Archives for December 2014

Wolves 2 Brentford 1

Defenders never get the headlines.

Wolves Brentford

But signature performances like this from Richard Stearman are worthy of a few column inches.

This was virtuoso stuff from the long serving centre back, repelling the Brentford crusade single-handedly at times.

He tackled, he headed, he kicked and on several occasions threw his body in front of goal bound efforts to keep Wolves in the game.

Physical weakness and a propensity for costly mistakes have at times called into question Stearman’s value to the team, but his leadership qualities and commitment to the cause are undeniable.

Danny Batth was just as wholehearted and unlucky to see his brave block loop up and over Carl Ikeme to give Brentford the sniff of a late comeback.

And despite the heroics, they should have leveled things up when Andre Gray somehow managed to head against the post when heartbreak seemed inevitable.

Much like against Watford less than 48 hours previous, Wolves were at their strongest in the early exchanges.

Nouha Dicko benefited from a considerable dollop of good fortune to race clear and finish unerringly. He was offside by a big margin but still had a lot to do.

More luck followed hours later with the Mali man left out of their squad for the African Cup of Nations. His presence throughout January could prove pivotal.

Sako, who is departing, shook the crossbar and saw a powerful free kick parried away by David Button, but sandwiched in between was a sustained spell of Brentford pressure.

I was impressed by the standard of the Bees’ pass and move football, but all to often their neat approach work lacked a cutting edge.

That theme carried on in the second half, with the visitors dominating the ball but failing to create clear chances.

It was pleasing to see Wolves pick them off on the break, with van La Parra walloping a superb header against the bar and McDonald following in.

But after the Scot helped himself to an early shower for two clumsy tackles, it was suddenly all hands to the pump.

Fortunately, Ikeme’s handling was crisp, Batth and Stearman excelled and when lady luck was called upon, she was kind.

With the crosses flying in, it also helped to have two strapping full-backs guarding the posts and the performances of Iorfa and Hause were close to faultless.

Iorfa in particular continues to shine, combining raw power with a calmness that belies his 19 years of age. He looks a wonderful find.

And wonderful would also be an appropriate adjective to describe 2014 for Wolverhampton Wanderers. If 2015 is even half as good, it will be a very happy new year.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Brentford Preview

It might sound like sour grapes, but I didn’t think 4-0 reflected the game down at Griffin Park.

Brentford

Brentford picked us off beautifully in the final knockings, scoring three goals in the last fifteen minutes to give the scoreline one sided gloss.

But it was end to end stuff up until the second goal went in and Wolves were caught chasing the game.

None of that matters of course, but the point is I don’t think the gulf in class between the two sides is as significant as that scoreline suggested.

Brentford

Brentford logoThat said, the league table proves that it wasn’t by any means a one-off performance from the Bees, who at the halfway stage continue to ride high in their inaugural Championship campaign.

Griffin Park has been a fortress, but their away form has been reasonable rather than spectacular, with five wins, five defeats and a draw from their eleven matches.

They score plenty but also let in their fair share. In fact, none of the top half have conceded as many as their 33 (including Wolves on 32).

Wolverhampton-born Andre Gray continues to make a mockery of the step up from Luton Town and is into double figures already. He scored a brilliant solo goal in last month’s game.

Wolves

The question for Kenny Jackett is how many of the team that performed so effectively at Vicarage Road can play again less than 48 hours later?

Wolves team for Brentford

It could be a very similar team or there might be major surgery? Players that could conceivably come in are Henry, Graham, Evans, Clarke or the returning Matt Doherty.

Ideally, I’m sure the manager would like to start with the same team, but I suspect it will end up being a blend.

Like many others, I continue to be disappointed that Michael Jacobs can’t get anywhere near the team. Hopefully he’ll at least make the bench tomorrow.

Predictions

To win another game against a top six team and claw back valuable ground would be a major boost heading into 2015.

Wolves can definitely do it, but they’ll have to play better than they have at home for a good while.

Much will depend on who is and isn’t able to carry on from Boxing Day. If key personnel (Sako & Dicko) are able to play for a substantial portion of the game, I think we’ll win.

