Archives for August 2009

Missed Chances: Wolves 1 Hull 1

So what was it? 2 points dropped or 1 point gained?

Kevin Doyle - Showed real promise

Kevin Doyle - Showed real promise

After what was a terrible start to the match, Wolves gradually clawed their way back in and with the chances they created, should really have gone on to take the maximum.

That being said, Hull could easily of been two up before half-time; effectively killing the game as a contest. And unfortunately that’s the reality of the Premier League. Sluggish starts like this will end up costing Wolves dearly, especially against more ruthless opposition.

We just weren’t at the races in the first half.

Even Geovanni’s opener seemed a soft goal to giveaway. The effortless way Hunt danced passed Halford to stand the cross up, was only as sickening as the fact that nobody was able to read the flight of the ball well enough to prevent the tiny Brazilian from stealing in to score. 

And the marking didn’t improve. Ghilas should have doubled the visitor’s advantage with a free header at the back post but fortunately sent a tame header right down Hennessy’s throat.

Things weren’t going much better at the other end either. Doyle looked lively but wasn’t being allowed to get into positions where he could really do damage. Halford was winning every flick-on in and around the box but nobody was gambling to get on the end of them. All in all, it was pretty depressing stuff.

Keogh had our best two chances, twisting and turning in the box but eventually skying one effort and shooting right at Myhill with another. 

We looked like a team that desperately needed something to fall our way, so we were counting our lucky stars when it did.

You couldn’t ask for a better start to the second half as Craddock flicked on for Stearman and the England Under 21 international volleyed home emphatically. 

What a relief.

From there though, we didn’t need any breaks, just a bit more potency in the final third.

Keogh ran clear and tamely poked his shot wide, Doyle smashed a point-black volley against Turner on the line and Vokes headed wide in the dying seconds with the goal at his mercy. 

And while all this was going on at one end, Hull were offering practically nothing as an attacking force at the other; making the eventual final score all the more dissapointing.

So even though it was a game we could easily have lost, you can’t help but feel slightly deflated that we didn’t win.

I continue to have great faith in this squad of players, but we must start to convert these promising performances into goals and wins. 

Of course this situation will be significally aided when the likes of Kightly, Ebanks-Blake and Iwelumo return to action. And if you haven’t heard the good news, Kightly is back in training next week, inline for some kind of involvement against Blackburn in a fortnight.

With SEB also likely to be available soon, that little bit of cutting edge in the final third could prove the difference at the business end of games.

And ultimately yesterday’s performance illustrated that Wolves really need to start taking care of business.

Wolves Vs Hull Match Preview

Allow me to start with a couple of groveling apologies.

Phil Brown - Coming to a tanning salon near you

Phil Brown - Coming to a tanning salon near you

I haven’t been able to update the blog as I would have liked this week. Turns out I actually have to do some work for my full-time job, who knew? Secondly, I couldn’t find the time to hunt down a Hull fan to write a preview, so you’re stuck with me I’m afraid.

But let’s take that as a positive. As much as I enjoy getting the views of the opposition, this is a Wolves Blog after all, so let’s have a preview from the right side of the fence for a change.

So Hull City come to Molineux this weekend for a match I’m certain we can win.

I’m equally convinced that Mick will deploy a 4-4-2 and bring Doyle into the starting XI. That leaves just one question in my mind: Who gets dropped?

Here’s my predicted line-up:

Hennessy

Stearman
Mancienne
Craddock
Elokobi

Jarvis
Henry
Milijas
Halford

Keogh
Doyle

This would mean Dave Edwards is the unlucky man that drops to the bench (with Ward also missing out through injury). Although that’s harsh after a couple of typically energetic performances, I’ve got to believe Mick will sacrifice his running for the quality that Milijas brings to the side.

Anyone got a different predicted XI? Surely nobody thinks he’ll stick with 4-5-1?

It will also be interesting to see who makes the bench. What a bonus ball it will be to have SEB at our disposal should we need to call on him, but given the fact he hasn’t kicked a ball since the West Ham match, I’d be surprised if he played a major part.

