Archives for December 2013

Tranmere Rovers Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves might have slipped to third after Sunday, but if you offered me the same 48 points over the second half of the season, I would gratefully accept.

Wolves Tranmere

A 90+ tally must be the ultimate aim and if Wolves achieve that, it’s difficult to envisage promotion being anything but a certainty.

Two highly winnable away matches kick us off, starting at Tranmere tomorrow before the televised game at Gillingham on Friday evening.

The reverse fixture at Molineux a month or so back was probably the most comfortable victory of the season. Only two goals were scored but it could have been ten and the visitors rarely troubled our goal.

It’s difficult to believe things will be that straightforward at Prenton Park.

Tranmere

Ronnie Moore’s side have the second worst home record in the league, with just two wins from their ten matches to date. They’ve already been beaten five times on their own patch.

Since losing at Molineux at the end of November, they’ve won two and lost three, most recently finding themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat at Bramall Lane.

According to the BBC preview, Tranmere are facing a defensive crisis ahead of this match with two of their first choice back four ruled out.

The danger man is definitely veteran striker Ryan Lowe, who has 14 goals to his name already this season. We didn’t see much of him at Molineux as he struggled to make inroads as the lone forward.

Wolves

There were mixed views on Kenny Jackett’s team selection for Sunday. I agree that we played great football in that first half, but we didn’t get enough bodies into the box and when we did, the chances went begging.

Wolves team for Tranmere

The one major positive for me was Jacobs playing in that central role, tucked in behind the striker. His ability to move at speed with the ball was a real feature of our play. I hope we keep him.

I would definitely play Griffiths from the start. We need goals and he’s the only striker that scores. It’s that simple.

I’m always open to other people’s views and many have stated they thought Cassidy did well in the last two matches. I personally did not. Everyone sees a different game though.

Kenny could rotate any number of other players into the team including: Evans, Davis (where’s he gone?), Doyle, Sigurdarson, McAlinden or Golbourne (if fit). Plenty of options then for the manager to explore.

The odds

Wolves are the favourites for the win at 3/4. Tranmere are 4/1. The draw is 3/1.

You can get odds of 6/1 if you think this will be the game that Jake Cassidy finally breaks his duck for Wolves as the first goalscorer.

All odds can be found here.

Predictions

10 people correctly opted for the draw against Orient. A trio of those also got the 1-1 scoreline to double up their points tally.

Well done to Predictor, Ash K and GoWolves.

Heart and head says we should win this one so it has to be a Wolves victory. Don’t give anything silly away and we should ease through comfortably.

2-0 to the visitors.

Up The Wolves

Wolves 1 Leyton Orient 1

If you create 90% of the chances but score just 50% of the goals, it’s obvious where the game got away.

Wolves Leyton Orient

The numbers don’t lie. Wolves registered three times as many shots, forced six more corners and enjoyed the majority share of possession.

Yet after an hour of almost total domination, the league leaders were still only trailing by Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s superb early goal.

Cue a quickly taken free kick, a fabulous ball across goal and a player actually attacking the back post for a tap-in.

The high-flying visitors, with the only real chance they created all afternoon, ceasing the initiative with the sort of ruthless finishing their opponents simply couldn’t muster.

Kevin McDonald was perhaps most wasteful, cantering clean through on goal but seeing a tame effort palmed away with an absence of gold shirts hanging around for the loose ball.

Jake Cassidy and the lively Michael Jacobs were equally wasteful as Wolves pummeled away to no avail.

Leigh Griffiths, again on a watching brief, wasn’t introduced to the game until after the O’s had taken the wind from the sails. He was ineffective but surrounded by tired legs, starved of any service.

If Kenny Jackett believes Cassidy’s graft and hold up play are adequate enough reasons to keep our top scorer on the sidelines, I respectfully disagree.

But whichever side you fall on that particular argument it’s clear what should be at the very top of the manger’s January shopping list.

Because today, like too many performance of late, could only be described as one thing – a missed opportunity.

Wolves Vs Leyton Orient Preview

It’s funny how things work out.

Orient

After going stride for stride for over four and a half months, League One’s top two, separated only by goal difference, now finally lock horns having played every other team in the division.

What a picture perfect way to bring down the curtain on the first half of the season in front of a packed out Molineux.

Leyton Orient

Orient have been the league’s outstanding side so far and deservedly go into this match at the very top of the ladder.

As an outsider looking in, they appear to have accumulated their 47 points more comfortably than Wolves.

The O’s have netted 47 goals, which is a strike rate of more than two a game. No secret then to where their strength lies.