I think Brentford are vulnerable on their travels too, so I’ll back Wolves to narrowly edge it.

2-1

Up The Wolves

Watford 0 Wolves 1

It’s fitting that on a cold and wet Boxing Day evening Wolves had the appearance of contenders.

Wolves Watford

Fast out of their corner and first to the punch, they dominated the early exchanges without landing a meaningful blow.

Hause, van La Parra and Edwards were all denied by Gomes before the returning Nouha Dicko hooked wide when presented with a clear opening.

But the punchy forward’s presence was enough to help put Watford on the back foot throughout, holding the ball up one minute before running in behind the next.

His goal, following a wonderful burst of speed by the impressive van La Parra, was just reward for a Man of the Match performance.

Jack Price earned his first start of the season and his steady reassuring touch alongside McDonald helped prevent Watford gaining a meaningful foothold in midfield.

As Kenny Jackett has suggested in the past, the bearded one has a strong positional awareness, so even if his passing range is more limited than the likes of a Lee Evans, he offers much needed stability.

Speaking of stability, that’s now two cleansheets in the last three matches, which has given Wolves the platform to claw their way back towards the top six.

OK, there’s been some luck along the way, not least the last gasp curler that cannoned off the bar as Watford finally came to life in the final knockings, but Wolves have also shown a stronger appetite to defend.

And in Kortney Hause and Dominic Iorfa, some much needed pace and physicality has been added to the back four. Both were highly impressive last night.

The team performance was of greater encouragement though. High intensity from the start, controlled passing football and no shortage of pace and fluidity.

If they can continue to match those heavyweight standards with any degree of consistency, they should weigh in respectably over the second half of the campaign.

The gaffer

Watford Vs Wolves Preview

Merry Christmas everyone.

Deeney

I’m not sure whether one of you asked Santa for a televised trip to Vicarage Road, or the gods (Sky) have just been kind to us, but it’s happening.

I was looking back at previous Boxing Day clashes from the blog era, which include:

  • A comfortable (albeit forgettable) win over Crewe last season.
  • A miserable home defeat to Peterborough in the year we went down.
  • A battling point at the Emirates (the day after Boxing Day that one).
  • A miserable home defeat to Wigan.
  • A narrow (slightly unjust) defeat at Anfield.

No real notable highs but a few sickening lows. Hopefully Kenny Jackett can be the manager to bring us all more festive cheer.

Watford

431px-Watford.svgThe Hornets had a November to rival Wolves in the misery stakes. Four straight defeats saw them tumble down the Championship ladder, but three consecutive wins have since set them straight.

They come into this fixture seven points ahead of their opponents and occupying the final play-off position.

Slavisa Jokanovic is their fourth manager already this season, but looks to have cemented his tenure, for the short term at least.

There are a couple of familiar faces in their lineup including Sebastian Bassong and Adlene Guedioura. Troy Deeney is their 9 goal top scorer.

Wolves

Suffice to say I wasn’t impressed against Brighton. Neither the performance or the result were up to scratch and the style (or lack of) was a major concern.

Wolves team for Watford

I know Kenny Jackett had to make changes with the defeats piling up, but I don’t think we have the players to be as direct as we were last weekend.

The above is the team I’d pick, possibly even with Ricketts coming in also to one of the full back positions. If we don’t keep the ball better tomorrow, I think we’ll be punished by a decent side.

If we can get an hour of Nouha Dicko, our prospects will significantly improve.

The gaffer

Predictions

I was looking at Watford’s lineup from their win at Reading and they’ve got lots of useful players with good experience of this league and the Premier.

Their forwards (Vydra and Deeney) are probably as good as any pairing we’ll come up against this season, so the fear is we might just get blown away.

With 23 goals already at Vicarage Road this season, only Derby (25) have scored more at home. And with Wolves having conceded 20 away, the figures don’t bode well.

It would be a massive blow to see the gap between ourselves and the play-off places widen, but that might well be the case.

2-1 defeat for me. Prove me wrong lads.

Up The Wolves.

Merry Christmas

Wolves 1 Brighton 1

It was probably optimistic to expect turkey with all the trimmings, but I’d certainly hoped for better than a Yule Log.

