Archives for January 2014

Wolves Vs Bradford City Preview

Wolves were rightly accused of inactivity last January, as the club continued their journey towards League One.

James Henry Bradford

I don’t think the same criticism can be tabled this year. The manager seems to know exactly who he does and doesn’t want and is being backed to prune and shape the squad as he sees fit.

Along with the crucial acquisitions of Henry and Jacobs, the strikeforce has also been dramatically overhauled. Dicko and Clarke are in. Doyle, Griffiths and Sigurdarson could all be out by the end of today. Cassidy has already been dismissed for the season.

The major surgery that this squad needed back in May has been successfully performed. Deadweight has been removed, talented, hungry players have been added and I would bet good money the wage bill has been significantly reduced in the process.

I now look forward to home games again as we have have a manager and group of players all pulling in the right direction. We’re a good team to watch these days.

BradfordBradford_City_AFC

When Wolves won at Valley Parade earlier in the season, it was considered a milestone victory against a promotion rival.

Things have turned sour for City since then and they’ve plummeted towards midtable. They’ve also sold their talisman Nahki Wells to Huddersfield, which is a further blow to any aspirations they might have held.

The Bantams are without a win in their last 10 matches, drawing 7 and losing 3. Their last victory was way back at the end of November.

Still, they’re a tough nut to crack as both Preston and Leyton Orient found out in recent stalemates.

Wolves

Even if Doyle, Griffiths, Sigurdarson and Hennessey leave, there remains excellent competition for places. That’s a testament to the work the club have done from the summer to now. I would expect the same team as Tuesday tomorrow:

Wolves team for Bradford

If KJ wanted to revert to a more orthodox 442, he now has Leon Clarke, the league’s joint top-scorer, at his disposal. I imagine he and Dicko would make a good partnership at this level.

Whatever you think about Clarke’s previous, the club have done exactly what I hoped they’d do in the summer – poached a proven League One player.

With more big names heading for the exit, the squad might not look as strong to outsiders but I like the way we’re quietly going about our business. I think our young team will surprise a few people in the years to come.

The odds

Wolves are strong favourites for the win at 4/7. The draw is 10/3 and Bradford are outsiders at 21/4.

If you’d taken my tip from Tuesday and backed Kevin McDonald for the first goal, you’d be a few quid better off right now. He’s a generous 11/1 to get the opener again tomorrow.

New signing Leon Clarke is 7/2, while Aaron Mclean is Bradford’s most likely route to goal with odds of 17/2. All odds are available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

Well done to the 54 (practically everyone) who thought we’d win on Tuesday. Coops, Chris in Dublin and johnhpayne went all out for the 3-0, so deservedly doubled their tallies. Well done lads.

I think Bradford will cause us problems tomorrow with their physicality, but I just can’t predict anything other than a Wolves victory.

We’re getting on top of teams from the very start at Molineux and smothering them with smart, possession football. That’s very difficult to prevent on such a big pitch.

We might stutter, but I think we’ll prevail victorious.

3-1

Up The Wolves!

* P.s. due to my sister’s wedding tomorrow and Ben also being waylaid by a social engagement, does anyone fancy having a go at a match report? Email me if you can do it: tom@thomasbaughmedia.com.

Oldham Athletic 0 Wolves 3

Following a third successive victory at a historically difficult venue to conquer, a hypothetical head-scratcher got me thinking…

McDonald Oldham

…If Brentford and Leyton Orient both pass the 100 point barrier and beat us to promotion, would this season be a failure?

After arguably our most encouraging victory of the campaign – against a team more competitive than most – we are on course for an incredible points haul of 95 come the end of the season, were we to keep this up.

However, Brentford and Leyton Orient are on course to rewrite history, with 102 and 101 points on the cards respectively if they carry on in such outrageous fashion.

It begs the question: Can we possibly criticise this rapidly evolving team if it misses out to a ‘once-in-a-million’ freak season?

In any other year, a 3-0 win at Boundary Park would be regarded as a promotion defining benchmark.

Just our luck that we can also view it as a play-off cementing result, when we’d doubtless be 20 points clear of some god forsaken side.

For now, such questions can wait as we bask in a feeling that has eluded us for so long.

This 17th success of the season owed much to a resolute defensive showing, a spritely attacking display and a virtuoso performance by match winner Kevin McDonald.

According to Radio WM, the Scot resembled that big kid in the under-12 school team, whose growth spurt made him virtually untouchable.

Where our number 11 stood head and shoulders above the rest, Jack Price sounded like the perfect foil for him once more.

And when Jacobs and sub Henry added gloss to the scoreline late on, Kenny Jackett can point to three goalscorers who he signed himself.

Photo0089_0011

Winning at a difficult away ground is one thing, but standing up to a pretty physical onslaught is quite another.

Unlike those miserable Solbakken and Saunders seasons, we all appear to be in this together.

Couple such team spirit with Kenny’s astute additions and the combination appears irresistible.

