Archives for March 2014

Stevenage Vs Wolves Preview

March was supposed to represent a pivotal examination of Wolves’ promotion credentials.

Stevenage Wolves

Six wins from eight matches ensured a comfortable pass.

As was so famously uttered in commentary at Cardiff back in 2003, they can reach out and touch it.

Promotion is within grasp and a win over bottom side Stevenage tomorrow will make life very difficult for any of the chasing pack.

Victory would take Wolves to 89 points, which could conceivably be enough points to wrap up second place already, not that I’m gambling on that.

Stevenage

Stevenage logoThe home side come into the game propping up the table but a win could transport them out of the relegation zone and as high as 19th place. Added motivation if any is needed.

Broadhall Way hasn’t been a fortress, but Graham Westley’s men have accumulated six wins and four draws from their nineteen matches to date.

They’re without a victory in any of their last five matches, most recently salvaging a 1-1 draw at home to Port Vale at the weekend.

14 goal top scorer Francois Zoko is one to watch, but will need to be more ruthless than he was at Molineux a few months back when he squandered a straightforward chance to bring his team back into the game.

Wolves

With Wolves toiling for much of the game Saturday, Bakary Sako’s presence was missed. He could well be out again tomorrow.

Wolves team for Stevenage

Dicko found the going tough as the lone striker so I’m forecasting a recall for Leon Clarke. The team that started against Colchester would be fine with me.

Liam McAlinden’s name hasn’t been mentioned much, particularly since Wolves found a winning formula, but he could yet have a significant role to play. Would a start for the academy graduate be a major surprise tomorrow?

The odds

Wolves are 9/2 favourites for the win. The draw is 11/4 and a Stevenage win is 9/2.

Goals from set pieces have been in short supply and a headed goal from either Batth or Stearman is long overdue. They’re 25/1 and 28/1 respectively for the opener tomorrow.

All odds can checked here.

The gaffer

Predictions

I haven’t got round to totting up the scores from the weekend yet chaps (and chapettes), but suffice to say most people went for the win.

Winning tomorrow would put us in such a favourable position that you feel something has to go wrong.

But it’s top versus bottom, so there’s only one logical outcome, assuming the lads don’t do anything silly.

3-1

Up The Wolves

MK Dons 0 Wolves 1

Vintage Wolves this wasn’t, but to 9,000 gold shirts resplendent in glorious sunshine, it hardly mattered.

Wolves MK Dons

Liam McAlinden’s superb glancing header was enough to reward the traveling horde on what felt every inch the occasion it was billed.

It’s impossible to do justice to the incredible support packed into the north stand of Stadium MK, but a picture does it nicely.

Wolves at MK Dons

The game itself was anything but remarkable, as both sides laboured on a pitch that looked manufactured to prevent Wolves exercising any sort of control.

Heavily watered, long grass had the desired effect as the league leaders struggled to move the ball around with any of their trademark pizzazz.

Dons, hampered by injuries, hustled their opponents into errors on the heavy surface but failed to threaten Carl Ikeme’s goal, save for one well struck free-kick.

Wolves offered little in a fractured first half but came out swinging in the second and eventually started turning the screw.

Kenny Jackett’s substitutes made a difference. Nouha Dicko toiled as the lone forward but the presence of Clarke and McAlinden allowed Wolves to get a foothold in the final third.

Sanmi Odelusi’s indisputable red card for two late tackles on Scott Golbourne proved decisive as Wolves immediately capitalised after his dismissal.

Kevin McDonald dug out the first decent cross his side managed all afternoon and McAlinden’s header was perfectly placed.

The youngster could have had a second but after showing Alan Smith a clean pair of heels, opted to pass when presented with a clear path to goal.

It mattered little though as Wolves saw out the game with a degree of comfort, wrapping up another three points as their rivals continue to stumble.

Complacency remains the most potent threat.

Highlights

MK Dons Vs Wolves Preview

Tomorrow promises to be a surreal experience for even the most well traveled Wolves supporter.

Wolves MK Dons

Taking 8,800 fans (plus however many managed to scrounge tickets in the home end) to a an away fixture, particularly in League One, is something you won’t see again often, if at all.

I believe the 10K2MK mission started life on Molineux Mix (correct me if you know different of course) so well done to those guys for a fantastic idea.

It goes to show the amazing support our club has and also the power of the often criticised keyboard-warriors to do something positive.

