Archives for February 2015

Cardiff City Vs Wolves Preview

As good as the last two victories have been, results elsewhere have been dispiriting.

Cardiff Wolves

Six of the seven teams above us (Bournemouth being the exception) also won on Tuesday meaning the gap between Wolves and the play-off places remains five points.

That’s a considerable chunk particularly when you factor in our feeble goal difference, meaning we’ll likely have to stack another point on top to force our way into the promised land north of the dotted line.

The remaining fixtures also look tough on paper, so some big performances between now and May are needed if we’re to have any chance at all.

Cardiff

Cardiff_City_Crest.svgA visit to the Welsh capital doesn’t look as daunting now as it might have done back in August. The Bluebirds are down in midtable and practically guaranteed to be playing in the Championship again next season.

Russell Slade, who we’re all well familiar with from last term, is now in charge but his arrival from Leyton Orient hasn’t sparked the play-off push they’d probably hoped for.

In fact, victory at Wigan in midweek was their first in eight matches, which explains why their season looks to have petered out before the end of February.

Still, their home form has been more than respectable with eight wins, three draws and five defeats. It’s away from the Cardiff City Stadium where they’ve largely suffered, with just two victories all season.

With the likes of Kenywe Jones and Peter Whittingham knocking around, if they’re up for the game it promises to be a tough afternoon.

They also paid decent money for Chesterfield striker Eoin Doyle who has scored shedloads in the lower divisions. He’ll be one to watch out for this weekend.

Wolves

The last two matches have gone the way most of our home games went in League One with the other team pressing for long periods but Wolves holding firm (or riding their luck) and being ruthless at the other end.

Wolves team for Cardiff

Nothing wrong with that of course. I think an open game suits us because we have the attacking players to exploit the space.

Kenny Jackett has already said a couple of times that we need to go all out for victories and I think he’s absolutely right. I expect to see attacking team selections from now until May.

He tried something different in the week, playing Jack Price tucked in on the right. That was an interesting tactic and Price’s steady assurance on the ball helped feed possession to our dangerous forward line.

It will be interesting to see if he deploys that same eleven in Wales or changes it up again.

The gaffer

Predictions

The fixtures for the other promotion chasers look tougher this weekend so Wolves have to try and capitalise.

I don’t think the team is short of quality, but they need to show the desire to fight and scrap away from Molineux. To be fair, aside from the surrender at Carrow Road, they’ve generally done that well of late.

I think we’ll concede but I also fancy us to score a couple.

The trusty old prediction – 3-1

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 3 Fulham 0

If you were smart with your recruitment policy, you might be able to replace the goals and assists of Bakary Sako.

Sako Fulham

The quality, the personality and the sheer excitement he brings to the table are a different matter altogether.

Priceless would be my description of the Mali winger after a virtuoso display that saw Fulham smashed to dust inside 45 pulsating Molineux minutes.

His first trick? To whip an inch perfect corner onto the head of Danny Batth for the big defender to nod home at the near post.

Then, after 20 minutes of almost constant Fulham pressure he orchestrated an incisive passing move before unleashing a missile to double the lead.

Finally he received the ball inside left before galloping over two challenges and finding the only conceivable way through the goalkeeper that didn’t defy the laws of physics.

Thank you and goodnight.

Kit Symons bemoaned his team’s luck after the game, stating he thought they were (by far) the better side.

Sorry to disagree old sport, but the reality is that while your team enjoyed the greater share of possession, the difference came in the final third.

As Wolves have learned many times already this season, incisive pass and move football counts for nothing if it doesn’t result in a telling final act.

And the only clear chance Fulham created all evening was squandered by their £10 million man.

If Ross McCormack can command such a fee, the mind boggles at the bounty Wolves could put on the head of a contractually bound Bakary Sako.

As it is, he’ll leave for nothing more than a thank you in the summer if Wolves aren’t promoted to the Premier League.

