.

Wigan

1024px-Wigan_Athletic.svgThe Latics come into the game still with an outside chance of survival. They’re five points off safety with two games remaining.

Interestingly, even a third bottom finish could see them safe if Rotherham have points deducted for fielding an ineligible player.

The DW has been the most prosperous venue in the Championship this season for visiting clubs. Wigan have only managed three home wins all season, losing 11.

Scoring goals has been the principle issue. With just 18 scored at home and 39 in total, only the two clubs sandwiching them inside the bottom three have managed fewer.

Giving Malky Mackay the flick so close to the end of the season suggests they’re already looking ahead to a rebuilding job.

Wolves

I was critical of Kenny Jackett for not changing things in that frustrating second half against Ipswich. Wolves team Wigan

What I probably would have done for the final 20 minutes or so was withdraw one of the strikers and put an extra midfielder on, only because we simply couldn’t get the ball forward.

The problem Kenny Jackett has is that when names a team like the above, Wolves already have their best attacking players on the pitch. But sometimes personnel have to be sacrificed to improve the system.

Danny Batth is out for the season, which has been greeted by a mixture of responses. For me, he’s been reasonably consistent, save for the odd wobble. A 7/10 campaign I’d say.

It will be interesting now to see how Hause, Iorfa or Ebanks-Landell slot in alongside Richard Stearman. All offer more pace and physicality than Batth but lack experience.

The gaffer

Predictions

Winning both games is now the absolute minimum requirement. The ideal would be to win both handsomely in an attempt to overhaul Ipswich’s goal difference. That’s probably ambitious though.

I think it’s to our benefit that Wigan will go all out for the win, as it should ensure an open game, which suits Wolves down to the ground.

If the spaces are there, I’d like to think we can exploit and outgun a team struggling for goals.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!