Archives for December 2011

Bolton 1 Wolves 1

Last season, I thought one of the major reasons Wolves always struggled, was their inability to grind out draws in close matches.

Too often we’d be in games, but rather than keeping things tight and seeing it out, we made a suicidal mistake and allowed the opposition in through the back door.

Case in point, the injury time giveaway at the Reebok courtesy of Ronald Zubar.

Me again

So, despite the inept first half performance today (more on that in the moment) you’ll forgive me for being more than a little satisfied with a well-earned point.

Yes, by the end, we probably should have won it as we dominated possession in the final 20, albeit without punishing a creaky Bolton defence. But a draw is a solid enough result and maintains a slither of daylight between ourselves and the bottom three.

Fletch’s early second-half goal was crucial. No surprise to see him once again getting on the end of a Matt Jarvis delivery to nod in the equaliser. That’s 8 for the season, which is particularly impressive when you consider he’s struggled with injuries. Lets just hope his latest knock doesn’t cost us his services for Monday’s game against Chelsea.

Dave Edwards was another who impressed in the second half, bursting forward to good effect, which just begs the question, why the hell didn’t he start the game?

Throwing Elokobi in and shifting Ward into central midfield was ridiculous. There’s no other word to describe it. Well, actually there are, but that’s about the only one I can publish.

Credit to Wardy, he got on with it as usual and smashed the bar with a superb effort from distance. But that doesn’t paper over the fact that it was wrong of Mick to play him there.

We did nothing in that first half and still could have come in level, which definitely says more about Bolton than it does about our limp, insipid display.

Thankfully, Mick wasted no time in correcting his error and was immediately rewarded with the equaliser. Lets just hope that’s the end of the ‘Ward can play anywhere’ saga.

I think Johnson and Berra both deserve a pat on the back today. Not much either of them could do about the goal and that aside, they dealt with everything that came their way.

The skipper carried on his improvement from a solid second half at Arsenal, whereas Berra has become the model of consistency. The Scot remains a vastly underrated player in my opinion.

Nice to see Foley make a return too. I think we’ve missed his ability to put foot on ball and maintain possession neatly, especially when we’re up against it.

With Frimpong set to join alongside Jonnson tomorrow in the January sales and the team showing more fight on the pitch I think there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic heading into the second half of the season.

If it’s anything like the first, it will at the very least, be interesting.

Happy New Year!

Up The Wolves!

Bolton Vs Wolves Preview

So what would you call our New Year’s Eve visit to the Reebok?

Must win or mustn’t lose?

If we’re serious about surviving more comfortably than last season, I think you’d call it a must win against a team with the worst home record in the league.

Injury time minute heartbreak last season

Bolton have lost 8 of their 9 home matches to date, with just a sole victory over Stoke to celebrate in front of their own crowd.

The stuff of nightmares for Owen Coyle and without doubt, for his side, this is definitely a must-win.

With that in mind, I’d personally settle for a point.

Wolves just have an unpleasant knack of losing these so-called six-pointers so a draw would represent a solid result.

Yes, a win would put satsifactory daylight between ourselves and the bottom, but a loss would suck us right in and the thought of that scenario ahead of a difficult January makes me feel more than a little nauseous.

Interestingly, Bolton haven’t drawn a match yet, so they’re certainly overdue a stalemate.

The Team

We’re forced into two changes with Milijas (wrongly) suspended and Zubar out injured. That’s a hammer blow to our immediate prospects in my opinion, as I rate both of those players highly.

What Mick now does with the team and specifically the midfield will be very interesting, but I suspect we’ll see something like this:

Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Henry, Edwards, Hunt, Jarvis, Fletcher, SEB

So that’s 442 with Stearman as a straight swap for Zubar, SEB in for Milijas and Edwards in for Forde.

Given Mick’s limited options in the center of midfield, it would appear to be a straight shootout between Edwards and Guedioura to start and I think he’ll deem the latter too much of a risk.

It’s conceivable we could see them both starting in a 451, but I have a suspicion we’ll go for it with two forwards.

Prediction League

5 enlightened souls correctly predicted a draw against Arsenal. 4 of them got the 1-1 scoreline too.

So well done to Karlir-Johanarnt Kristjanson, robin, Morph and Mark for scooping 3 points. The Wanderer takes a single.

Sadly, I think we’ll lose this match as we always lose the ‘mustn’t-lose’ matches.

I’ll go for 2-1 Bolton and just hope I’m slapping myself tomorrow evening for a lack of faith in my team.