A few more displays like this and that particular problem may resolve itself come May.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Fulham Preview

It was a drag to go out of the FA Cup to Fulham a few weeks back.

Wolves Fulham

Not least because Wolves looked like they had the tie won at 3-2 and the penalty that saved their bacon seemed dubious at best.

The Wembley dream swiftly ended for Fulham courtesy of defeat to Sunderland in the fourth round.

We can still make it there via the play-offs and Saturday suggested a late run isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Fulham

Fulham_FC_LogoKit Symons needs a win for very different reasons. The Londoners haven’t tasted victory in five matches and are slipping back towards relegation strife.

They certainly shouldn’t go down given the personnel they have on their books, but a lot of people said the same about Wolves two years ago and we know how that ended.

Parker, McCormack and Rodallega all have pedigree but it’s the players that slot in around these experienced heads that’s likely the root cause of the problem.

They paid silly money for McCormack but he’s into double figures for the season, as is Rodallega. Fulham have actually scored one more goal than Wolves in the league. But they’ve also conceded 15 more.

Their away form is terrible. Only Bolton (11) have lost more than the Cottagers (10) on the road. And only Blackpool (36) have conceded more goals than their 35.

Wolves

I can only see Kenny Jackett naming the same side that saw off Rotherham on Saturday, which means the following XI:

Wolves team for Fulham

Afobe and Dicko were both withdrawn after the third goal went in, presumably being rested ahead of this game.

If Kenny wanted to freshen things up he might consider bringing in van La Parra, Evans or one of the full backs, but it doesn’t seem likely.

I think the weekend really underlined the importance of the first goal at Molineux. Wolves have a habit of running out of ideas and allowing the opposition in, but when they get ahead it opens the game up.

Afobe and Dicko have all the raw potential to be the best forward partnership we’ve had in many a year. Getting the ball up to them in space almost guarantees chances and goals.

The (assistant) gaffer

Predictions

I had a conversation with Mike (aka Twixfix) yesterday who has kindly been keeping a backup table for the Prediction League in a spreadsheet, while we complete the first season using the automated system.

Our tables are starting to diverge a little as we enter the home straight and the principal reason is that some people are using two different emails addresses to comment.

To be clear guys (and gals) if you don’t use a consistent email address to enter your predictions, you will end up with two separate scores in the table. Anyone who thinks they might have accidentally done this, give me a shout on email and I’ll merge your scores together.

As for tonight, the statistics suggest Wolves should win and I’m going to back us to do so. Fulham are dangerous going forward but like Rotherham, I’m not sure they’re tight enough defensively to keep us out.

3-1

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 5 Rotherham United 0

No game could ever live up to last season’s barnstormer, but the sequel certainly didn’t disappoint.

Afobe

Rotherham may have come to defend, but that game plan was promptly tossed in the garbage after Afobe and Dicko confidently stroked the home side into the comfort zone.

Suddenly we were then transported right back to that sunny afternoon last April with the visitors adopting an all out attack that stretched Wolves to breaking point.

Only some woeful finishing, the odd desperate block, the woodwork and a string of Kuszczak saves prevented Steve Evans’ side from engineering a comeback.

And after one particularly agile intervention from the Pole, Wolves broke away to end the contest courtesy of an impressively composed Afobe finish. He looks a wonderful acquisition already.

Bakary Sako, who opted to play most of the game at walking pace, then feasted on the remains with a brilliant cross that Dave Edwards flicked home before smartly dispatching an equally inviting van La Parra through ball.

A landslide finish but it wouldn’t be unfair on anyone to suggest this could easily have been another 6-4.

‘Can we play you every week?’ was the chant from the South Bank. I’m not sure Molineux could handle the excitement.

This was actually Wolves’ biggest home league victory since a 6-0 bludgeoning of Gillingham in 2003.

That particular season ended with Dave Jones’ side surging into the play-offs and carrying the momentum all the way to Cardiff.

If Kenny Jackett is to repeat the trick, it needs to start happening now.

