Archives for August 2013

Port Vale 1 Wolves 3

Celebrating an impressive away win at Port Vale with a McDonald’s meal on the M6 was the most fitting conclusion to an away day to savour.

Kevin McDonald Port Vale

After our Scottish number 11 Kevin put in a virtuoso display to feast over, a bite to eat at the namesake restaurant was the least I could do to show my appreciation.

Make no mistake though, we’re not settling for a beefburger here but a prime steak, who was tastier than any other player on the Vale Park pitch – or any other Wolves player on a full league debut for that matter.

Thanks in no small part to the meaty man from Carnoustie, we eventually ran out worthy winners against a largely impressive Port Vale side, who will point to one or two missed chances, the width of the woodwork and an inspired Carl Ikeme with the score at 1-0.

For the first half there was nothing to choose between the teams, even if Wolves looked marginally more threatening on the break.

What appeared to be a stubborn insistence to make the wrong decision at all costs was the overriding reason for the stalemate.

That Wolves managed to shake off the affliction in the second half as the home side continued the trend explains the eventual scoreline.

A moment of genuine quality was required to separate the teams and when it came it was worth waiting for, as Leigh Griffiths worked an opening before lashing the ball high into the net past the keeper’s near post.

Our new number nine then etched his name into the cult hero ranks with a mock imitation of Lee Hughes’ god awful goal celebration, in front of 4,000 joyous away fans.

As the game became stretched we then unleashed another discernible touch of class, in the shape of Sigurdarson.

Siggy ran 70 yards to get on the end of a low Griffiths cross to hammer home the second and when the Icelandic marksman returned the same compliment to ‘that man’ McDonald to make it three, the game was well and truly over.

Port Vale away

Sitting in the Railway Stand with a staunch Vale supporting friend of mine offered an insightful perspective from a different vantage point, while my five year-old’s celebration to Griffiths’ opener gave me brief palpitations, amongst some less enamoured home fans!

The one cause for concern on today’s showing the performance of Kevin Doyle, who was guiltier than any player of either making awful decisions in promising positions, or just making a mess of things altogether.

Compared to the triumvirate of Griffiths, McDonald and Siggy, he was something of an imposter who will not be catching any scouts’ eyes amid such company.

Scott Golbourne was also largely anonymous in a left midfield position before going off injured and if he is a replacement for Bakary Sako, then I’d also be raising an eyebrow.

But the positives far outweighed any marginal gripes in a memorable trip to the Potteries, featuring one bargain Big Mac to tickle the taste buds…

…Followed by another one at Stafford Services on the way home!

Highlights

Player ratings

Ikeme: One wonder save at 1-0. Commanded his box brilliantly all game, to the increasing annoyance of the home fans. 8

Doherty: Didn’t see him as an attacking outlet for the second game running. Made timely interceptions though. Solid. 6

Ricketts: Not his finest game featuring terrible distribution in the first half. Got forward well in the second half however. 6

Batth: Handled Hughes and Pope brilliantly and was a rock throughout. Did the dirty stuff better than anyone. 8

Stearman: Another who didn’t shirk the physical challenge, infuriating the home fans with his grapple-fest with Hughes in the process. A vital cog in today’s wheel. 7

Ismail: A genuine outlet who offers a genuine goal threat. Whistled one over in the first half and suffered from others’ poor decision making when ideally placed. Switched sides regularly. 6

Davis: Very good game and extremely easy on the eye. Another robust performer who broke up play and started counter attacks with minimal fuss. Well played! 7

McDonald: Sumptuous. A class act boasting mobility, skill, speed of thought and an ability to be in all the right places at the right times. Man-of-the-match. 9

Doyle: Poor. Off the pace and was the biggest culprit for surrendering possession or making the wrong decisions in promising areas, almost exclusively. Still showed for the ball and offered usual work ethic. 6

Griffiths: Cult hero! Busy, tidy on the ball and an insatiable appetite to hit the back of the net. Will be disappointed not to score after his first, too. Goal celebration worth the admission fee. 8