I can’t wait to get inside the ground and hopefully the team will reward us with a strong performance. They’ve rarely let us down this season.

MK DonsMK_Dons

On the other hand, the home fixture against tomorrow’s opponents was a terribly disappointing show.

Wolves were on the front foot for most of the first half, but after Patrick Bamford put the Dons ahead they saw the victory out comfortably.

It did look like their season had faded into midtable obscurity but they’ve clawed their way back towards the play-off places and head into this game just three points off the pace.

Their form at Stadium MK is mixed. Eight wins but also seven defeats from their 19 games to date. They’re an unpredictable team that throw up unpredictable results so we hope for an off day.

Wolves

Tuesday was ridiculous really. The team that played so well against Sheffield Utd completely wiped the floor with Colchester, but the ease of establishing their lead almost caught them out.

Wolves team for MK Dons

It was panic stations at 3-2 and Kenny ultimately ended up reverting to the tried and tested XI to see us home.

I think Dave Edwards would be unfortunate to miss out tomorrow, but with Sako and Dicko well rested I think tomorrow would be a good time to reinstate them to the team.

Whoever starts, I have every confidence though. The last two performances have shown the squad can be used without compromising on the quality of the overall play.

The odds

Wolves are evens for the win tomorrow, with MK Dons 3/1 and the draw 13/5.

Leon Clarke hasn’t enjoyed much luck in front of goal, but if you think he’ll get the opener tomorrow he’s 5/1. James Henry is a generous 10/1.

All odds here.

The gaffer

Predictions

Plenty of people thought Wolves would win on Tuesday but nobody said 4-2. Still, well done to the 58 who scored a point.

Karl Robinson got his tactics spot on at Molineux at the end of last year, which showed why he’s a highly rated manager.

I expect he’ll have his team well prepared for this one and they won’t need much motivation given the challenge that awaits.

I will back Wolves regardless though. If they play anywhere near their capabilities, they’ll win.

3-1

Up The Wolves

Wolves 4 Colchester United 2

The importance of momentum was neatly encapsulated inside 90 pulsating Molineux minutes last night.

Ikeme

Wolves were gliding for an hour, three goals to the good and wasting gilt-edged chances with every other attacking foray.

In fact, only criminal profligacy from Edwards, Jacobs and repeat offender Clarke prevented their side from establishing their highest goal tally of the season. Seven wouldn’t have flattered the league leaders.

But when Colchester stole one back through a well flighted cross and a superb glancing header, the well-oiled machine began to splutter and stall.

Some neat possession football looked to have restarted the ignition, but with no real forward thrust, the Us soaked it up with ease and struck again with a replica second.

Suddenly Wolves didn’t know whether to stick or twist. Pursue another goal or defend what you’ve got? What had been a cruise on open water was suddenly like wading through a swamp.

Colchester almost made the situation stickier through Freddie Sears’ swerving effort that hit the inside of the post and rebounded to safety.

Kenny Jackett attempted to stem the flow by deploying Sako and Dicko, thus reinstating the team that had achieved 9 straight wins.

Thankfully this proved decisive as Wolves were finally able to break the shackles with a raking Sako pass and a composed finish from his best mate.

If only Clarke had showed similar equanimity in the first half, the salvage job could have been avoided.

Notable misses from the former Coventry man against Shrewsbury, Sheffield Utd and again last night raise questions about his ability to handle the weight of expectation.

His physicality is certainly an asset, as we saw with the brute strength that led to James Henry’s goal, but he will ultimately be judged on goal return.

Fortunately in Jacobs, Henry and the fit-again-for-the-moment Dave Edwards, the scoresheet continues to have pleasing variety.

A comprehensive victory this wasn’t, but dropped points from Orient and Brentford mean that momentum in the promotion race remains all ours.

Wolves Vs Colchester United Preview

Certain games just feel seminal in the context of a season.

Wolves Colchester

Saturday was such an occasion. After two disappointing results, confidence had been sapped, progress had been interrupted and chips had been firmly thrown down.

Trust Kenny Jackett then to raise the stakes even higher with a left-field team selection that ultimately proved inspired.

Such was the ease that Wolves cantered home to victory in the second half, the final whistle was greeted by nothing more than a muted cheer from the away end.

But the win was significant, arguably our most important of the season, ensuring a wobble didn’t evolve into a fall at the start of the home stretch. Hopefully now, we can power on through.

