Punished: Wolves 0 Man City 3

So, three victories and three defeats from our December program. Could have been better, but definitely could have been a lot worse.

It’s a shame that after good wins over Bolton, Spurs and Burnley, we end the year with back-to-back defeats. Unfortunately though, that’s the cruel nature of the Premier League.

Last night’s match was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was encouraged by how well we competed with City for long periods, but for all our huff and puff, we never really looked like blowing their house down.

Tevez - Opened the scoring with the help of a deflection

Tevez - Opened the scoring via a deflection

I was disappointed with McCarthy’s team selection, which seemed overly negative and starved us of any real cutting edge in the final third. We sent in a lot of crosses from set pieces and occasionally gave City some uncomfortable moments, but clear cut chances were few and far between. In fact, I can only recall Kevin Doyle’s individual moment of magic forcing Shay Given into any kind of save. Other than that, he was largely untroubled.

Most of Wolves’ best football came in the middle of the park with Surman, Mancienne, Henry and Foley all showing neat touches but never really penetrating the City rearguard with their passes. I’ve got to believe the pace and trickery of Jarvis or the creativity and vision of Milijas would have served us far better last night.

At the back, I thought we did OK, despite shipping three goals. The Garrido free-kick and that late Tevez strike unfairly distorted the final scoreline in my opinion, but if you don’t make the most of your possession, which Wolves didn’t, the top teams will punish you.

We were undoubtedly on the end of some dodgy decisions too of course; none clearer than Bellamy being offside in the lead-up to the free-kick for their second goal. But when the decision went against us, the wall wasn’t setup correctly, and the ball sailed in far, far too easily. Hahnemann has to take some blame for that one.

Some plusses from the match included another impressive display from our record signing. For all the tip-tap passing going on in midfield, Kevin Doyle was the only player who looked like making something happen for Wolves. It’s becoming a familiar tale and I pray that he remains injury free for the lion-share of the season as we’d struggle badly without him.

I also thought Zubar did quite well, but let himself down a few times by simply not concentrating. He’s strong, athletic and decent on the ball for a defender, so has all the attributes to be a great player for Wolves. I just hope that potential is fully realised, because he could end up being very important this season in our bid for survival.

We get a week off from the Premiership adventure now, with the FA Cup match at Tranmere next up. I expect a lot of changes for that match, so we should be recharged and ready to go for crunch back-to-back games against West Ham and Wigan.

The last two matches have been disappointing, but I’ve seen enough to believe we can stay up.

Roll on 2010 I say.

Happy New Year to everyone on Wolves Blog!

Unlucky: Liverpool 2 Wolves 0

What a shame.

After a spirited first half display, Wolves weren’t given the opportunity to sink their teeth into the second 45. Two quick-fire yellow cards for Stephen Ward effectively destroyed what had been an excellent showing and gave Liverpool the impetus they so desperately needed.

Of course there’s every chance the home side would have gone on to secure the win anyway, but what’s so frustrating is that we’ll never know whether Wolves could have maintained their high level of performance for the entire 90 minutes.

But despite the result, there were plenty of positives to be taken from the game.

Reina - Boxing Day villain

Reina - Boxing Day villain

Berra and Craddock were again immense at the heart of our defence, winning headers, throwing their bodies on the line and leaving Torres with very little to feed on. They were ably supported by a tough-tackling Richard Stearman and a typically competetive Stephen Ward, up until that strange dismissal.

Doyle and SEB  were also very impressive, causing the Liverpool back four all kinds of problems with their strength and trickery. In fact, both were unlucky not to score, especially Doyle, who would surely have found the net had he met a Nenad Milijas corner with his head rather than his shoulder. That was certainly our best chance and had it gone in, I think it would have given us a deserved lead at that point.

But it wasn’t to be and the game was effectively over five minutes after the interval when Ward was given his marching orders.

And anyone who doesn’t think that moment turned the game is deluded. Liverpool needed something to fall their way and when it did, they grabbed it with both hands and hung on for dear life. Regardless of whether the decision was correct or incorrect, what certainly wasn’t right were the actions of the Liverpool players and their manager in crowding the referee and gesturing for Ward to be dismissed.