Whether it’s potent enough to provide a positive answer to that question I had will soon become clear.

Highlights

Oldham Athletic Vs Wolves Preview

Oldham away on a blustery Tuesday evening is the sort of fixture that can make or break a promotion-chasing season.

Oldham Wolves

Digging out a result, particularly a win, you feel would be significant over a team we’ve already played three times this season.

The league match at Molineux back in October turned into a routine win after their goalie spilled a cross onto the foot of James Henry. But the performance was less than convincing.

Wolves weren’t as fortunate in the FA Cup where Oldham deservedly progressed after dominating the replay.

Kenny Jackett has been able to mastermind a significant increase in performance levels since then, so this promises to be an interesting encounter.

Oldham

Performance of the weekend belonged to the Latics as they battled back from 3-0 and 4-2 down to beat Peterborough 5-4 on Saturday.

Lee Johnson’s men needed that boost after narrow back-to-back defeats against Walsall and Port Vale had threatened to drag them back into relegation strife.

Their home form reads won 5, drawn 3, lost 4, scored 16, conceded 15 – so very little to pick out of that other than to expect a tight game.

When you take out the 9 goals that were shared around at the weekend, you realise how difficult it’s been for teams to take anything from Boundary Park this season.

Wolves

Other than resting players, there’s no real reason to change Saturday’s team. I just wonder if Kenny Jackett might be thinking of handing Sako a start?

Wolves team for Oldham

It’s hard to foresee Griffiths or Doyle starting given that both are being heavily linked with the exit door. If both were to leave you wonder whether one striker (Leon Clarke) would be enough to fill the void.

A couple of interesting days lie ahead, which I’m sure we’ll all be reflecting on in May as being pivotal to our season.

The odds

Wolves are favourites for the win at 11/10. Oldham are 14/5 and the draw is 5/2.

If you fancy Nouha Dicko to carry on where he left off on Saturday you can get 5/1 on him opening the scoring. Kevin McDonald came close against Bristol City and he’s long overdue a goal. He’s at 12/1.

All odds are available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

It was points galore again in the PL as 54 people correctly thought we’d overcome Bristol City.

11 pundits also got the 3-1 scoreline to double up so well done to all of them.

Really stuck on the fence for this one. I don’t think Oldham will let us dictate the play as we’ve been able to do at home in recent weeks.

But we have the far superior quality, so on that basis I’ll back us to edge it.

2-1

Up The Wolves

Wolves 3 Bristol City 1

In a desperate attempt to offer some symbolic prose to the late Bert Williams, maybe it’s best to reflect on the result itself, if nothing else.

Wolves Bristol City

The sun should have been shining, the ground should have been packed, the video screen should have been beaming and the opposition should have been Manchester United in order to do justice to the great man.

Amid a freak thunderstorm, via an inaudible PA system in front of 12,000 empty seats, Molineux paid its respects.

The manner of our 3-1 triumph over Bristol City might have been the only fitting tribute during a sodden afternoon, as we ultimately brushed aside our opponents with relative ease, like we might have dispatched more illustrious opponents back in 50s.

In keeping with the great man’s send-off, what this performance lacked in polish, it more than made up for in good intention.

Featuring Jackett’s favoured 4-5-1 (or 4-2-3-1), we picked up where we left off against Preston and actually offered that missing ingredient we’ve been striving for all season – pace in behind a defence.

In fact, Nouha Dicko’s opening contribution was so impressive that it actually played against us during the first half, as we searched for the very ball we’ve not previously been able to play, and kept squandering possession as a result.

Dicko’s deadlock breaker was a thoroughly uplifting sight, as he received the ball from Jacobs and dribbled with purpose before lashing home at the near post.

But in what could possibly be put down as the innocence of youth, Jacobs and Price (in particular) became profligate in possession and Bristol City began to dominate, possibly due to giddy excitement as they saw a nippy striker up ahead.

For all those acrobatic images of ‘The Cat’ at full stretch, there must have been days when he was barely called upon, a bit like Aaron McCarey against City, who was only really called upon to pick the ball out of the net after Sam Baldock equalised from the spot.

James Henry’s clumsy tangle in the area summed up the flow of the game and underlined how ragged we’d become.

Thankfully for us, we got a goal at the right time through more Dicko endeavour approaching half time, which we never seemed to get during our sticky festive patch.

Cue more encouraging passages of play in the second half, as our fluid passing and moving carved out all manner of promising openings.

Unlike Preston however, our final ball belied our build-up – whether from corners, free-kicks or open play.

It took sub Bakary Sako – in new found ruthless streak – to calm nerves with an unerring left foot finish, minutes after the referee ignored what appeared a stone-wall penalty on Dicko.

The Frenchman might now be a more compelling alternative to a one-paced James Henry in the future.

For one weekend at least, the future can wait.

