Archives for February 2010

Lost: Bolton 1 Wolves 0

Trudging away from the Reebok at 5 o’clock yesterday, I’d already come to terms with this painful defeat, which could well cost us dearly come the end of the season.

In fact, about twenty minutes into the second half, I’d realised it wasn’t going to be Wolves’ day. Having hit the inside of the post twice, only to see the ball bounce along the goalmouth and out to safety on both ocassions, it was clear that luck certainly wasn’t on our side.

View from the away end (click to expand)

Matt Jarvis should have equalised after motoring away down the left, cutting inside superbly, but then delaying his shot a second too long with the goal at his mercy. He was actually fouled inside the penalty area prior to getting his effort away, but I wasn’t surprised to see the referee turn away the muted appeals.

The tricky wide man also stung Jussi Jääskeläinen’s hands in the first half, latching onto a flick through and firing in a vicious first time shot, that the Bolton keeper did well to turn around the post.

Just not our day. Luckless in many respects.

But luck had nothing to do with our poor defending.

We generally did well from set pieces, doubling up on Kevin Davies and staying tight on the likes of Knight and Elmander. But in the crucial moments prior to half-time we switched off and got punished.

Guedioura didn’t do enough to stop Lee dancing passed him on the byline, Kevin Foley allowed the Korean to come in too far and when the ball was played across, whoever should have been marking Knight wants shooting.

You have to say it had been coming though.

Craddock and particularly Berra didn’t do well enough to repel the threat of Bolton’s front two, all too often flicking balls on to help their cause rather than heading them away to safety. That allowed them to construct a handful of excellent opportunities, which needed smart saves from Hahnemann and a goal line clearance to keep the scores level.

Berra was poor. There’s no hiding from that fact and he needs to improve if he’s to keep his place in the side. He positions himself well most of the time and is excellent when the crosses are raining in, but he’s just not being strong enough, quick enough or good enough on the ball to cope with the demands of the Premiership. I’ve been his biggest fan at different points of the season, but recently he’s disappointed.

I felt disappointed with Ward, Guedioura and Henry too. There was too much dilly-dallying on the ball from those three, which constantly saw possession surrendered easily.

David Jones seemed the only midfielder capable of getting the ball out of his feet and picking out a proper pass. He was man of the match for me with an excellent all round performance; coming within a hairsbreadth of capping it with that superb free-kick that walloped against the post.

There were other decent showings from the likes of Jarvis, Foley and the evergreen Kevin Doyle, but we just never did quite enough in the crucial moments of the game to come away with a result, which is hugely disappointing.

There wasn’t enough desire to go out and get that goal to put us in the driving seat. It was only when we went behind that we showed a bit of spark, which is just so typical of many of our away performances this season. Then of course, there’s that lack of cutting edge, which is proving crucial when the half-chances do come our way, as there’s nobody out there to strike the killer blow.

That looks like it could cost us.

We’ll need to show more in our other relegation showdowns against Burnley and Portsmouth or we’ll almost certainly be hearing the unmistakable hiss of fizzy pop.

In the meantime, we’ve got Man Utd to look forward to next week.

Goodie!

Bolton Vs Wolves Preview

When we lined up against Bolton back in December, things were looking decidedly bleak for Wolves. But a strong team performance, a sprinkle of Milijas magic and ten minutes or so of gut-churning, backs-to-the-wall defending, secured us three precious Premier League points.

Oh how I long for a similar outcome tomorrow.

What a result that would be.

Wolves defended bravely to see out a 2-1 win at Molineux

And what a time it would be for Wolves to finally throw down a marker and take a giant step towards a second consecutive season of Premiership football. You see we’ve steadily accumulated points throughout the campaign, mainly pulling out results when we’ve absolutely had to, but never really pushing on or doing quite enough to put daylight between ourselves and the dropzone.

Tomorrow is another glaring opportunity to do just that.

Recent performances from both sides suggest there’s every chance of Wolves claiming a famous win. Bolton have lost convincingly on more than one occasion in the last few weeks, shipping goals at one end and failing to register anything at the other. Encouraging signs indeed.

Wolves haven’t exactly been prolific, but the shift to the 4-5-1 shape, the form of Kevin Doyle and the emergence of Adlene Guedioura have given fans a renewed sense of optimism. I would even go as as to say, the majority of supporters genuinely believe we WILL beat Bolton on their home patch.

I just wish I shared their confidence.

This game just gives me an uneasy feeling (which is hardly ideal, as I’m traveling the 90 odd miles to see it). The thought of victory just seems too good to be true, which is perhaps a feeling that’s been cultivated through years of being let down at the crucial moments by my beloved team.

