Archives for March 2015

Worst case scenario

So picture the scene…

Sako

…Kenny Jackett masterminds a late push into the play-offs courtesy of some scintillating counter attacking football.

Sako mesmerises, Afobe dispatches and van la Parra progresses in equal measure as we elbow our way into the reckoning, overcoming Middlesbrough over two grueling battle royales.

With nerves frayed and fingernails chewed, we are within a coat of paint of beating Bournemouth in normal time at a sunshine baked Wembley Stadium.

But we lose in a five goal thriller through a deflected Harry Arter shot in extra time – Peter Beagrie lauding the best play-off final since 1993.

Amid teary eyes, Sako departs, Afobe’s head turns to WBA and van la Parra frustrates. Dicko meanwhile, becomes disillusioned.

Kenny Jackett then starts the 2015/16 Championship season in much the same way Solbakken did in 2012/13 – with one arm tied behind his back.

Is anyone to blame?

Would this not just be a depressing by-product of a once Beautiful Game, where long-term planning documents are chewed up and spat out by that ravenous, vulgar league above.

Would it not just be bad luck on Wolves’ part? An emotion-laden storyline for Morgan and Moxey to garner a bit of sympathy from when the going gets inevitably tough?

Lessons would be learned of course. Kenny wouldn’t get the sack when we’re 15th in the Championship at Christmas because the chairman knew his constraints too well.

We would build again. Iorfa and Hause would play 80 games between them, Batth and Price would become focal and who knows, Boukari might be injury free for a while, in the most unlikely Sako imitation act imaginable.

Some more young bucks would be blooded and by the end of the season, a play-off tilt might just become possible for 2016/17.

Do you buy this vision and more to the point, is there even an alternative to think of? We had so much fun in League One last season that it’s all pretty relative anyway, isn’t it?

Without a sugar daddy prepared to throw big bucks to make that Promised Land plausible, this is surely how it’s going to be from now on.

Aspiration is arbitrary these days and like those fans clamouring for a terrace from where to view it all, times change.

That we had the chance to rewrite this script from 2009 to 2012 adds to the pain, but that’s showbiz folks.

With no other scenario available, we surely embrace this hypothetical grudgingly and keep buying our tickets, even if the cyclical mingles with the Groundhog.

On the otherhand, we actually win the play-offs and get ourselves promoted!

Like that lick of paint scenario I conjure in the Wembley five-goal thriller, it’s a fine line.

Here we go

Four wins and two draws.

wolves run in

That’s what I reckon Wolves need to finish the season inside the Championship’s top six.

Getting those 14 precious points will represent a solid achievement too.

My blueprint for success has us drawing at Forest next Friday, before beating Leeds at Molineux three days later.

A point at St. Andrew’s in the derby follows and I’ve then allowed for a defeat at Middlesbrough to try and keep things realistic.

Then it’s simple, win all three of the remaining games against Ipswich, Wigan and Millwall to sprint over the line. Job’s a good’un.

By my reckoning, 79 points should be enough to narrowly see off the threat of Brentford and Ipswich having also totted up their remaining fixtures.

Brentford have some highly winnable games against the likes of Wigan, Bolton and Fulham, but must also navigate Forest at home and tough away contests at Derby and Sheffield Wednesday. I’ve got them finishing on 78.

Ipswich commence their run-in with a home game against Bournemouth but then have more presentable Portman Road fixtures in the form of Blackpool and Cardiff.

Their final three matches are Wolves away, Forest at home and Blackburn away though, so I’m hoping they’ll peter out and finish on 77.

Victory over Derby last Friday also brought the Rams within shooting distance, but I’ve got them roaring home on 84 points, which could conceivably put them back in automatic contention.

Of course none of this is close to scientific with the Championship anything but predictable and with such thin margins to play with, it’s clearly anyone’s game.

I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that the fact the table is so condensed this season is a reflection of a lower standard. I disagree.

Some of the football the likes of Derby, Watford, Bournemouth and Brentford have played against us has been better than I’ve ever seen in the second tier. Wolves haven’t been too shabby either I might add.

OK, there isn’t one outstanding side, but I think it’s harder than ever to be better than everyone else in this notoriously competitive league.

No doubt Chelsea’s Premier League procession will get all the column inches through April and May, but for sheer entertainment I don’t think anything has surpassed the Championship this year.

If we’re still in it next season, there are certainly worse places to be.

My predicted outcomes

Derby

Watford (h) – 1
Wigan (a) – 3
Brentford (h) – 3
Blackpool (h) – 3
Huddersfield (a) – 1
Millwall (a) – 3
Reading (h) – 3
Total = 17 (84 points)

Wolves

Nottm Forest (a) – 1
Leeds (h) – 3
Birmingham (a) – 1
Middlesbrough (a) – 0
Ipswich (h) – 3
Wigan (a) – 3
Millwall (h) – 3
Total = 14 (79 points)

Brentford

Fulham (a) – 3
Nottm Forest (h) – 1
Derby (a) – 0
Sheff Wed (a) – 1
Bolton (h) – 3
Reading (a) – 1
Wigan (h) – 3
Total = 12 (78 points)

Ipswich

Bournemouth (h) – 1
Huddersfield (a) – 1
Blackpool (h) – 3
Cardiff (h) – 3
Wolves (a) – 0
Nottm Forest (h) – 1
Blackburn (a) – 1
Total = 10 (77 points)

Wolves 2 Derby County 0

Now we’re cooking.

Celebrating Derby

And make no mistake about it folks, Wolves are contenders.

A wonderful win against an impressive and determined Derby outfit is proof positive Kenny Jackett and co are going the distance.

Fears they might simply be eased out in the scrum dissipated amidst another glorious night under the Molineux floodlights.

Steve McClaren will correctly rue one moment of refereeing madness that saw Batth escape punishment, but there was much more to the game than one controversial incident.

End to end would be a fair assessment up until Nouha Dicko’s well engineered opener, but much like Sheffield Wednesday three nights earlier, Derby struggled throughout to contain the pace of our forward line.

Afobe had the two clearest chances of the evening either side of Dicko’s goal and by his lofty standards, England’s top scorer should have done better.

The Derby tiki-taka was impressive but only ever seemed to culminate in shots from distance, which were kept out by goalkeeper and woodwork.

Wolves retreated and rode their luck at times, but when blocks and interceptions were needed, someone always came up with the goods.

Lee Grant’s moment of charity was gratefully received on an evening where both goalies opted to punch when a catch seemed easier.

Still, for all his circus juggling Tomasz Kuszczak kept everything out and that is the name of the game. You just have to go with it.

Sako was superb and drained the life out of Derby as they chased the game, using his strength and considerable portfolio of tricks to ride challenges and play some lovely passes.

His late dribble and dash warranted a better finish, but the slaloming run itself was worthy of the ticket price. I wonder whether all Wolves fans appreciate just how good he is?

But it wasn’t a night for individuals. It was a night to savour just how far the team have come under Kenny Jackett.

And a night to wonder just how far they might go.

The gaffer