Archives for September 2013

Wolves 0 Walsall 1

It’s difficult knowing what’s more galling about a defeat at home to a vastly superior Walsall side at Molineux.

Wolves Walsall home

1. The fact it’s been on the cards for the last two home games

2. It owes much to unfathomable tinkering with a winning team

3. It featured an infuriating inability to keep hold of the football

For those fans trumpeting the importance of results over performances, perhaps this one will serve as one big wake-up call, because a woeful inability to retain possession like this simply isn’t sustainable.

After Swindon served up their sobering masterclass on Saturday – not to mention the Crawley Town Friday fright a fortnight before – lessons should have been learned.

Instead, our only goal threat is inexplicably dropped, our lynchpin midfielder is prematurely substituted and the Stearman / Batth partnership that had looked so assured was again consigned to the dustbin for reasons unknown.

The net result is awkward on the eye, as we yet again squander possession to a team that clearly values it way more.

But should we all be panicking?

One of the most pathetic, hapless squads in the last 30 years has been shorn of 20 players to date, to be replaced by just three in Ricketts, McDonald and Golbourne.

With kids notoriously taking time to bed down, results like this against a side without a pot to piddle in should not be entirely surprising, however unpalatable it feels to admit it.

Wolves Walsall

Walsall’s dextrous young outfit were quicker in thought and touch than our entire team and it makes you wonder what will become of the Ginger Mourinho’s men come the end of the season if we’re supposed to be the promotion challengers?

Our previously resolute defence under Stearman’s stewardship looks decidedly ropey these days, while the erratic Sako is stinking the place out like a sack of excrement.

The chasm between midfield and attack is huge and even at 0-1, there was no guile, flair or apparent inclination to grasp the game by the scruff of the neck.

With no meaningful incomings during the transfer window to supplement this wafer thin squad, things are what they are.

But with the same Port Vale starting line-up still available to our manager, they shouldn’t be what they were tonight.

Wolves Vs Walsall Preview

The statistics tell us that Molineux has become a League One fortress.

Wolves Walsall JPT

But a 100% home record has certainly covered the cracks of two flimsy performances.

Since battering Gillingham, Wolves have twice played second fiddle on their own patch, conjuring results they’ve scarcely deserved. It can’t continue.

Midfield is the problem.

They let Crawley and Swindon hassle them into surrendering possession cheaply. And when the opposition had the ball, they didn’t do enough to disrupt their rhythm.

If they don’t want their pants pulled down by Walsall tomorrow night, at least one of these issues must be resolved.

Walsall

Victory in the JPT over our neighbours was another close call. After being dominated in the early exchanges they eventually clawed us back and began causing problems.

They’ll be well up for this. Little will be expected from them and they know the pressure is on Wolves to come out win the game.

Aside from a 3-0 home defeat to Preston, the Saddlers have enjoyed a solid start. Having dispatched Crewe at the weekend by the same scoreline, they arrive at Molineux in good shape. A win could take them back into the top six breathing right down our necks.

Craig Westcarr scored twice at the weekend and if Walsall create as many chances as Swindon did, an in form striker might well be the difference. Ashely Hemming is another to watch. He scored in the JPT defeat and will be keen to heap more misery on his former employers.

Wolves

I thought Kenny Jackett got both the team selection and shape of the side wrong on Saturday. You might point to the result, but anyone who watched the game will know we were too open without the ball and too disjointed on it. Therefore this is the team I hope he plays tomorrow:

Wolves Walsall lineup

There seems to be an acceptance that Davis must play because he’s the only holding player we have on the books. I disagree. Based on Saturday and the Crawley game, I didn’t see enough blocking or tackles to justify this argument. Additionally, his distribution was appalling and he didn’t cover nearly enough ground.

I’d shift Evans into the middle, ask him to sit deeper and just look after the ball. Take Davis out the firing line for a game. Evans was wasted down the right against Swindon. Ismail was lightweight when he came on, but his presence at least helps us get on the front foot.