David Mooney and Kevin Lisbie have shared 23 of those goals, so it promises to be a tough afternoon for our back four still protecting the league’s best defensive record.

Like Wolves, Orient’s form has been patchy of late with only one win in their last five. It also took a late turnaround at Gillingham on Boxing Day to get that crucial victory.

Russel Slade’s team have the best away record in the league with 8 wins from their 12 games and just one defeat. They’ve also netted a staggering 27 goals on their travels.

Wolves

I’ll be very disappointed if we see the same starting XI that just about dispatched Crewe. This would be my team without question:

Wolves team for Orient

That team (with the exception of Doherty) is the best blend of experience, ability, defensive prowess and attacking menace KJ has at his disposal.

I would always back that side to prevail, even against Orient. However, it might be that Kenny has something specific in mind for our illustrious opponents.

The odds

The bookies have Wolves as favourites to win this one at 21/20. Orient are 14/5 and the draw is 13/5.

O’s midfielder Dean Cox is generous odds for first goalscorer at 14/1. He already has 10 strikes to his name this season.

Leigh Griffiths has found the goals harder to come by of late, but he’s still considered the most likely first scorer at 15/4.

All odds can be found here.

Predictions

Most people correctly thought we’d beat Crewe, so well done to all (53) of you. 15 also got the scoreline spot on to double up.

With practically identical records up to this point, a draw seems the most likely conclusion. But we haven’t beaten any teams inside the current top six and that has to change.

I’m therefore adding a dash of bias and a sprinkle of optimism in the hope of our best performance of the season to date.

Don’t let me down lads – 3-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Crewe Alexandra 0

If football victories were Christmas presents, then the majority of 22,693 were treated to a pack of socks against Crewe Alexandra.

Wolves Crewe

It wasn’t particularly exciting or original, but securing a first win in four was a useful present that will definitely serve a purpose.

Having torn away the wrapping paper, this Boxing Day gift was pretty modest on the eye, with more questions being thrown up for manager Kenny Jackett to ponder.

In playing his favoured 4-4-1-1 – featuring Edwards behind Cassidy – Wolves looked functional enough, but not nearly threatening enough to trouble the league’s worst defence, which had conceded 43 goals until today.

Neither did we look resolute enough to banish all thoughts of the bottom side scoring, as seen in the dying seconds of normal time when a huge chance was spurned with the score at 1-0.

Thankfully for us they missed, we scored, and the three points that followed offered similar levels of comfort to a good old pair of Christmas socks.

The overriding question for Jackett now is how to make this team more plausible as an attacking force, without compromising the conservative approach he appears to crave.

Despite the spectacle being largely attritional, it still offered enough to suggest that an answer isn’t far away.

Jack Price was a personal man-of-the-match thanks to an industrious, selfless showing in midfield which gave McDonald licence to move forward, particularly in the second half. Surely this is the future for the big Scot, who flourished when he first signed in a similar role.

James Henry and Michael Jacobs were intelligent, intuitive outlets either side and when Leigh Griffiths eventually came on for the one-dimensional Edwards, we looked a proper team.

The sight of our cult hero lashing the ball home in front of an adoring South Bank in injury time was as uplifting as it was perplexing.

How can a constant goal threat with 13 strikes to his name be warming the bench while Jackett’s ridiculously inferior alternatives struggled in his place?

By bringing the top scorer on during the second half, Crewe were finally forced to turn around and defend, instead of serenely play around with the ball in front of their back four, much like MK Dons did.

With the defence taking care of itself – only to be strengthened whenever Doherty returns – this team isn’t too far away from being where Jackett would want it to be.

He deserves huge credit to have arrived at this point having picked the bones from a footballing bombsite only five months ago.

Hopefully, he is now holding out for the January sales where the acquisition of some raw pace up front would be infinitely more exciting than today’s Christmas gift.

Wolves Vs Crewe Alexandra Preview

Looking back to this time last season, I was highly optimistic about our immediate prospects.

Crewe

Wolves had just beaten Blackpool away and had two winnable home fixtures to look forward to over the Christmas break.

What followed was a 3-0 pummeling from Peterborough, followed up by the most dour 2-0 defeat you’ll ever see against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich.

Suffice to say, I’m keeping my expectations in check this time as we once again enter back-to-back Molineux festivity.

Crewe

It’s been a tough old season for Crewe and they come into this match in 23rd position, just two points off the foot of the table.

The Railwaymen have comfortably conceded more goals than any other side in League One (45) and share the lowest goals scored tally with Sheffield United (18).