Colchester

322px-Colchester_United_FC_logo.svgOnly bottom club Notts County (2) have fewer away wins than Colchester this season. The U’s have only managed three so far.

But their respective goals for and against columns suggest most of their games are settled by the odd goal.

A late fightback at the weekend saw them earn a 2-2 draw at home to Bristol City, which helped keep clear daylight between themselves and the relegation zone.

Forward Freddie Sears returned from injury on Saturday to inspire the late rally and along with top scorer Jabo Ibehre, he represents their most potent attacking outlet.

Wolves

So what do you do now then Kenny? Stick with the team that won so impressively at Bramall Lane or stick with the team that won nine on the bounce?

Wolves team for Sheffield Utd

Team 9 will always get my vote, but it was pleasing to see the system work so effectively with different players in key positions.

Perhaps we’ll see another incarnation tomorrow with the likes of Jacobs, Henry and (dare I even suggest it?) McDonald rested in favour of Sako, Dicko and Price?

Our ability to rotate effectively could yet prove the decisive factor in the race for promotion. I’m not sure Orient or Brentford have the same strength in depth.

The odds

Wolves are red hot favourites for the win at 1/3. The draw is 17/4, with Colchester a distant 11/1.

Dave Edwards has a decent goals to games ratio and he’s 11/1 to get the opener tomorrow. James Henry, another free-scoring midfielder, is 8/1.

All odds can be found here.

Predictions

Time pressure means I haven’t totted up the scores from the weekend. Rest assured it will be business as usual by Friday.

Has to be a Wolves win tomorrow.

Shrewsbury showed that no match is a foregone conclusion, irrespective of form or quality but everything suggests a home win is the logical outcome for this one.

I’ll go for an ambitious 3-0.

Up The Wolves.

Sheffield United 0 Wolves 2

When the Sheffield skyline suddenly blackened and emptied its contents on our heads as we ran to make kick-off, it was understandable to fear the worst.

Batth Sheffield Utd

No Dicko, Sako, Price or Ricketts and the nation’s form team lying in wait, on a ground that has thrown up more misery than most over the many years we’ve visited it.

Thankfully, only the Blades’ 125 year celebrations were dampened on a glorious away day, as both their 11 game unbeaten run and eight straight clean sheet stat came to an end.

When you’re flying high at the top of the league with your own winning run etched into the history books, anxious glances to the heavens – if not the teamsheet itself – should be the last places we seek inspiration.

In Kenny Jackett however, we have a man for all seasons who would evidently keep calm to navigate us through whatever choppy waters lie in wait.

They don’t come much more tempestuous than Sheffield United in their own backyard and adding Matt Doherty, Lee Evans, Leon Clarke and in particular David Edwards proved to be a masterstroke.

The Welshman scored the decisive second with an uncharacteristically lethal finish, after making a more familiar lung-busting run to distract the goalkeeper for the first.

Edwards and Doherty aside, it wasn’t as if our surprise replacements were particularly impressive, but they combined to negate a feisty, mobile Sheffield United side which lacked nothing in quality.

Bramall lane

Goals change games alright, and having weathered an early storm when the hosts could easily have led (take a bow Carl Ikeme), James Henry burst into life at the other end of the pitch and whipped in a cross-shot that found its way into the far corner.

Undeterred, the Blades carried on as if nothing happened, with Jose Baxter catching the eye and causing no end of problems around a swarm of busy teammates.

Thankfully we held on until half-time and like Walsall at the Banks’s, we burst into life at the start of second half to catch the hosts cold.

Jacobs pinged a glorious crossfield ball to that man James Henry, who teased and tormented his opposing defender in customary swagger before crossing for the onrushing David Edwards, who dispatched clinically from close range, to the delight of us jubilant fans behind the goal.

Like the first goal, its debilitating effect was huge, as the Blades began to do unexpected things that we hadn’t seen all game…

…They made mistakes.

Lots of them, as they gave the ball away regularly, made the wrong choices and generally became ragged.

It was a testament to our purple performers that they arrived at such a stage, with stout defending, pick-pocket possession and a bullish appetite for a good old scrap all playing their part.

As this Wolves team continues to raise smiles on so many previously brow-beaten faces, a win at a previously impenetrable Sheffield United shouldn’t have been in doubt.

Whatever the sum of its parts, you sense that nothing – including a wet and wild Bramall Lane – is insurmountable.