Golbourne: Not sure what to make of his performance, which lasted about 40mins. No bigger than Zeli and less of an outlet going forward. I see him more as a rival to Ricketts than Sako. I hope Kenny sees it the same and finds a genuine left midfielder if Sako departs. 5

Subs:

Evans (for Golbourne): Steady. Good in possession and had a hand in the opener. 6

Sigurdarson (for Ismail): Brilliant! Scored one, set one up. The perfect environment for Siggy, versus tiring legs, defending a high line. 8

Forde (for Doyle): Typically anonymous, although not on long enough to affect his anonymity 5

Port Vale Vs Wolves Preview

It’s been over 13 years since this fixture was last played.

Lee Hughes

On that particular occasion, Carl Robinson scored a late winner at Vale Park to secure victory on the final day of the 1999/2000 season.

Wolves were still in with a shout of the play-offs, but despite victory lost out on sixth place to Bolton. Port Vale were already relegated.

Since then, the Valiants have sunk down to League Two, stood on the precipice of liquidation, survived and gradually clawed their way back.

I’m looking forward to this game as it’s a fixture I grew up watching all through the 90s.

They had some useful players back then and the likes of Foyle, Guppy, Naylor and McCarthy were all names who heaped misery on us at one time or another.

Port Vale

The current Vale team contains a few familiar faces.

Lee Hughes can expect his usual reception from the 4,500 Wolves supporters heading up the M6, but even at 37 years of age, the former Albion striker remains a potent goal threat. He’d love to score in this one.

The less controversial figure Daniel Jones will also be lining up against his former club on Saturday. He watched the Crawley game last week and feels confident they’ll be able to get at our defence from wide areas. Hopefully not Danny.

After escaping League Two last season with their third place finish, they’ve had a solid enough start this time, with 4 points from 4 matches.

Their home record thus far is strong with a win over highly fancied Bradford and a draw against Brentford, another promotion hopeful.

Mickey Adams has got them playing fast, attacking football so this promises to be an exciting and open game in front of Vale Park’s biggest crowd for years.

Wolves

Things are just starting to bubble up on the transfer front. Barnsley left-back Scott Goldbourne appears to have been lured down a division presumably by a larger pay packet, whilst the first official bid for Bakary Sako has been rebuffed. Something tells me that won’t be the end of it though.

With no confirmed ins or outs as I write this, I think we’ll see two changes from last Friday’s win over Crawley:

Wolves team for Port Vale

Kenny will be keen to get Kevin McDonald into the team I would have thought and last week’s impressive cameo against Crawley gives him an opportunity to do just that. Whether it’s Davis or Evans that makes way, I’m not sure.

I’d be surprised if Griffiths didn’t regain his place at the expense of Siggy, but it’s nice to have the option either way. I’d fancy either of them to score.

The odds

Wolves are favourites to win this one at 11/10, with Port Vale at a more generous 11/4. The draw is 13/5. Live bets can be made using the bwin sports app, and while you wait you could try out the bwin poker app too.

If you fancy a flutter on Kevin McDonald to bag his first Wolves goal, enticing odds of 14/1 are available.

Or for the doomsday scenario, Lee Hughes is 7/1 to open the scoring.

All odds are here.

Predictions

Well done to AmberWolf, Gold Wolf Sven, Sleachy, SOIAW and Number 9, who all got the score spot on against Crawley for a two point maximum.

93 others predicted a win for a single point return with most of us getting a bit carried away with the scoreline.

Everything about this fixture screams banana skin to me. But I can’t possibly predict a defeat, so I’ll take a score draw.

2-2.

Up The Wolves.

Deadline day scenario

So picture the scene…

sky sports news ticket

…It’s 11.55pm and the tantalising Natalie Sawyer is closing over the transfer window, ever so slowly, with those wonderfully elusive eyes of hers.

Her heaving bosom, packed in a yellow ensemble, is all that sits between the gap in the curtains but those eyes are still refusing to seduce you like you only wish they could.