One player that still won’t be making an appearance is Michael Kightly. I’ve seen in the comments that many of you are asking the same question I’ve been thinking; What the hell is going on? I mean the vague references to his injury and likely comeback date are just ridiculous. We were told in pre-season he wouldn’t make the start and needed a few weeks to shake-off some knocks and get back to full-fitness. Since then, nothing. Knowing our luck with injuries, I immediately fear the worst. And although I don’t think his fitness dictates where we’ll finish this season, not having him available is a big blow to our prospects.

Anyway, let us gaze scornfully across to our opposition for the weekend.

As much as we all hate Phil ‘My God He’s So…’ Brown, you might have to concede that he’s done a pretty good job with Hull City (even with that ridiculous Bluetooth headset). Getting them promoted was an incredible achievement, and much like Burnley this season, they were immediately written off. OK, they couldn’t buy a win towards the end of last season but the bottom line is, they stayed up (cue Big Phil on karaoke – cringe).

Their initial lack of summer recruitment gave me hope they’d be in serious trouble, but they’ve since brought in a couple of useful players. Hunt from Reading is a constant nuisance and has already weighed in with a few goals, Olofinjana we know all about (what’s the bet he plays like Patrick Vieira on Saturday) and most importantly, two unknown strikers.

If like me you watched the highlights from their victory over Bolton last week, you must have been impressed by Ghilas and particularly Altidore. Although one match is never enough to make a truly accurate assessment, those two players certainly posed a significant threat. I just hope our back four can continue to perform well and keep them quiet.

I fancy Hull to struggle again this season and be operating around the same region of the table as ourselves. For me, that means this home fixture falls into the category of a ‘must-win’. That isn’t to say we’ll be relegated should we not pick up the maximum, but we need home victories against the likes of Hull if we’re going to survive.

Can we do it? Of course we can. We need our attacking players to perform, but I have confidence from recent matches that the likes of Jarvis, Milijas, Keogh and Doyle can come up with the goods and bag us the points.

Prediction: 3-1 to Wolves. Doyle to score first.

Onto the Next Round: Wolves 0 Swindon 0 (6-5 after Penalties)

A below par performance from a completely different Wolves XI to the one that faced Man City.

Ben’s article (see below) was at the back of my mind all night as I thought what a miserable turnout we managed. 11,00 showed up for what was ultimately a poor match but with a few new faces making an appearance.

Berra - Back in the mix

Berra - Back in the mix

We started brightly and I thought Vokes looked quite impressive teamed up with Doyle. The £6.5 million man went agonisingly close within 5 minutes and it really looked as if we might end up thumping our lower league opposition.

As the first half continued, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing on the right wing really came into the match, taking aim a few times and forcing some good saves from the Swindon keeper, as well as showing some neat touches and bits of skill. At only 17 years old I certainly look forward to seeing more of him.

Even Neill Collins (remember him?) had a decent shot.

My heart was in my mouth as Swindon did have the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside. They also skimmed the crossbar as they enjoyed the better of the game towards the end of the half. However, it was Wolves who certainly seemed to have the upper hand in the first 45 but no goals to show for it.

After the break, Swindon improved but the match was still just as drab with a few long shots and no major incidents. On the hour mark, Mendez-Laing was replaced by Jarvis and Doyle by Keogh. The impact was immediate with Berra going close and Keogh taking a low drive. However, the next attack of any real note didn’t come until the last 10 minutes when the Swindon substitute Mark Marshall hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.

The final chance of the 90 minutes came to Wolves as Jarvis beat his man and the move ended with Keogh attempting a cheeky chip but narrowly missing. Through the second half Zubar, Berra and Hill looked comfortable at the back but Collins looked his usual inconsistent self making a few good tackles but also some poor decisions.

Into extra time and it seemed as though some people had already left. Whether they were unaware of the rules or it was just passed their bedtime, I couldn’t really blame them as it had been a poor spectacle.