If Kenny wants to further freshen things up, he might also consider giving Siggy a game at the expense of Doyle or Griffiths. But I’d probably maintain the status quo. I thought their link up play for Doyle’s goal was impressive and Griffiths is always a threat, even when he’s squandering chances like he did at the weekend.

The odds

Wolves are favourites to win again at 4/6. A Walsall victory is a generous 4/1, while the draw is also good value at 14/5.

If you back Wolves to be winning at half time, but the game to eventually end in a draw you can get 14/1 odds, which seems a good bet based on how recent home performances have played out.

No surprise Leigh Griffiths is favourite to open the scoring at 10/3. Craig Westcarr is 8/1 to continue his recent good form.

All odds are available from here.

Predictions

The combination of optimism and sweet, sweet victory continues to provide an avalanche of PL points.

81 people thought we’d beat Swindon at the weekend and 9 of them got the 3-2 scoreline spot on to double up.

Hats off to Chris in Dublin, Hamlet, sleachy, SG Wolf, DealWolf, Wight Wolf, PeakWolf, Erick1011 and SOIAW.

We’re into serious heart versus head territory now.

Logically Wolves can’t keep winning and if they’re going to come a cropper, a local derby against in-form rivals seems as good an opportunity as any to slip up.

However, I think we’re due a better home performance than we’ve seen of late and I think we’ll score more than once.

So, I’ll go for a hopeful 2-1.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 3 Swindon Town 2

Sat in the family enclosure amongst like-minded fathers and sons was a lovely new experience for a nomadic Molineux frequenter.

Wolves Swindon

Packed with innocent, virtuous youngsters who unconditionally love the Beautiful Game was a sight that will live long in the memory.

A quite magnificent performance from Swindon Town.

When the children all around me weren’t stumbling over my trailing jaw, they were asking their parents how in God’s name we were winning.

It was as if their waves of attacks were mirroring the impossible amount of times I had to stand and give way for one little boy’s toilet breaks.

He must have had 15 in the space of the second half as I stood, sat, stood and sat as he scuttled past to empty his bladder.

About the same amount of times that our goal was peppered, which may well account for such chronic incontinence in one so young and tender.

Spurs loanees Luongo and Mason were almost literally untouchable in the middle of the park, as the former ran into open space like Jack Wilshere, while the latter just glistened.

Had Mason brought his shooting boots, which were only in evident in his scorching late netbuster, he could have scored four and Swindon six. I’m not joking.

So good were they that they made Crawley Town’s recent supremacy appear marginal, which made the three points all the sweeter.

Amid such assured company, Lee Evans and David Davis – in particular – struggled and we were simply incapable of keeping the ball.

Thankfully for us, our old boy Darren Ward was as leaden footed as ever for the away team and their defence looked shaky as a result.

That we scored three goals in such a one sided game tells its own story.

In another huge boost for Kenny Jackett, it is becoming abundantly clear that Carl Ikeme is the best goalkeeper in the league. He must have stunk of leather, such was the amount of times the gold and black Mitre kept thudding into his body.

Captain Ricketts made a worldly block from Nile Ranger to also keep the Robins at bay in the first half, while Danny Batth did likewise to deny that man Mason in the second.

And one final boost is the strength of our squad, with Siggy and Foley combining for the all important third.

As firepower goes, we do possess our fair share too, with an off colour Griffiths surely bagging a couple on any other given day.

Had the game finished 7-4 to Swindon, few inside Molineux could complain…

…A scoreline that most 6 year-old boys and their fathers in the family enclosure could doubtless relate to.

Wolves Vs Swindon Town Preview

Who else remembers a belting match between these two sides from the late 90s?