But wait, a voice in her earpiece punctuates an intriguing Bale tweet about chorizo and Natalie is forced to look us right in the eye and mutter the words she barely has the inclination to impart:

‘There’s a breaking news development at Molineux.’

She grudgingly averts her gaze from the millions of Premier League lovers to mumble that Bakary Sako has completed a move to Notts Forest.

How would you feel?

Ask me only a week ago and I’d be thoroughly outraged.

A carbon copy of our 2012 madness, when our most potent outlets were released on deadline with no time to replace and a new manager subsequently marooned.

But after watching Friday night’s slender win over a mightily impressive Crawley Town, I’m wondering if there might be method to the madness of selling our proven match winner?

In a sobering reminder of all those games we’ve surrendered in recent years, our midfield was overrun, with one simple slide-rule ball by-passing our entire midfield on too many occasions.

If Kenny Jackett favours the 4-4-2 system like it appears he does, then surely a narrower proposition is the best way forward, to offset the distinct possibility of more performances like Crawley.

With Zele Ismail showing huge promise and Kevin McDonald looking so impressive in his brief cameo, could Sako’s replacement already be out on the training field awaiting his debut?

We could feasibly play Evans, Davis, Zeli and McDonald together, in a narrower, fluid take on the system we currently operate.

And after watching the under-21s at Molineux yesterday, we might just have the best young talent chomping at the bit for an introduction into the first team, as well.

The performance of Jack Price was a massively uplifting sight against a tough Stoke City outfit, reminding me of Mark Davies in his industry, endeavour and ability to shine in a congested environment. He oozed quality.

We’ve got a real player on our hands on that showing and while losing Sako – and the natural width he provides – would be a blow, the sight of Price in full flow will be arriving sooner rather than later.

Maybe we should be seeing both and maybe we should be buying instead of selling anyway?

But if Natalie Sawyer decides to impart those words that you could do without hearing, would she really be breaking your heart?

Wolves 2 Crawley Town 1

Molineux appreciates a Scottish striker.

Wolves Crawley

From Miller to Fletcher with a hulking dose of Iwelumo sandwiched in between, all have been loved and cherished.

But have any of these past heroes endeared themselves more than the current incumbent of the number 9 shirt?

As of 9.49pm last night, I’d have to say no.

Demanding the ball, he marched towards the penalty spot and proceeded to whip the South Bank into a state of frenzy.

Pumping his chest and waving his arms, he stood before the nervous masses huddled behind the goal and instructed them to turn up the volume.

He didn’t want to cope with the pressure, he wanted to thrive on it.

Seconds the later, the net was bulging and the already familiar knee slide was in full flight.

Leigh Griffiths wasn’t to be denied, the ball seemingly passing through the goalkeeper by sheer confidence alone.

And it’s fitting that confidence won the game, because that very word shaped the contest from the start.

Wolves began with it, threatening a repeat of the previous home performance as they swarmed all over Crawley.

Bjorn Sigurdarson justified his surprise inclusion with a well angled header from Kevin Doyle’s intelligent run and cross.

Zeli Ismail too had swagger in his step, rolling a foot over the ball and beating his man for fun.

All was as it should be.

Unlike Gillingham a fortnight previous though, the visitors settled when they could have wilted and slowly stole the confidence away.

Their well taken equaliser, an hour in the making, should have given them the point their performance warranted.

But Kevin McDonald wasn’t to be denied, swapping passes and driving forward to force a result Wolves scarcely deserved.

The rest was down to Leigh Griffiths. And confidence.

* Full video highlights available here.

Wolves Vs Crawley Town Preview

Friday is guaranteed to be an historic evening of football.

Crawley

This will be the first ever meeting between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crawley Town, despite both clubs being in existence since the late 19th century.

Much of this owes to the fact that Crawley have predominantly plied their trade in the amateur leagues for the lion share of their 117 year history.

This is the highest they’ve ever climbed the ladder and with Wolves stumbling down a few rungs, our paths now finally meet.

Crawley

To underestimate Crawley would be foolish, particularly when you take into account their performance last season, which saw them finish 10th in League One, just 6 points shy of the play-offs.