If you’re heading to the Reebok tomorrow, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

The day that fairness died

Back in 2009, Frank Lampard got a red card against Liverpool overturned by the FA for a late tackle on Xabi Alonso.

The preceding season, John Terry got his sending off against Man City withdrawn despite lunging in on their striker Jo on the halfway line.

Nenad Milijas wasn’t so fortunate for little old Wolves though, as his clean, fair challenge on Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta is still deemed to be a red card offence, despite video footage and every single pundit across the country thinking otherwise.

The two Chelsea players happened to be playing for their country you see, while the bloke from Serbia was just daring to play for lowly Wolves at Arsenal.

It’s no wonder FIFA think the FA are a xenophobic bunch of hypocrites, when only last month they were appealing Wayne Rooney’s crude thigh raking kick against Montenegro.

Milijas punished for a fair tackle

At least we have learned one thing for certain during this twisted decision to uphold Stuart Attwell’s attempt to pevert the course of justice at the Emirates Stadium.

Namely, that the FA are a spineless, corrupt organisation who place pecking order over impartiality.

If our red card case was seen before a Magistrate, the court clerk would have thrown the hearing out for wasting everyone’s time.

On past crimes alone, Stuart Attwell would have been the man in the dock for his latest example of incompetence and not us, only weeks after blundering at White Hart Lane when sending off Gary Cahill.

Only three seasons after awarding a goal at Vicarage Road that never even existed.

But this is the Premier League world we live in folks.

A world where fair play and self deprecating hard graft by both manager and players is penalised, yet incessant Ryan Shawcross-style haranguing is applauded.

After Dick Turpin conquered against Newcastle at Molineux this season (Mark Halsey), Anthony Taylor was next to turn fair play on its head by refusing to send off Woodgate for Stoke when playing at the same place.

Coincidence? Add in the following from the 2010/11 season off the top of my head:

  1. James Perch trip on Jarvis at home to Newcastle while winning 1-0. No penalty.
  2. Gallas assault on Jarvis at White Hart Lane in 6 yard box while winning 1-0. No penalty.
  3. Stephen Warnock pre-meditated studs-up challenge for Villa not earning second yellow, let alone red. Warnock sets up Heskey for the winner.
  4. Fabregas scything, stretcher inducing challenge on Ward for Arsenal at Molineux. No red, Fabregas sets up second goal.
  5. Stearman headed, winning goal against Spurs disallowed at Molineux when punched in head by Gomez. Free kick awarded to Spurs.

I could add an endless list of howlers from the season before, when we were shafted more times than a rent boy on an initiation; such was our own induction to the world’s ‘greatest league.’

(Dunne rugby tackle on Doyle at home to Villa – no penalty; Wilson catching the ball for Portsmouth at home – no penalty; Fellaini assault on Doyle at Everton – no free kick and Everton then score)

Can anyone name one decision we have got in our favour in all this time?

And all the while, our stoic, honest manager turns the other cheek and shakes each referee’s hand as they walk off the pitch to daub another indiscretion on the dressing room wall for the next cheat to laugh at.

Pulis and Warnock decide go to work on the 4th official from kick off instead, in their unique interpretation of the Respect the Ref campaign.

It’s no wonder Stephen Hunt says we should start playing the game ‘properly’ like every other club does, in an attempt to level up a surface which is rapidly becoming unplayable.

If Mick McCarthy had any bollocks, he’d be saying the same thing right now and Steve Morgan would be bankrolling every single forthcoming fine.

It might pain the FA and the Premier League to admit it, but John Terry wasn’t the first centre half to win 100 caps for his country (He was the first to screw a teammate’s wife and call a fellow pro a f**king black c**t though)

Billy Wright CBE was, and he wore the gold shirt of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The same Wolverhampton Wanderers that stuck floodlights on their stands when no other club had the inclination.

Floodlights to capture nights of European football that the great Stan Cullis dreamed up, which Stuart Attwell’s chosen few are still dining out on today.

If the FA and the Premier League would prefer to treat our gold with distain while masturbating over Sheikh Mansour’s, then let them.

But not before we’ve let them know exactly how we all feel about it.

Please join me in emailing and telephoning the FA’s hotline to report incidents of discrimination.

Email: FootballForAll@TheFA.com 0800 085 0508

Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

If yesterday was supposed to be about how many goals Robin van Persie would plunder in his quest to enter the record books, nobody told Wayne Hennessey.