The only chance in the first half of extra time came from Dave Edwards with a long strike forcing a good save from Swindon keeper Lucas. The second half wasn’t much better either. However, Swindon did make one clever break down their left side and Hahnemann took out the winger, getting none of the ball. He was lucky to get away with a yellow as I have seen keepers sent off for those before.

Onto the penalties in front of the South Bank. The scores were 5 each after normal penalties with Surman, Jones, Edwards, Keogh and Vokes taking them for Wolves and converting confidently. Swindon replied with 5 of their own and even their keeper getting in on the act. However they were probably helped by Hahnemann going right every time. Into sudden death and who steps up? None other than Big Neill. The stand was in disarray as many already resigned to the fact we had now lost. Collins then took one of the best penalties I have seen, smashing it into the top left and silencing the doubters. Swindon’s captain then hit the post but it seemed as if Hahnemann might have got to it anyway.

So Wolves are through by the skin of their teeth.

Onto the next round.

Player Ratings

A player by player rundown:

Marcus Hahnemann

Marcus Hahnemann

Marcus Hahnemann – A good performance from the American despite not having too much to do. In comparison to Hennessey he was a lot more commanding and came out when it was needed, despite the poor sliding challenge a solid 7/1

Neill Collins

Neill Collins

Neill Collins – The man everyone seems to love to hate. By far not his worst outing but it is difficult to credit him for his defensive display and a lot of Swindon’s attacking opportunities seemed to come through him. His penalty and early shot do not make up for this. 5.5/10

Christophe Berra

Christophe Berra

Christophe Berra – The captain for the evening. Looked comfortable with everything that came at him and a good first performance of the season, certainly a contender for a place in the first squad. 8/10

Ronald Zubar

Ronald Zubar

Ronald Zubar – Many people’s first chance to see the French defender and he was easily the best defender on the park, all those problems about him not fitting seemed to go out the window as he and Berra hooked up well. I hope he does get a chance for the first team as he did play well and the fans definitely acknowledged him, chanting his name throughout. A deserved man of the match and 9/10

Matt Hill

Matt Hill

Matt Hill – A good consistent performance and he is my personal choice left back, even though Ward has served quite well in the Premier so far I would still pick him as he is stronger and more solid. 8/10

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing – A fantastic debut for the young academy player with many bits of trickey and some good shots. Worked very hard and perhaps would have got man of the match had he not been substituted. 8.5/10

Andrew Surman

Andrew Surman

Andrew Surman – Was kept quite quiet while playing in the centre but as he was moved to the wings he seemed to get more involved. Creating a few chances. 6.5/10

David Jones

David Jones

Dave Jones – Again, was kept rather quiet in the central role and even his specialty long shots were not great and kept to a minimum. Set pieces were poor. We definitely missed Henry and Milijas tonight. 6/10

George Elokobi

George Elokobi

George Elokobi – Started on the left wing and hooked up well with Hill creating a few good crosses and his running was great. Looking as strong as ever, he seemed to enjoy the position but did drift further back and into the middle and his short passes weren’t great. 7/10

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle – Another good performance from the Irishman but is yet to play a full 90 minutes. Looked strong on the ball and held it up well. Could have scored on a different day but an all round good turn out from him. 8.5/10

Sam Vokes

Sam Vokes

Sam Vokes – I am glad he got a full game (and then some) but he seemed to go missing after 20 minutes or so. Played well with Doyle for the first half, creating a few good passing moved. Definitely looks better as an impact sub but this may change with more experience. 7/10

Substitutes

Matt Jarvis

Matt Jarvis

Matt Jarvis – Got an excellent reception from the crowd for his performance at Eastlands and you could tell the difference immediately on the wings with good running and constantly beating his marker. His performances of late have been inconsistent but these last two show what he is capable of. 7/10

Andy Keogh

Andy Keogh

Andy Keogh – Man of the moment and another good performance. A few good efforts on goal but should have been more clinical when it mattered. Very few mistakes tonight and has proven he is deserving of a first team place. 8/10

Dave Edwards

Dave Edwards

Dave Edwards – Improved the midfield battle and had a very good effort saved by the keeper. Helped get through the defence but had little time to make that much of an impact. 7/10

Special mention also for the referee as he didn’t have a great night. He kicked a Swindon man into touch so the match could continue, fell over the ball as if wanting the free kick and dropped his cards in extra time.