They currently occupy the same position in the table, with a win (3-2 home to Coventry), a draw (3-3 at Tranmere) and a defeat (2-1 home to Rotherham) to their name.

The most notable player on their teamsheet will be former Blues and Walsall full back Mat Sadler who will no doubt relish the occasion.

Manager Richie Barker spoke this week about the challenges of Financial Fair Play after they were recently hit with a transfer embargo that lasted a month. He now hopes to bring in a few loan signings to bolster their threadbare squad.

Crawley have already conceded 11 goals in their four league and cup games to date, so will be keen not to suffer the same fate suffered by Gillingham a fortnight ago.

Wolves

If you can be flying after just two victories, Wolves are flying. Success has given everyone a lift and keeping the momentum going for as long as possible is vitally important. It’s got to be the same team hasn’t it?

Wolves team for Crawley

There’s a balance to that side that we haven’t had for a long time and I can’t see any reason Kenny Jackett would change it. Even so, it’s nice to think we’ve got Kevin McDonald straining at the leash for a chance and other players like Bjorn Sigurdarson waiting in the wings.

If the transfer window had already closed, I think most of us would feel content to go with what we’ve got until January. But the prospect of losing Doyle and Sako remains and I feel confident both will leave before the month is out. Until they do though, we should have too much for the teams in this division, particularly at home.

The odds

As you might expect, Wolves are red hot favourites for this one at 8/11. You can get 15/4 on Crawley securing an away win. The draw is 13/5.

Kevin Doyle is yet to find the net this season and he’s 5/1 to get the opening goal on Friday. Bakary Sako, looking to make it three in three, is 6/1.

If you dare to dream that Wolves can repeat the 4-0 scoreline they inflicted on Gillingham, odds of 28/1 are available.

It’s all here.

Predictions

An incredible 91 of you thought we’d beat Bristol City last weekend. That must be a Wolves Blog record for the highest number of correct predictions. Well done you optimistic sods.

Of that staggering total, 35 also got the 2-1 scoreline correct for a maximum (another record). I’m not writing them all out (sorry), but well done to everyone.

I was one of the few not to predict a win last weekend so shame on me for a lack of confidence.

No such hesitancy this time. I think we’ll win this one and win it well to go temporarily top of League One.

3-0.

Up The Wolves.

Saturday Afternoon Fever

If you’re a fan of Soccer Saturday you’ll already recognise the familiar face of Johnny Phillips.

Johnny Phillips

He’s one of the show’s most well known roving reporters, achieving internet stardom with his animated coverage of Watford’s topsy-turvy play-off victory over Leicester. If you haven’t seen the clip, it’s well worth a watch.

But what you might not know about Johnny is that he’s a Wolves fan.

Saturday afternoon feverIn his new book, Saturday Afternoon Fever: A Year on The Road For Soccer Saturday, he talks passionately about how Wolves stole his heart from a young age, despite dastardly relatives steering him towards Liverpool.

There’s a whole chapter dedicated to the story, including tales of midweek road trips to Molineux and an interview with club stalwart (and legend) Graham Hughes containing some of the best Wolves anecdotes I’ve read in a long while.

It’s not all Wolves of course, despite being littered with references (such as interviewing Ade Akinbiyi on his debut for Sky and golfing with Kevin Doyle), but it’s a splendid read for any football fan.

Not only do you get the marvelous stories, you’re also treated to a glimpse of what it’s like to work for the nation’s premier sports channel.

As a blogger I particularly appreciated that Johnny wasn’t afraid to share his opinion, as opposed to just writing out his experiences. It makes the content all the more compelling.

Thanks to his publishers Bennion Kenny, I’ve got a copy of the book to giveaway to one Wolves Blog reader.

To be in with a chance of winning simply leave a comment below starting with the line ‘I’d like to read Johnny’s book because…’ 

The comment with the most Likes at midday on Friday will be the winner.

Or if you’d prefer to forgo the competition and buy the book yourself, you can get it on Amazon right here.

You can also follow Johnny directly on Twitter here.