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