None of the seven other teams currently vying for the slots appear likely to cave in, so it’s up to Wolves to put the foot on the accelerator.

And while it’s unlikely any of the 14 opponents remaining will be as charitable as Rotherham were yesterday, this result demonstrated Wolves have the firepower to compete.

Consistently using it will be the difference between success and failure.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Rotherham United Preview

There were just the 16 goals in the two matches between Wolves and Rotherham last year.

Steve Evans

10 of which came in arguably the most extraordinary game Molineux has ever witnessed.

But the chances of history repeating itself this season appear slim.

Both clubs have found goals hard to come by in the Championship and with both needing the points for different reasons, it promises to be another cagey afternoon.

We hope for better of course.

Rotherham

Rotherham_United_FCThe turnover of players at The New York Stadium has been incredible this season.

14 new faces have arrived and 17 players have left as Steve Evans attempts to establish the Millers in the second tier.

I was staggered to see some of the names being ejected, not least Kieran Agard who ended up at Bristol City. He would have been an excellent addition for Wolves I thought.

They’re 20th in the table coming into this game and just four points outside the relegation places. I thought they’d do better than that.

Away form has been a major issue and they’ve won just twice on the road all season. That said, they’ll be buoyed by the fact that they (somehow) emerged victorious from the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign.

Wolves

A string of wins is needed if Wolves are to have any chance of reigniting a play-off push. Back to back home games against Rotherham and Fulham represents a good opportunity to kick things off.

Wolves team for Norwich

I’ve got no idea what sort of eleven Kenny Jackett will send out tomorrow, but there will likely be changes after the disappointing show at Carrow Road.

We could really do with a performance from Bakary Sako. But the team need to do a better job of getting the ball into his feet in decent areas.

Far too many times of late he’s had to drop back into his own half to get possession and that’s not where he’s at his most effective.

The gaffer

Predictions

The home form has been disappointing for a long time now so I’m hoping Wolves can finally get it right.

We seem to start well and then splutter out at Molineux so the second half performance will really be under scrutiny tomorrow.

Rotherham have picked up some useful results of late and should have beaten Derby in midweek.

But I think Wolves will just about get the job done.

3-1

Up The Wolves.

Fans’ Parliament – Ben’s minutes

My third Fans’ Parliament meeting took place on Wednesday February 11 and my notes are below.

Fans Parliament

Before I begin, I didn’t ask StuWolf’s question regarding disabled facilities, as I spoke to supporter liaison officer Paul Richards before the meeting. We agreed I would email him outside the meeting, which I am doing today.

The meeting began with financial controller Rita Purewal giving an overview of our 2013/14 accounts, the nub of which are available on the official Wolves website and other media channels.

Some discussion took place over Early Bird options, with the club launching this next week. Lots of toing and froing but there was one idea that I personally liked:
Those fans who have lapsed but used to come every season should be entitled to some sort of discount owing to the fact they came year after year before the straw broke the camel’s back in 2012/13.

One bit of tangible news…We are getting a digital scoreboard before the end of the season. It will be in the Steve Bull stand, they think above the executive boxes. This is happening after many past requests at FP meetings.

Oh, and it was ‘no secret’ we were in for Jesse Lingard but he turned us down.

So here goes, starting with my questions…

Ben: Following the Premier League’s £5.4 billion TV deal announcement, is there a sense of urgency to get to the Premier League, because on the evidence of the last two transfer windows, it doesn’t feel like promotion is a burning ambition:

Jez Moxey: All it does (the TV deal) is reiterate the financial standpoint of being inside and outside the Premier League.

We are a Championship club trying to get to the Premier League. We will have to look at our strategy of attempting to get promoted without going bankrupt. It is always that balance of how much you can spend in trying to get there and not getting there and then being able to deal with it.

Regarding the transfer window and catching up with comments…The fact we moved early to buy one very good player was perhaps held against us because we weren’t pulling a rabbit out of the hat on deadline.