Reina in particular can certainly expect a hostile reception when Liverpool visit Molineux in a month or so, after sprinting the length of the pitch to throw his two cents into the debate. Despicable actions in my opinion and needless really.

I don’t like complaining about decisions but for what it’s worth, I think the second booking was a little bit harsh. You can’t really complain about the first caution as he was deliberately pulling the player back, but the second was a bit of nothing. Even if it was a foul, I don’t really see that it warranted a yellow card. But of course I’m biased and the commentators seemed to think it was a cut and dry dismissal. Either way, we’ll miss Wardy for the match against Man City.

So all in all, a promising performance that ended disappointingly.

We move on to Monday’s evening kick-off and a similar display should give us every chance of causing an upset.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

From Everyone at Wolves Blog!

Liverpool Vs Wolves Preview

It’s safe to say things haven’t been going to plan at Liverpool this season, so it will certainly be an anxious Anfield that greet Wolves on Boxing Day.

Defeat at Portsmouth has heaped even more pressure on Rafa Benitez, and his faltering side come into the match desperate for some home comforts.

Benitez - Feeling the pressure

Benitez - Feeling the pressure

By contrast, Wolves are very much a team on the up at present. The Old Trafford debable is still fresh in the memory, but is more than adequately compensated for thanks to three impressive victories.

In fact, confidence is so high that Mick McCarthy’s side head to Anfield with the majority of the Old Gold faithful half expecting a result.

That seems like a dangerous game to me.

You can easily argue it’s a great time to be playing them, but I really don’t think they can continue to do as badly as they have been. Sooner or later, Gerrard and Torres will start firing, even if it’s only for a handful of games, and the victories will start to come. I just hope the tide doesn’t turn on Boxing Day.

Our team selection will once again come under the microscope, but I very much believe we’ll see our first team take to the field. Namely:

Hahnemann

Stearman
Berra
Craddock
Ward

Foley
Henry
Milijas
Jarvis

SEB
Doyle

I believe this team is capable of standing toe to toe with Liverpool and giving them a very good game. Of course I expect we’ll spend a lot of the match defending, but if we can keep it tight at the back, then we’ll get our chances at the other end.

In terms of a prediction, I’m forecasting doom and hoping for better. 2-0 to Liverpool.

If you’re making the journey to Anfield, have a great time and roar the lads on. Should be a great occasion.

Up the Wolves.

Job Done: Wolves 2 Burnley 0

Well done Wolves.

A good performance, a fantastic result and a wonderful way to end a long week.

Today’s match was never about gaining vindication for Mick McCarthy, despite what many have suggested. It was simply about getting another win to help us climb the table and in doing so, take another big step in the right direction.

Wolves players end the week on a big high

Wolves players end the week on a big high

For what it’s worth, I really don’t think Wolves won this match because our team were given the night off on Tuesday. I think we won it because we matched Burnley all over the pitch and had more cutting edge in the final third.

And much of that superior cutting edge owed a lot to our brilliant front two.

I can’t find enough words to heap adequate praise on Kevin Doyle. He’s quite simply first class. I mean, what more could you possibly want from a striker? He holds the ball up, runs the channels and always uses the ball cleverly. And on days like today, when he caps his performance with a fine goal, he looks every bit a £6.5 million player, if not better.

Of course, SEB is finding goals significantly harder to come by. He came close today a few times, most notably with a point-blank header that Jensen did well to palm away. But when a striker’s not wracking up the goals, the very least you demand is a performance and in that respect, our number 9 didn’t disapoint. He held the ball up superbly, bullying and battering the Burnley defenders all afternoon. He was involved with most of our best attacks and the signs of a blossoming partnership with Doyle are certainly there for all to see.

Another big plus was the continued rise to prominence of Nenad Milijas. His set-piece delivery wasn’t quite as pinpoint as it has been, but his influence on this Wolves side remains immense. I really like how he’s going about his business, positioning himself well and picking his moments to crunch into tackles or find a clever pass. I can’t even remember him getting inside the penalty area once in his whole Wolves career to date, yet there he was, perfectly placed to stroke home when Jensen could only parry Matt Jarvis’s low shot.

