Archives for December 2010

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!

Liverpool 0 Wolves 1

A phenomenal performance, three priceless points, and Steve Mardenborough’s name finally consigned to the dustbin.

Our 1-0 win at Liverpool will surely go down as one of the most wonderful and joyous triumphs in years, in a display to cherish whenever the tough times threaten to rear their ugly heads again.

In addition, it might finally stop the lexically deviant Garth Crooks from flicking his pen top angrily the next time Gabby Logan tells him that they have to drop in at Molineux.

For the time being at least, we are no longer a subordinate, throwaway clause at the end of a jumbled Paul Merson sentence at 5.30pm.

We are Wolves and our season starts here!

Milijas: 'Are my eyes playing up?'

Words genuinely can’t do justice to how good we were last night, from Hennessey’s commanding presence in goal (and crucial save from Mereiles) to Sylvan and Stephen Ward’s tireless running up front.

If Ward was an impenetrable presence in our line-up before the game, his name must now be as deeply etched on the teamsheet as Steve Bull’s under Turner.

But after such a joyous victory, our goalscoring hero’s inclusion over our £7 million, six start signing can be debated another time.

Perhaps more pressing questions are whether Berra and Stearman can replicate their colossus showings on a weekly basis from now on?

Can Zubar and Elokobi pick up from where they left off on Merseyside?

Will Milijas (possibly my MOM) and Foley win the ball and then keep it so sumptuously, for so long, in the fixtures to come?

And moreover, was our Boxing Day disaster just a one off or does it tell us that January still can’t come round quick enough, despite this monumental showing?

With Big Mick defying the odds in the dugout once more, we can be sure that whatever the answers above, it won’t be for the lack of effort and togetherness.

Liverpool Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves head to Anfield tomorrow night looking to make amends for that abject Boxing Day defeat against Wigan.

Mick McCarthy will know that having sunk to the bottom of the Premier League table, patience will be in short supply should performances and results not improve quickly.

Steven Gerrard headed Liverpool to victory last season

Unfortunately for him, Liverpool’s home form has been pretty formidable this season, even if their mid-table position suggests otherwise. They’ve registered 5 wins and 2 draws from their 8 games to date, with Blackpool being the only side to leave Merseyside with a maximum.

By contrast, Wolves have been abysmal away from Molineux, losing 7 and drawing just once. However, that single point was registered in Liverpool against Everton, so if you’re clutching at straws and looking for omens, perhaps that’s one to hold onto.

Mick’s team selection will no doubt be under scrutiny and I’m expecting a couple of changes that surrendered so meekly to Wigan. Here’s my predicted lineup:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Stearman
Elokobi

Edwards
Foley
Milijas
Jarvis

Fletcher
SEB

Fletcher is overdue a start so perhaps this will be his opportunity following another goal from the bench on Boxing Day. Jarvis will surely return and I expect Hunt to make way for him, with Edwards preferred on the opposite flank.

Alternatively, Mick might prefer to go 4-5-1 and if that’s the case, I’d expect Jones to play instead of Fletcher. Ward could conceivably play at left-back but I think big George would be unfortunate to lose his place.

Prediction League

Well done to Rob for correctly predicting a 2-1 Wigan win. For a change, most people went for a Wolves victory and they duly kicked us all in the knackers.

Got to be realistic and go for a defeat in this one.

I’m feeling pretty low after that awful showing against Wigan and can’t see us getting a result at Anfield right now.

I’ll plump for 3-1 to Liverpool.

Perhaps if they’re under par and we can somehow cut out the errors at the back, we could scrape a result, but the latter in particular seems highly unlikely.

If you’re going to the game, have a great time and roar the lads on.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 1 Wigan 2

If ever there was a performance worthy of lumping a football team bottom of the league, then this Boxing Day effort was probably it. Ok, we didn’t leak goals left right and centre – but given the consequences of West Ham’s three points at Fulham in the midday kick off, it was painful to see Wolves so slow out of the blocks yet again.

Unfortunately, ‘embarrassing’ quite aptly sums it all, which is concerning and disappointing – it’s rare to leave a Wolves game feeling betrayed by the endeavours of our team.

Bar a glimmer of light from a fit again Jarvis, when eventually called upon, and SEB’s efforts to galvanise the men tasked to supply him, most other performances from the home team sent the Christmas spirit plummeting to Bah Humbug by 20 minutes.

Mick made these lot look sane

Lining up as we did for Birmingham, we’d not got started before Wigan got their first on ten minutes, a well finished twisting effort from Rodallega inside the 6 yard box after we failed to deal with a corner.

Slick passing from the Columbian on 20 then saw our pedestrian defence sliced open after Stearman was guilty of being lured in to a challenge, leaving a gap for the spritely Cleverley to take advantage of and finish well through Hennessey’s legs.

Both goals were well taken in fairness and Wigan defended resolutely when we finally started to pepper their area with more searching crosses. In Ben Watson, they had a niggling player who broke down play throughout, keeping our playmaker Milijas from being effective, as the Serbian’s radar went astray until Jarvis’ arrival and offered him an outlet.

Wolves had to endure being booed off at half-time before the winger appeared later in the second though, and he tormented the Wigan defence from both right and left flanks.

But we were guilty of being second to the ball all over the pitch, misplacing simple passes, and being pulled out of position. Across the back four in particular, there looked a frailty; a lack unity in the middle, and nervousness from both fullbacks when under any sort of pressure.

Fletcher, on with twenty to go, prodded home with five minutes left to make for a tasty finale, but the bluntness of our resolve at that point would have made it a travesty for Wigan if we had scored.