Or am I just being a pessimist? Should I feel bad for thinking that Bolton can’t continue to defend as badly or be as profligate in front of goal? Should I bury my head in shame for thinking that Doyle can’t continue to defy what one player should be capable of doing? Should I beat myself with my mouse mat for thinking ‘this is Wolverhampton Wanderers. We never do things the easy way’?

Time will tell, but I dream of being proved wrong.

Anyway, the formalities. The team picks itself barring disaster:

Hahnemann

Zubar
Craddock
Berra
Ward

Foley
Henry
Jones
Guedioura
Jarvis

Doyle

My prediction is a 1-1 draw, because Wolves are in decent form but I can’t shake the feeling of impending doom, so I’ll sit firmly on the fence.

If you’re going to the game, have a great day out and get behind the lads. It’s a biggun’, so they’ll need the support more than ever.

Up The Wolves.

Analysing the Run-In

We’re close enough to the end of the season now to look at the remaining games, torture ourselves a little bit and make some semi-educated guesses about how many points we might end up with.

I did the same at the end of last season, got none of them right and we still ended up winning the league. That kind of shows it to be a pointless exercise, but what the hell hey?

Currently we have 24 points from 26 games.

Is Mick doing the maths?

Taking a look at the final 14 matches, guessing purely the outcome and not the goals scored / conceded, this is what I got:

Bolton (a) – 1pt
Man Utd (h) – 0pts
Burnley (a) – 1pt
Villa (a) – 0pts
West Ham (a) – 1pt
Everton (h) – 1pt
Arsenal (a) – 0pts
Stoke (h) – 3pts
Fulham (a) – 1pt
Blackburn (h) – 3pts
Portsmouth (a) – 3pts
Sunderland (h) – 1pt
===============
Total (24+15) = 39pts
===============

So, what do think. 39 points enough to stay up?

My predictions have us not winning any of the next 7 games (ouch), but putting a run together towards the end to boost our survival chances.

Of course, my impressions of these games could and probably will change as the weeks roll by, which is the beauty of being a football supporter isn’t it?

Anyway, feel free to copy, paste and leave your own predos in the comments.

By the way, I did the other relegation candidates too and the table had Pompey, Burnley and Bolton finishing south of the dreaded dotted line. You heard it here first!

Hark now hear, the South Bank sing!

It can be much maligned and misunderstood, but I wouldn’t swap the South Bank for the world.

The Boothen, Brummie Road and Holte Ends all seem to grab the glory when the pundits are handing out the plaudits, while our famous home end gets given a ‘Molineux Factor’ tag and told to buck its ideas up.

I’ve never got it. There’s barely a home end that offers more strength in numbers when the chips are down, more noise, and more humour over the years and I think those boys in the Jack Harris should take a bow.

The South Bank

They had me laughing on Saturday, that’s for sure. And that’s no mean feat when I’m having to stomach Kevin Friend’s refereeing performance (which I ended up guffawing at as well.)

For some, it’s not enough that you pay top dollar and sing yourself hoarse for 90 minutes. When they sing they’re not PC, when they are anti-WBA they should be pro-Wolves, and when they gee-up the North Bank, they should stop being divisive.

Again, I don’t get it. I want our home end to make a right din, to ridicule overpaid, amoral, dirty, cheating rogues like John Terry. I was imploring them to dish it out to Ballack as well, particularly when the referee was so sycophantically pathetic in the gobby German’s company.

They didn’t disappoint. The chants were suitably crude and crass, and I loved every one of them.

As the South Bankers told John Terry that he should have shagged Cheryl Cole, the Billy Wright Stand started applauding – no mean feat indeed. The2-Step Dance Academy have sweated their spandex arses off for years for an ovation like that, let alone those half time imbeciles who keep betting £100 that they can score from 20 yards.

The TV crews can airbrush the highlights and the Premier League can keep telling us to respect their ‘select group’ of referees, but they can’t gag the South Bank boys, who are one of few familiar links to a by-gone era.

They are unapologetically partisan, fervently loyal, and guaranteed to give any cheating, rotten scoundrels the full force of their tongue.

Every opposition fan has heard of it, many players have feared it and Molineux would certainly be a quieter, less intimidating place without it.

Thank you South Bank.

Frustrated: Wolves 0 Chelsea 2

On Friday, Wolves found out they’d been unjustly punished by the Premier League for supposedly handing Manchester United 3 points. Yesterday they committed the same offence against an out of sorts Chelsea side, albeit in less notorious fashion.

You see, despite dominating the Champions-elect for long periods, missed chances at one end and mistakes at the other, ensured the points eventually ended up where they were supposed to.

Drogba was the difference in a tight game

What’s so frustrating, is that it could so easily have been different.