Danny Batth Brighton

Ugly, disjointed and barely palatable would be my summary of Wolves penultimate and worst home performance of 2014.

Danny Batth’s appropriately scruffy leveler might have salvaged the result, but this was a painfully regressive display.

For thirty woeful minutes Sami Hyypia’s struggling Seagulls were made to look like Barcelona and Hove Albion as Wolves stood off and let them ease into a rhythm.

On the rare occasion that the home side could get a foot on the ball, it was swiftly followed by a long old hoof down the channel.

Gone was the neat and intelligent passing game that elevated Wolves all the way from League One to (briefly) the summit of the Championship table, replaced by a sub-standard brand of kick and rush.

Of course Kenny Jackett is correct that his side must adapt to be successful in a different environment, but that shouldn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I have no problem with changing the shape and personnel, but Wolves have been hugely successful as a possession-based side and regardless of the opposition, those principles should remain – win, draw or lose.

Jack Price’s return was symbolic of that. The bearded maestro is a one man passing machine and his intelligent use of the ball was one of very few plus points in a laboured second half performance.

Even with the advantage of an extra player, Wolves struggled to force the issue with anything like the speed and intensity we saw from Bournemouth two weeks back.

Only the men from Mali looked capable of kicking down the door.

Sako was always the focal point, flitting between the sublime and immensely frustrating but always moving forward.

Dicko did more in 45 minutes than Danny Graham has mustered in a month. Regardless of whether the phantom penalty was or wasn’t, he offers hope of a return to former glories.

How on earth the team will cope with their absence in January is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, there’s a festive double header to contest against two sides currently occupying top six positions.

Playing to their maximum and their strengths (as a passing side), there’s hope of a sweet ending to the year for Wolves.

But if they serve up anything yesterday’s meager offering, they’ll more likely be eaten for dinner.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Brighton Preview

Few could ever forget our last meeting with the Seagulls.

Brighton fc

The final meek surrender of the Dean Saunders era that saw Wolves relegated and Brighton sail into the playoffs was a low point in the history of our great club.

But while Wolves have since regrouped and come back stronger, things haven’t gone to plan for the other Albion.

Gus Poyet couldn’t guide them past Crystal Palace in their semi-final that year and Oscar Garcia suffered the same fate last term.

This year just staying in the Championship looks like the best they can realistically hope to achieve.

Brighton

1024px-Brighton_&_Hove_Albion_logo.svgThere’s a smidgen of irony that Brighton arrive at Molineux managed by Sami Hyypia.

Only because the season that ended with Wolves relegated at The Amex, started with the appointment of an untested Scandinavian manager.

When will the Championship learn it’s not a formula for success?

Perhaps Hyypia will ultimately succeed where Solbakken, Berg and Solskjaer failed, but 1 win in 10 suggests he’s not far off being added to that less than illustrious list.

In fact, the former Liverpool defender has only presided over 3 league victories from his 21 matches to date on the south coast. They’re teetering on the edge.

Wolves

That season we went down, I remember Solbakken picked up a win against Blackpool and with festive home fixtures against struggling Peterborough and Ipswich to come, I thought we’d be back near the play-offs by new year.

Wolves team for Brighton

So it’s with trepidation that we should approach what looks like a highly winnable fixture that could elevate Wolves back into top six contention.

I don’t think Kenny will make any changes to the team that saw off Sheffield Wednesday. That should mean a home debut for Kortney Hause who I’m looking forward to seeing and a third straight start for Dominic Iorfa who I hope will impress again.

Leon Clarke might be pushing for a start after his late winner last weekend and there’s a chance Nouha Dicko could return to the bench, so forward positions could be rotated over Christmas.

The gaffer

Predictions

Wolves need to play with confidence and intensity from the start. If they can do that against a struggling team, then I see no reason we shouldn’t win.

With two youngsters in the back four, there exists a greater risk of individual error, but both players look strong and capable so hopefully that won’t be the case.

Brighton have brought in Darren Bent of course and he’s already found the net. If we are charitable defensively, I suspect he’ll punish us.

Still, I’m going for a semi-comfortable home win.

3-1

Up The Wolves