Nile Ranger Swindon

Dougie Freedman scored a snorter on his debut to put Wolves a goal up. Both teams were then reduced to 10 men, Swindon for a horror challenge and Wolves for Bully’s reaction. Swindon then equalised from a penalty before being reduced to 9 men for a foul on Robbie Keane. Keith Curle restored the lead before Paul Simpson put the icing on the cake with a spectacular lob from 40 yards out.

What a game.

They’ve only got it on YouTube too. Here it is:

Swindon

Considering the financial turmoil they’ve been in, Mark Cooper’s team are performing well, on and off the pitch.

Nile Ranger was their high profile summer signing, not least because he’s currently under investigation for rape. But the former Newcastle striker will bring quality and goals at this level, so he’s one to watch.

They’ve also added former Millwall striker Dany N’Guessan to their ranks as well as Tottenham midfielder Massimo Luongo.

The Robins results have been mixed thus far, meaning they arrive at Molineux in 10th place, but just two points outside the play-offs.

They’ve lost twice and drawn once in their three away games to date, but a recent 5-0 thumping of Crewe and a League Cup win against QPR at Loftus Road will give them belief.

Wolves

Depending on the injury to Sam Ricketts, it looks as if Wolves will have a full squad to choose from for this match. That gives Kenny Jackett a few selection dilemmas to. Assuming everyone is fit, I would imagine the team will be:

Wolves team for Swindon

Despite Sako’s antics prior to the win at Port Vale, I think he should be immediately restored to the starting eleven. We need the attacking outlet he provides, particularly at home.

It’s nice to feel comfortable with that team and still have players like Golbourne, Evans and Sigurdarson waiting in the wings. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see any of them start.

We’ve got a nice blend of youth and experience in the squad and no shortage of talent for League One. Injuries will no doubt challenge our progress at times, but I’m highly optimistic about our immediate prospects.

The odds

Wolves are big favourites to win this one at 4/5. Swindon are 10/3 and the draw is 13/5.

If you think Bakary Sako will signal his commitment to the cause with the opening goal, you can get 8/1.

The aforementioned Nile Ranger is also very good value at 9/1 if you think Swindon might grab a lead.

See here for up to date betting offers.

Predictions

78 people added to their tallies by predicting the win at Port Vale. Of those, 14 also got the 3-1 scoreline spot on to double up. Well done to one and all.

I think this is going to be a real test for Wolves.

We’re notoriously slow after international breaks and Swindon have discovered some form.

But I still think we should have too much for them at home and I’ve been one of the few people not to predict wins of late. So I’ll go for a narrow 2-1 home victory.

Up The Wolves.

Roger that

Never will an three month loan deal for a departing Wolves player be greeted with such fervent cheer.

Roger Johnson fan conflict

Roger Johnson, quite possibly the most vilified player to wear the shirt since…well…Jamie O’Hara, is swapping life as a Wolf for an Owl and he will hear the ‘toowit-toowooing’ all the way along the toll road from Wolverhampton.

Cutting a dejected figure outside Molineux after passing his medical was an ominous first impression back in 2011, but at least our Roj will look a damned sight happier to get the hell out of town than he was when he first arrived.

At precisely what point the relationship between skipper and club broke down is probably still up for debate, if we were forced to rake over old coals.

Most agree that being club captain was a mistake when signed by Mick McCarthy in the first place, while some will point to an alcoholic aberration just days after a quite bizarre performance in West Brom’s massacre at Molineux – the like of which I’d never seen before or since.

Roger’s crass goal celebrations in last season’s Bristol City false dawn only added fuel to the fire, not to mention his ‘Nuffin’ to do wiv me Guv’ antics as a substitute after ‘that’ Barnsley send-off at Oakwell.

I just saw another centre half with no discernible pace whatsoever, which could only ever end in bad news for a team bereft of the virtue since Joleon Lescott. Alongside Christophe Berra.

But before you all scream ‘who cares’ and scorn this blog forever more, is it worth exploring the possibility that Roger was marginally misunderstood from the moment he walked through the door?