Had Kevin Foley not needlessly wandered over to the left to get involved with a throw-in, we probably wouldn’t have been so easily cut open by Chelsea’s slick counterattack in the space he left behind, culminating in Didier Drogba’s opener.

Had Christophe Berra been stronger and not allowed a simple punt up field to become a through ball, a second goal for the visitors and for the imperious Drogba probably wouldn’t have arrived.

Had Petr Cech not made two outstanding saves to deny Guedioura and then Foley a priceless equaliser, the final scoreline could have been turned on it’s head.

But it’s all frustratingly hypothetical in the end and a less biased onlooker would almost certainly point out ‘that’s why they’re at the top and you’re struggling at the bottom’.

They’d be right too.

It was a performance full of guts, determination and no small amount of skill from Wolves, but ultimately it proved fruitless because of a handful of key moments, which is an all too painful reminder of how difficult life in the Premier League can be.

Speaking of cruelty, how many more dire refereeing performances will we be subjected to this season? Fortunately, the plethora of decisions wrongfully given against Wolves didn’t cost us, but it certainly didn’t aid our cause either. And how the linesman failed to spot a blatant elbow in the face of Adlene Guedioura from John Terry is beyond me. A no-questions sending off in my opinion. Chelsea fan’s would probably disagree, as they’re seemingly blind to any of Captain Fantastic’s wrong-doings.

Hardly surprising though that good old JT found it necessary to plant one on Guedioura, as the French midfielder once again laid down an impressive marker in his second home start. He must be one of the first names on the teamsheet for next weekend’s trip to the Reebok after another all-action display.

Doyle was once again at his superb best, ably supported from midfield by the clever passing of Jones and another livewire display from Jarvis.

At the back, I thought Zubar was brilliant, cutting out the sloppy errors and using his power and pace to good effect. There’s been a few calls from the Molineux faithful to restore Foley to his favoured right-back position, but I think that would be harsh on the enthusiastic Frenchman, who has all the attributes to be a star in this side. Perhaps he could be moved into the middle at the expense of the faltering Berra?

Most encouraging from yesterday’s display was the emerging feeling that this group of players have developed a clear understanding and seem comfortable with the roles they’re being asked to fulfill. That bodes well, even if it has taken us 26 games to achieve.

The general consensus seems to be that performances up to the standard of our last two games will be enough to keep us out of trouble.

You’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Wolves Vs Chelsea Preview

Whichever way you look at it, this is a massive test for Wolves and we’ll need a gargantuan effort from everyone involved if we’re to pick up anything against Carlo Ancelloti’s side.

Essien scored twice at Stamford Bridge


I had the misfortune of being at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, as Chelsea wiped the floor with us inside twenty minutes without breaking sweat. That was a sobering experience and one I wouldn’t care to repeat tomorrow.

Nothing was right about Wolves that day; strange tactics, odd team selection and horrendous individual errors cost us dearly. In truth, despite creating one or two good openings ourselves, we were lucky to escape with just a 4-0 defeat. 10-2 would probably have been a fairer reflection of the game.

I’m expecting much better this time.

For one thing, the team picks itself, which makes a nice change, so there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises:

Hahnemann

Zubar
Craddock
Berra
Ward

Foley
Henry
Guedioura
Jones
Jarvis

Doyle

The 4-5-1 formation also gives us a clear tactics and a proper game plan, which are essential for trying to get anything from a side boasting superior talent. Having that extra man in midfield certainly makes us a better defensive unit, so lets just hope it works as well against the league leaders as it did against Liverpool and Spurs.

Both sides have enjoyed a week off, which is particularly useful for Chelsea, as top sides rarely get such a lengthy break at the business end of a season. That probably doesn’t bode well.

On the injury front, Ashley Cole is out for them, which is good news. He’s been one of their better players of late and was a constant thorn in our side in the previous meeting between the sides. Essien has also been struggling and he was another player that completely dominated us at Stamford Bridge, so I wouldn’t be upset to see his name missing from their starting eleven.

But let’s not fool ourselves, whatever side Chelsea put out, we’re going to be stretched to our absolute limit. The mauling they handed out to us back in November was inflicted without Lampard, Drogba or Ballack even in the squad.

In fairness though, Wolves were without Kevin Doyle, they employed an odd 3-5-1-1 formation and Hennessy let two soft goals squirm under his body. Hardly ideal.

Like I say, much better is expected from us in this match and at the very least, it would be nice to see Wolves give a good account of themselves.

I can’t forecast anything other than defeat, but Chelsea haven’t been particularly good on the road of late, so there’s a small glimmer of hope in that respect.

My prediction: 3-1 Chelsea.

If you’re going to the game, enjoy the occasion and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.