When a humble legend passes away – who helped make Wolverhampton Wanderers a force to be reckoned with – the past is way more important.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Bristol City Preview

The postponement of the Crawley game was probably a good and bad thing.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 10.24.54

Bad in the respect that it would have been nice to follow up a solid performance against Preston, but good because playing on a slow, difficult pitch would have suited them more than us.

The other added plus is of course the recovery time, so hopefully we’ll see the benefit of that tomorrow against Bristol City.

This fixture verged on the farcical last season with Carl Ikeme’s comedy gaffe, but Wolves recovered to secure a win that effectively killed off City’s survival hopes, whilst providing us with the mother of all false dawns.

Bristol City

Sean O’Driscoll lost his job at the end of November as City continued to flirt with a Wolves-style double dip.

Steve Cotterill seems to have solidified the team in recent weeks and they come into this match unbeaten in their last 5, but still 23rd in the table.

The 36 goals they’ve scored is only 5 less than Wolves, but with 39 conceded (against Wolves 19) it’s clear to see where their problems lie.

If they can keep the back door shut, they have players capable of doing the damage, such as former Arsenal man Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Sam Baldock, who each have 12 league goals already.

Plans are afoot to redevelop Ashton Gate in the summer, so City fans will be hoping that isn’t as a League Two club. I think they’ll survive.

Wolves

Wolves have been significantly bolstered by the arrival of Nouha Dicko and the return of Price, Doherty and Ebanks-Landell. But even with all those fresh faces, I’d still expect to see the same team that saw off Preston:

Wolves team vs Crawley

With so many young players having already proven they can do the business at this level, Kenny Jackett is blessed with options all over the pitch so it’s up to him to manage such considerable resources.

The odds

Wolves are favourites for the win at 3/4. City are 17/4 and the draw is 14/5.

If you fancy new signing Nouha Dicko as first goalscorer odds of 5/1 are available. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is City’s most likely first scorer at 7/1.

All odds available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

No PL action last weekend with the game postponed, so a week’s rest for yours truly 🙂

As I’ve stated a few times recently, I feel we’ve now got players to really make the most of the wide Molineux pitch. The likes of Henry, Jacobs, McDonald and even Golbourne seem to thrive in open spaces.

If we can maintain possession as well as we did for periods against Leyton Orient and Preston, I think we’ll win easily, but I expect Bristol City to be better than most expect.

A narrow win for me – 2-1

Up The Wolves

Crawley Town Vs Wolves Preview

MATCH POSTPONED

Last weekend’s win over Preston was a great performance and a vital result.

Wolves Crawley

But that one result needs to be the start of an unbeaten, and preferably winning, run.

Brentford and Leyton Orient are moving at unfathomable pace and both have already strengthened their squads this month.

For me though, Wolves still have the best players and the best manager. It’s just a case of putting it all together consistently.

If the game earlier in the season is anything to go by, Crawley will be a stiff test of that consistency.

Crawley

I think Wolves are a better side now than they were back in August when Crawley’s performance at Molineux warranted at least a point.

After that match, I thought they’d be operating in and around the play-offs, so it’s a tad surprising to see them languishing down in 14th place.

Evidently there were concerns over where the season was heading as Richie Barker was booted out last month, replaced by forgotten man John Gregory.

Gregory, who was once heavily linked with the Wolves job, has brought about a slight improvement in fortunes, with Crawley scoring a couple of important wins in recent weeks.

They claimed the scalp of Leyton Orient with a superb 3-2 away win and the 1-0 victory over Notts County allowed them to starting looking up as opposed to down.

Wolves

The arrival of Nouha Dicko combined with the return of a few casualties gives Kenny Jackett the luxury of options. But he’s suggested already that injuries permitting, we’ll see the same XI as last week:

Wolves team vs Crawley

It’s tough to argue with that side and when you consider we also have the likes of Sako, Dicko, Doherty, Ikeme, Ebanks-Landell, Doyle, Sigurdarson, Price, etc on the sidelines, we have exceptional depth.

I predict Sako, Doyle and Siggy will leave this month, which was unthinkable in August but seems a more digestible notion right now.

Personally, I’d like to see Sako stick around and if the two strikers leave, another forward/attacking midfielder brought in to cover the loss.

I like the balance of the squad and think Jackett, Thelwell, etc have done a good job of rebuilding from last season’s wreckage.

The odds

Wolves are favourites for the win at 5/4. Crawley are 5/2 and the draw is 12/5.

Dave Edwards seems like a good bet for first goalscorer, with generous odds of 12/1. He had most of our chances last weekend before eventually finding the net.

All odds are available here.

The gaffer

Predictions

36 pundits correctly predicted victory over Preston. Well done to Leigh Bucky, vicsmith, johnok, twixfix, slider, steve howl and NY Wolf who also got the scoreline spot on to double up.

I really think KJ is close to getting it absolutely sussed at home on that big Molineux pitch. Away is different ball game with tighter spaces and less room to move the ball around.

Still, I think our confidence from last weekend will carry us through to victory.

3-1

Up The Wolves

MATCH POSTPONED – ALL PREDICTIONS VOID