Perhaps the stinging cold has exacerbated this negative view of the game. Or that losing on Boxing Day always feels like Father Christmas has failed you. But there were at least five bewildering instances that led to me using the word ‘embarassing’ at the start;

1) The downright lack of impetus given the significance of the result on the league table from the very first minute

2) The rather pathetic sight of Stephen Ward despondently trudging back to left back, after record signing Stephen Fletcher comes on to replace George Elokobi. It just looks weird.

3) Said signing declining to rise for an unchallenged header in the opposition area, opting instead to wait for the ball to bounce and then attempt an overhear kick that goes wide, by a number of yards. Cue SEB kicking the post in frustration

4) After our equaliser, and attempting to get forward in the final throes of the game to rescue a point, Ronald Zubar managing to slice the ball from one side of the pitch in his own third perpendicularly to the other – a knock that rather summed up a clumsy game for the Frenchman

5) The Molineux faithful being outsung by fourteen Wigan fans wearing banana outfits (in fairness, we’d not a lot to shout about)

Perhaps there were stonewall penalties to take issue with, and perhaps the injury table is still too busy for us to complain too much; but for me, this performance saw us look like we deserve to be in the position we’re in.

Roll on the return of Karl Henry and Jody Craddock. Didn’t think we’d be needing to say that this season.

Wolves Vs Wigan Athletic Preview

Wolves head into their Boxing Day clash with fellow strugglers Wigan looking for their first back-to-back wins of the season.

And if you believe in the idea of a ‘six-pointer’ this is definitely one of those. Victory would see Wolves leapfrog their opponents and possibly escape the relegation zone. By contrast, defeat would be a huge blow and potentially see us slip to the foot of the table.

Hopefully this match will be remember for the football

But let’s be positive. Our home form has been pretty good this season, with four wins already in the bag. And when you consider Wolves only managed five in the whole of the last campaign, Molineux is definitely a more formidable place to visit these days.

Wigan have just one away win to their name so far, but that was a morale-boosting 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane, showing they have what it takes to pull off a big result on their travels.

In N’Zogbia and Rodallega, they’ve got two very capable matchwinners in their ranks and keeping those players quiet will be key for Wolves. N’Zogbia killed us at Molineux last season and we can’t afford to stand off him in the manner we did in that game. Fingers crossed we’ve learned our lesson.

According to Mick, David Jones, Christophe Berra and Matt Jarvis are all back in contention. Craddock, Mouyokolo, Henry, Mancienne and Doyle are longer term absentees, with none expected back in training until at least January.

It’s difficult to predict the team, but my guess is:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Stearman
Elokobi

Hunt
Edwards
Foley
Milijas
Ward

SEB

So, the same eleven that saw off Blues a few weeks back, which would mean Jones and Jarvis sitting on the bench. It’s impossible to second-guess Mick though and it wouldn’t surprise me if he threw both of those players back in. Fletcher will also be waiting in the wings for an opportunity.

Prediction League

With the Albion game being called off, there was no Prediction League action last week. Those cheeky enough to suggest a pools coupon result is enough to claim points should hang their heads in shame.

Just to be clear, all predictions from the West Brom preview are void and we’ll do another preview when the rearranged game comes along.

This weekend, I’m going for a Wolves win. I think if we can replicate the work rate and endeavour that went into the win against Birmingham, we should have enough to come out on top.

Both defences are dodgy and both sides have players capable of finding the net, so I’ll go for a 3-1 Wolves win.

If you’re going to Molineux on Boxing Day, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

And of course…

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Pace to burn

Although it was thoroughly disappointing to see the Black Country derby called off yesterday, the postponement could very well be a blessing.

Our injury situation surely can’t be any worse when rearranged fixture rolls around, so in all likelihood we’ll be able to field a much stronger side.

Robbie Findley - Wolves target?

Perhaps of equal importance, the January transfer window should also have swung wide open by then, allowing us to strengthen, beat the Albion and mount an escape from the dropzone.

Easy peasy.

And one thing we require in January, along with defensive reinforcements, is a striker.

I feel confident that in SEB, Doyle and Fletcher, we have a trio of forwards more than capable of digging us out, but with Marcus Bent almost certain to be politely sent packing in the new year, we’ll need a fourth frontman to fill the void.

Bent was unquestionably brought in out of desperation because nobody better was available, but even I’ve been surprised at the lack of opportunities he’s been afforded. Still, this proves a point to me that we just don’t need a target man.

So when Mick draws up his shopping list, I hope it includes a forward with some serious pace to burn.

I think we’re crying out for that, just to provide another option and give opposition defenders something else to worry about.

This thought has occurred to me a few times, particularly when we’re clinging onto a narrow lead late on in a game. We sit ridiculously deep and very rarely look like springing a counter-attack to kill the game off. A fleet-footed forward could remedy this situation.

And low and behold, this morning I came across a story linking us with pacey MLS Striker, Robbie Findley. Hardly speculation to set pulses racing but nonetheless, someone of this ilk could be a useful addition to the squad.

Like it or not, we’re never going to attract a marquee signing with three established first team strikers already on the books, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if this rumour had legs.

Another quick attacker, who we’ve been linked with in the past, is Derby’s Kris Commons. I think he’d be a cracking signing. With 12 goals in the Championship already this season and the ability to play out wide and off a front man, he could certainly be of some use. Whether or not we could get him is another question entirely.

I’d be interested to know if I’m alone in thinking we should be shopping for a player in this mould.

What do we all think?