This is my first match report and any constructive criticism is welcomed.

A Round of Carling

Never has the prospect of a round of Carling left me feeling so disinterested.

Usually, the prospect of a frothy bevy is enough to raise a smile. In fact, it raised an erection when my mate got them in at the Oval on Sunday afternoon. Boy it tasted good.

But as Mick’s men prepare to quench our thirsts in the Carling Cup tonight, I really can’t be bothered.

Back when the League Cup meant something

Back when the League Cup meant something

Once upon a time, I was reared on our double Wembley successes in 1974 and 1980, when Dad would replay the highlights on the old VHS, starring Richards, Hibbett and co, with Skipper Mike Bailey and Emlyn Hughes pictured in iconic poses. I even bought him a commemorate badge, from a guy outside the Molineux a few years back, probably when it was better to reminisce than to look forward to the game.

So what an indictment, that I won’t be dragging my sorry backside down the Molineux tonight, to savour our appearance in a competition that gave my Dad his finest hours.

But I am not alone surely? The limp surrender in this competition, for so many years, has dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. I remember Bournemouth doing us, and I’m sure tonight’s opponents Swindon have also caused grief in McGhee’s tenure? Basically, whenever we’ve drawn a pretty decent home tie against fodder, we tend to bomb out.

Then there’s the fact that this competition has little, if any of the kudos that it used to have, before Rumbelows, Coca-Cola, Littlewoods and co got their names on it.

Sadly, the Carling Cup has all the fizz of the dregs in a drip tray, and is one of a few genuinely sad casualties of our ‘Beautiful Game.’

As we all know so well, if you’re not in the Premier League, then you really don’t matter. So forgive me as my attentions keep turning back to our game against Hull on Saturday.

Those were the days my friend

Those were the days my friend

It shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t want to trade in a defeat tonight for a win at the weekend. But I do. Craig Bellamy shouldn’t be able to kiss his Premier League badge, as some sort of compensation for the fact they’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup (when we beat Newcastle in 2003). But he did.

Surely football should be about winning, not singing. Not singing when you’ve finished 4th bottom in the Premier League? But Phil Brown knows the words alright. He knows that the words ‘Carling Cup’ mean nothing on a KC songsheet.

In the League of Greed, winning some silverware doesn’t pay. Not in the long run. Barclays have already chewed up and spat out that notion, like a dodgy credit card in their cash machine.

Nope, it is with regret that I say we use this competition, like Sky Sports use our fixture list this season…With contempt. We come, we see, we probably don’t conquer, and we all go home to concentrate on the real cup final this weekend.

Wolves Media Watch

Well it’s been quite a week. Although we’ve lost two games and only scored one goal I think most of us are satisfied with our first away win ever in the Premiership (as we all know football started in 1992 – prior to that everyone was just playing mob football where matches would last five days and only be decided once fifteen people had drowned in a canal, a Ford Capri had been torched and the “ball”, the head of a local nobleman, had been manoeuvred by the throng to the disused police phone box on the north side of the village green) and competitive performances against Citeh and West Ham. We can now be confident that our young side isn’t out of place in “The Greatest League in the World” and that we can at least avoid a repeat of the anal violation we received on our last foray in the Premiership. But how has the media at large reported on our first week?