This morning all the headlines deservedly belong to the giant Welshman after a quite remarkable performance to repel the Arsenal onslaught.

Wenger reckons they’d have won this game 19 times out 20, but surely if our goalkeeper had played this well in all of those matches Professor Football should rethink his figures?

Another poor decision to deal with

Wayne will deservedly scoop all the plaudits, but the rest of the team also warrant a substantial slab of credit too.

Maintaining a shape, defending your 18-yard box and not allowing such slinky opposition to simply walk the ball in is a tough ask, particularly away from home. That type of stubborn discipline often gets overlooked, but it’s a skill in itself.

By the end, Arsenal were effectively playing into our hands by throwing crosses into the box for the likes of Berra and Johnson to gobble up, which is testament to the work we’d done up to that point.

The center of midfield, so often criticised for being wide open were phenomenal defensively. Henry made a string of fine interceptions and tackles to cut out killer passes, whilst Milijas once again dispelled the myth that he’s lazy when the opposition have the ball.

To see the Serbian dismissed with 20 minutes to go was both cruel and unjust. Quite what the referee saw in the tackle I’ll never know, but the game had certainly been bubbling towards a flash point for a while. To me the man in the middle simply failed to keep tempers in check.

Fortunately, it didn’t cost us and the injustice only served to make point gained all the more satisfying, not least when you consider we’d lost to Arsenal in all 6 of our previous Premier League meetings.

Speaking of satisfaction, what about another goal for Fletch? His superb reaction header just before half-time means he’s now scored goals at Anfield, Old Trafford and the Emirates this season – not too shabby when you consider he probably only had one decent chance in all of those games.

Once again the Scot was largely anonymous, left isolated by the formation and dominance of the home side, but yet he still managed to gobble up the only half chance that came his way to level the scores.

Keeping him fit will likely be the difference between survival and relegation.

A word too for Roger Johnson. There were moments where he wobbled, particularly in the first half, but as the game wore on his influence grew and the skipper made vital blocks and clearances to keep the scores level. That’s what we paid the money for.

Finally, well done Anthony Forde.

The youngster slotted in seamlessly down the right, looked neat and tidy on the ball and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. He also looked confident and skilful in possession so I’ll look forward to seeing what he can do against lesser opposition.

Indeed it was wholly appropriate that Mick finally gave youth a chance on the big stage, on a day that unquestionably belonged to another academy graduate.

Thanks Wayne.

Arsenal Vs Wolves Preview

If anyone really thought Arsenal would slink back into midtable after an uncomfortable summer, they’ve seemingly been proven wrong.

At this precise moment, the Gunners sit just outside the top four having already made it through to the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.

Battered 2-0 last season

That’s a pretty impressive feat, when you consider the players that have left, the injuries they’ve had to contend with and the relatively meager amount Wenger spent in the summer to plug the holes.

With back-to-back home games against Wolves and QPR things promise to get even better for the Londoners as they reach the halfway point in the season.

In particular, they’ll be licking their lips about tomorrow’s game against a struggling side they’ve beaten in each of their last 6 Premier League matches.

Yes, whilst Wolves have been able to upset City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs since returning to the top division, Arsenal have been a tougher nut to crack.

We came agonisingly close to taking a point from the Emirates two years ago and probably should have got a draw in last season’s home match.

That said, we were soundly thumped by them 2-0 back in February in one of the most one-sided matches I’ve ever seen. Robin van Persie scored both goals that day and if the Dutchman is in the mood again tomorrow, our prospects will be decidedly bleak.

The Team

I have no idea what Mick will do tomorrow and I have no idea what I’d do either. Play 442 and we’re likely to be carved open at will, play 451 and they’ll camp inside our half and probably pick us off. It’s a tricky one.

This is my guess at the starting XI:

Hennessey, Zubar, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Henry, Milijas, Edwards, Hunt, Jarvis, Fletcher

So that’s Dave Edwards straight back in for his work-rate, with SEB dropping out to leave Fletch as the lone forward.

Prediction League

5 of you correctly predicted the Norwich game would end in a draw with 3 also getting the 2-2 scoreline.

Well done to Louie, Ad Mant and Rich for getting the maximum. Ask K and Stourbridge Wolf take a single point.

Logically, I really can’t see a way we’ll take anything from this match.

However, purely because we’re due a result against Arsenal and you normally achieve at least one upset a year, I’ll go for the most unlikely of Wolves wins.

2-1 to the old gold.

If you’re one of those dedicated souls making the trip down to London tomorrow, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

To everyone…