Good to see Kev Foley back in the side as well. He was quietly effective throughout and seemed at relative ease, sitting just infront of Stearman and linking up play. Long term, I still expect him to regain his place in defence, but he’s got a job on his hands to unseat Stearman anytime soon, especially after another cleansheet.

I’d also like to single out Hahnemann for some praise. I wasn’t particularly happy to see him force Hennessy out of the side, but I’m eating humble pie now, because the experienced American has been a revelation. I don’t think he’s a world class goalkeeper, but he seems to do the simple things very well and get the back four organised. I think we needed that.

But everyone did well today I thought. Craddock and Berra won nearly everything in the air and were generally solid throughout, Ward continues to look at home as a Premiership left-back, Henry battled to the death (does he have 5 bookings yet?!), Jarvis drove us forward with his pace and trickery and even Mancienne impressed in his make-shift holding midfield role.

So all in all, a good day’s work.

It wasn’t always convincing and it wasn’t always pretty, but Wolves got the job done.

And after five days of stupidly negative press and an awful lot of criticism (some justified and some completely ridiculous) I think that will do for Mick McCarthy.

It will certainly do for me.

Mick McCarthy Interview

Wolves Vs Burnley Preview

Like most Wolves fans, I’m sick to my back teeth of hearing about Mick McCarthy’s team selection on Tuesday. Our fans and our fans only have the right to be annoyed, upset, angry or completely unfazed by what our manager does or doesn’t do. As far as I’m concerned, everyone else, including the Premier League itself, can sling their hook.

It’s now time to move forward and end the week on a massive high by beating Burnley at Molineux on Sunday.

Surman - first Molineux start?

Surman - first Molineux start?

That in itself will be a big challenge. Owen Coyle’s side have enjoyed a great start to the season, picking up points and admirers along the way with their fearless spirit and attractive style of play. They’ll travel south on Sunday looking for their first away win and believe they have every chance of getting it.

And why shouldn’t they?

Wolves have a poor home record this season and the amount of negative coverage we’ve received this week has almost certainly turned up the heat on our young side. Conversely, Burnley come into the match on the back of a brilliant performance against Arsenal, a match by all accounts, they should have taken three points from. Confidence should be high in their camp and they probably don’t have the same pressure to deal with, which gives them a slight advantage.

It’s imperative that Wolves come out of the blocks quickly. We need to get on the front foot, dictate the play and get that oh-so important first goal. We don’t want to give Burnley the impetus or something to hang onto because I don’t think we’re particularly good at chasing a game.

The lineup should be identical to the Spurs match, apart from the one enforced change due to Dave Edwards injury. I expect this team:

Hahnemann

Stearman
Craddock
Berra
Ward

Surman
Henry
Milijas
Jarvis

Doyle
SEB

I think it’s a toss-up between Surman and Foley to play in the midfield, so it will be interesting to see what Mick does there. Surman probably gives us more going forward, but Foley is more of a like-for-like swap with Edwards.

Winning this match will shoot us up a few places in the table and what a tonic that would be after looking like a side consigned to the bottom three, following the loss to Blues. I think it’s funny how everyone seems to be saying Burnley have done great (which they have) but Wolves have been poor, yet three points would almost certainly take us above them on goal difference. Stupid really.

I’m being optimistic this week and going for a 3-1 home win.

I’m backing Wolves, I’m backing Mick McCarthy and I’m backing Molineux to erupt on Sunday to help the team get the result we all want.

If you’re going to the match, have a great time and roar the lads on. The support has been phenomenal this season and I don’t expect this match to be any different, despite the events of the last three or four days.

Up The Wolves.

* One little thing. Can I encourage you all to subscribe to the Wolves Blog email alert. It’s in the sidebar at the top right of the page. A few of you have already done so and it’s a great way for me to let you all know when new posts have been added to the blog. Thanks again for your continued support.