Wolves are back on MOTD

Wolves are back on MOTD

Well, starting with that most holy of organs , Match of the Day, I won’t pretend it wasn’t at least a little exhilarating seeing us on there properly (FA Cup excluded) for the first time. That the voice-over for the West Ham game was provided by the grand old man of football commentary himself added to the magic. Motson may no longer be (and may never have been) entirely compus mentis but there is no denying he currently has the most famous voice in football. However, the highlights themselves have been either annoyingly short or unfairly cut. In particular, the coverage of the second half of the Citeh game was particularly galling as it completely misrepresented the flow of the second half and ignored what I thought might have been a decent penalty shout for a challenge on Doyle. Shearer’s analysis that “Citeh should have won 4-0, 5-0 blah blah blah” was particularly annoying when you just know he hadn’t seen the game and instead had been watching Palace-Newcastle on a monitor somewhere. If Ashley had kept Hughton instead of installing tactical wunder-spaz Shearer as manager Newcastle probably would have stayed up. Other than that, MotD’s analysis of teams other than the Sky Four plus City/Spurs is to toss in a throwaway comment along the lines of “they should be okay” or “I worry for them”. Currently Hansen’s assessment is that we “should be okay” – so we’re probably f**ked.

I haven’t heard much about us on the radio but I tend not to listen to Radio 5 in case any I accidentally catch Mark Pougatch on the airwaves. As for the written press I have the overwhelming opinion, that with the exception of Wolves fan Peter Lansley who writes for the Times, that the London media have always disliked us as a club for some reason. I could go on a little review of what each of the papers said about us after each of the games but broadly speaking the reports all followed the same formula:

West Ham – West Ham money trouble, Upson may be leaving, Zola pissed off, Noble is the second coming blah blah blah. Wolves also played in this match.

Wigan Athletic – Roberto Martinez’s homecoming, Wigan sold all their best players, Dave Whelan broke his leg against nasty Wolves in the 1960 FA Cup Final blah blah blah. Wolves also played in this match.

Man City – Lescott, Lescott, Lescott. Tevez, Adebayor, money, money, money. City gunning for top four. Wolves also played in this match and hit the crossbar.

There have been a couple of decent articles about us. Gabriel Marcotti appears to be one pundit at least willing to acknowledge we have a lot of injuries to key players at the moment and said some semi-kind things about us on Radio 5 and in this piece for the Times Online. While this report in the Telegraph was particularly gushing over Milijas. Hopefully after we spank Swindon Town in the Rumbelows Cup I’ll be able to bring you a report on a Wolves feature in Time magazine or even Sky Sports News though I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Bully Bully & Ben’s Ticket Update

Once upon a time, I couldn’t give my damn season ticket away.

Nowadays, things have changed! As most of you Blogites will be aware, I put my season ticket up for grabs for the Hull game, as I fly off to Ireland for a few days.

I would like to thank everyone who entered. I somehow feel indebted to you, even though it’s me giving the season ticket away!

Anyway, a diehard Wolves fan called Luke Brennan from Stratford has won the ticket, so he can look forward to an afternoon of champagne football and Kenco coffee next to my old man. Lucky boy.

I basically printed off all the emails I got, folded each piece of paper a number of times, and put them in a hat, which a mate plucked, so can’t say fairer than that. Good news for me is that a lad called Chris McCreery didn’t win. He is from Enniskillen, so it means I will be having a beer with a sane person – a prospect I have barely encountered before in Ireland. In my eyes, he is the real winner.

I feel I might be doing this again at some point later this season, as I always tend to miss another game, if past seasons are anything to go by.

I wanted to leave you with an open question about your favourite ever Bully goal. (Of course, the answer was 306) Purely subjective of course. For feeling of sheer jubilation and ecstasy, his winner against Birmingham at Molineux, 3-2, will be number one.

However, a left foot thunderbolt in a New Year’s Day win over Bolton Wanderers back in division 3, will live long in the memory. And what about his late, great winner at the Smethwick End in 89/90?

I seem to recall him smacking in a 25 yarder in a 4-0 home win over Bury at the South Bank End, when he scored 3, in 1988/89. That was the first time I remember Wolves pricking the conscience of the national media, and actually making an impression with the sporting scribes on Fleet Street. There was no ‘Barclays division one’ games that weekend, so Bully grabbed the headlines instead.

So many goals, so many memories. His 300th at home to Bradford also makes me well up with pride – A messy mishit from close range.

I thank you all once again, and thank Sir Steve Bull for just giving me yet another moment to reminisce!

Up the Wolves.