According to a fan who met Johnson during a SportingBet supporter Q&A, the beanpole defender signed on the premise that three to four proven, Premier League operators would follow.

To have the armband foisted upon him as the club reneged on its promise might, at the very worst, felt like an elevation to ‘great white hope’ stature when he only wanted to get on with his football.

The same supporter referred to news of his drinking debacle being conveniently ‘leaked’ at the same time Terry Connor was appointed manager, as if donkey was being remoulded scapegoat?

No matter.

As an emblematic vision of Mick McCarthy’s wanton world, we can raise another beer.

We can only presume that Roger Johnson is doing likewise.

Finding the positives

The Irish teamsheet for last night’s u21 international against Germany was less than glamorous, but did include a familiar trio.

Matt Doherty

Matt Doherty, Aaron McCarey and Anthony Forde were all in the starting eleven as the Republic went down 4-0 against a strong German team.

Having watched the game I thought I’d give an Irish Wolves  perspective on how our lads fared.

Positioning

Ireland unsurprisingly fielded a rather defensive-minded 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders protecting a back four. With Blades right-back Sean McGinty occupying Doherty’s favoured spot, Matt slotted in as the right-sided defensive midfielder. It was in this position that Matt scored his two goals against the Faroes just a few weeks back. Forde started on the wing, with Aaron the first-choice man between the sticks.

Aaron McCarey

Despite the hammering, Aaron emerged with credit. For the first goal, a shot from distance took a wicked bounce just in front of him, giving him little chance. The second was a comedy of errors with the big keeper rushing out to smother a dangerous-looking ball, only for his own defender to dink it over his head, leaving their striker the opportunity to head into an empty net. Two minutes later a well-worked attack down the left flank ended in a great cross that was headed home for 3-0. McCarey could have dealt with the aerial ball a bit better, but it was still a powerful pin-point cross of a higher quality than he’s likely to have come up against very often at Walsall (or even against them!).

His game got a lot better from there though, composed distribution was interspersed with sharp reflexes when required. Good stops from a powerful Younes effort on 50 minutes and a well-placed shot in the top corner on 70 minutes will have helped boost his confidence, before the low shot past him for 4-0 that was probably more down to a tired defence giving the impressive striker way too much room to shoot. Judge for yourself from the highlights though:

I get the feeling he needs more game time – will the loan window still be open when Hennessey comes back? If so, I would love McCarey to be loaned out again and get another 30-odd matches under his belt. With that, he could be in contention for the No. 1 jersey when he comes back to us.

Matt Doherty

Did fairly well in his alternative role, not sure how much his coach lets him go on those attacking runs from the inside position, but was heavily involved in that great passing move that almost set up an equaliser, and also worked hard to get on the end of crosses and corners. Seemed to play the ball-winning defensive midfield role fairly well, but is definitely more of a fullback. To be honest, it was hard keeping tabs on him, as he was wearing the number 6 shirt, and Carruthers, the lad with the 8 shirt, has the same ridiculous facial hair as he does, making it hard to tell them apart from a distance.

I’m glad he’s signed a new contract because he’s done a great job for wolves so far, and if he keeps on this trajectory he could be first-choice for a good number of years for us, even if we do end up at the right end of the Championship table very soon.

Anthony Forde

A very quiet game from the Limerick man, didn’t see too much of him from open play at all, and he was deservedly substituted at half time. Did send in a couple of excellent corners though, one of which was glanced just wide by Aiden O’Brien when it was still only 1-0.

I know we’re desperate for cover on the wings, but in an ideal world I’d want a lower-league veteran on the books for cover this season while Forde goes out on loan and plays a few competitive matches. After that we’d have a better idea if it’s worth keeping him or not.

Danger man?

A guy I hadn’t heard of called Graham Burke came off the bench to play quite well up front; he’s currently on loan at Shrewsbury from Villa. It will be interesting to see how Batth handles him in a few weeks time.