They’ve lost 7 of their 10 away matches so far this season and scored just 7 goals against 25 conceded. I don’t need to paint it any clearer then – Wolves must win this one.

However, Steve Davis’ men are unbeaten in their last three matches and have claimed a few scalps already this season – most notably a 2-0 away win at Preston.

Wolves

Kevin McDonald returns after his one match suspension and I sincerely hope he makes an immediate return to the side. After dropping Leigh Griffiths in favour of Bjorn Sigurdarson last weekend, it will also be intriguing to see which forward partnership start this time.

Wolves Crewe

That would probably be my eleven, assuming Matt Doherty is still out. He’s been a massive miss in my opinion, particularly in an attacking sense down the right flank. Ricketts is more dependable than impressive in the final third.

The odds

No surprise to see Wolves are red hot favourites to win this one at 4/11. Crewe are 17/2 and the draw is 10/3.

You have to go a long way down the first goalscorer’s coupon to find any Crewe name. Even ‘No Goalscorer’ (12/1) is ahead of Chuks Aneke who is 14/1.

Suffice to say then, if you’re a pessimist this is the game to be betting on. All odds are available from here.

Predictions

No great surprise that nobody predicted a 3-3 at Rotherham. But 14 people did plump for a draw to pick up a point each. Well done to all.

This is one of those matches where everyone will predict a win apart from a handful of resistors who say ‘we always end the opposition’s bad runs’.

I laugh in their faces and predict a thumping victory – 5-1.

Up The Wolves

* p.s. I’m aware this prediction flagrantly goes against the guarded approach I claimed to be adopting, but foolish confidence grew as I looked at those Crewe stats :)

Doyle isn’t Superman

Forget the latest Playstation, iPad or that lovely jacket from the second floor of Beatties…

Kevin Doyle

…If there is one Christmas gift I would trade it all in for, including the turkey and trimmings, it would be for Kevin Doyle to start scoring goals – or be sold in the transfer window.

As we prepare for the most critical stretch of the season to date, Kenny Jackett not only seems hellbent on playing the impotent number 29, but subordinating our one and only goalscorer as if to justify his decision.

Like Stephen Fletcher and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake before him, Leigh Griffiths now finds himself neutralised and benched to accommodate a player that, in cricketing terms, is currently 0-83 off 18 overs (at about 75mph).

In footballing terms he is 3 goals and one measly assist for the entire season, each strike working out at around £250,000*

Bad enough that Cody McDonald, Tom Pope and all manner of League One plodders have all scored double that, but even worse that our one bone-a-fide finisher is now insulted with a ‘lazy’ accusation to compensate.

A few fans have told me in no uncertain terms to stop ‘hating’ on a player who is actually immune to goalscoring and monetary accountability, but appreciated at all costs.

They make a good point. If Doyle was on £400 a week or £40,000, it would matter little. He simply should not be playing when he contributes so minimally, featuring a painful lack of pace.

The old adage that appearances can be deceptive could have been created for Kevin Doyle, who doesn’t suffer Keogh’s haphazard eagerness, nor Ebanks-Blake’s perceived inactivity.

He carries out the instructions from any manager he’s ever worked with to the letter, be it McCarthy, Solbakken, Saunders or Jackett.

All four rated him highly for this very reason, with Mick McCarthy even downplaying past contributions from Bull, Richards and Dougan with a quite extraordinary show of affection in January 2010 after a man-of-the-match Premier League performance, minus a winning goal.

“If anyone has seen a better centre-forward display at Molineux than against Liverpool, then I would like to see it.”

When asked to operate in a one-dimensional role, ala the lone man in a 0-0 draw with Liverpool, he was great.

Asking Kevin Doyle to be intuitive is where the problems start, playing as if robotically pre-programmed, to the detriment of fluidity, potency and now, his latest downtrodden strike partner.

Andy Mutch was the best forward I saw at operating in a ‘second striker’ role, with two glorious assists in our 1989/90 double season against West Bromwich Albion springing to mind.

In the same season (if memory serves) away at Aston Villa, he arrived at the back post like a number 9 to break the net in the League Cup, from a sumptuous Mark Venus cross.

Andy Mutch’s career wasn’t based on conjecture, hyperbole and a dim and distant link to Arsenal, but goals, assists and an intuitive grasp for the nuances of the Beautiful Game.

With Kevin Doyle showing none of the above, it is surely time to say goodbye – for whatever Swindon Town paid for Andy Mutch in all likeliness.

*cost of goals based on an assumption Doyle is still on £40,000 per week.