What we did do didn’t seem to create too much of a positive spin with the issue of Bakary Sako. A different outcome could have easily have been established. We took a decision that we felt was best to give us the best chance of promotion. We could have cashed in.

Promotion remains our number one priority.

Our priority is to get back to the Premier League. We all want to get there. We are in 8th place with 16 games to go. We want to get there this year. That’s why we kept Bakary Sako and spent a lot of money on Benik Afobe.

I’d be really disappointed if we didn’t finish in the top 6 this season.

Moxey added that anywhere from sixth place upwards represented the hierarchy of the club.

Ben: Are we ahead of schedule, bearing in mind we got promoted from League One at the first time of asking, thus making it less of a necessity to go up now.

Moxey:  We are content with our progress rather than being ahead of schedule. What we set up to do after Brighton (day of relegation from the Championship) has materialised in about an exact a manner as we could have expected with some highs and lows along the way. We want to go up more than we need to go up. But any football club should be measured by football because that is what we are. That leads everything else.

Ben: Is there a model / strategy in place if the club were to get promoted?

Moxey: The strategy is that you develop players that you hope will be good enough to get there and then stay in the Premier League and there will be those that you sell, for example David Davis, which goes back in.

Buying and selling is a key part of a football club. We hope we sell them and make a profit. Our record is a massive net purchase in terms of the amount we have spent and received.

We are trying to build a strong base and get to the Premier League and buying and selling like everybody does.

Another fan (Dave Benton) alluded to the transfer window and said we still seem a bit light. I.E. No strikers on the bench on Tuesday night / injury to Stearman or Batth would cause big issues.

Moxey: Signing players has genuinely got more and more complicated. Some just don’t want to come to us. Everybody knows we were in for Jesse Lingard.

The Benik Afobe deal took eight weeks. It is just a very complicated process. What we did do was spend a whole lot of money on a prime athlete who is a brilliant lad from a bona fide top club. Would we like to sign three or four more? Then the answer is yes! But that just won’t happen.

Moxey then referred to dressing room harmony and a hand-grenade going off if the dynamic is upset by the wrong type of player coming in. He also said the loan window still offered an option to strengthen if needed.

Other items raised:

Sir Jack Hayward tribute and banners: It was noted what a wonderful job the club did commemorating Sir Jack. The banners couldn’t stay up for contractual obligations with sponsors. Nothing would have pleased the club more than to keep them there but Sir Jack’s family have been consulted, the club is very close to them and once final memorials have taken place overseas and elsewhere, plans can go towards a permanent tribute.

One excellent idea from one fan was to ask each and every Wolves fan to donate a tenner (being as Sir Jack gave us millions before selling selflessly for a tenner) with the money raised founding a statue or something similar I will do a separate blog on this soon

Renaming Molineux: The club doesn’t feel it necessary to make it a club ‘law’ by writing something into official documents. It is doubtful enough money would even be raised by doing it in the first place to ever make it worth doing.

Is the Steve Bull Stand subsiding and being supported by acroprops? No! (this was a rumour I had heard but the club said it wasn’t true!)

My thoughts:

It was a very candid and open meeting and the best of the three I have been to.

It was interesting to hear the club allude to ‘Brighton’ time and again, as it is clearly seen as a watershed moment when the bottom of the barrel was scraped. That they alluded to our triumphs last season in some detail as if to remind us all of the job Kenny Jackett did last season and to remind us of how far we’ve come.

We clearly won’t be pumping millions into the side and we are opting for this sustainable model which, if you take Moxey’s word for it, other clubs are envious of (i.e. how do we blood so many talented kids?)

The challenge is to get more fans through the gate to buy into what they are doing.

I think we all love seeing the young lads playing and can relate to that. It generates patience and support. Long may it continue.

Finding that balance is the key though. This is the core reason for any discontent between fans and club, which will become a greater or lesser issue over the course of these remaining 16 games.