Archives for February 2018

Fulham 2 Wolves 0

If Wolves do end up in the Premier League next season they’ll benefit from the experience of this chastening defeat.

In a forgettable first half, they moved the ball well at times and kept a dangerous Fulham attack subdued.

Ruben Neves was missed, as he would be by any team at this level, but the structure and organisation remained in place.

That is until a couple of sloppy giveaways afforded the hosts an opportunity and nobody tracked Ryan Sessegnon from the rebound.

The second goal was more about good old fashioned forward play. The strength, the body roll, the turn and shot from Mitrovic were all of top flight quality.

His match-winning contribution only served to underline the lack of cutting edge from the visitors.

Costa, so lithe and pacy in approach, was back in the habit of stumbling at the crucial moment.

Bonatini dropped deep and linked play, but rarely got in the box and never once threatened to score.

Even the usually imperious Diogo Jota fluffed with a miss of the season contender that could have asked a question in the final moments.

No, front to back it wasn’t their night and, as a consequence, painfully routine for the hosts.

Fulham are on a par with many of the teams eking out an existence in the lower echelons of the top flight, which is to say generally tidy and capable of exploiting weakness.

And there was far too much weakness in this performance with only Cavaleiro showing the required drive and intensity.

In the Premier League, this type of treatment will be routinely dished out.

To even get there though, better is required.

Fulham Vs Wolves Preview

This is one of those fixtures you start fretting about weeks in advance.

Had we got the win over Norwich, I would have viewed it as a free hit with the two points per game average already in the bag for February.

But alas, the stoppage time heartbreaker leaves us with 8 points from 4 matches, so anything but a win in this one will see us fall short of that particular benchmark.

I still look at our remaining fixtures, those of the chasers and the head start and struggle to see us throwing it away.

I’ve been wrong before though.

Fulham

As they did last season, Fulham started slow and have gradually picked up the pace. The only difference being this time they could still gatecrash the automatic shake up.

They’re not going to catch us, but the eight point deficit to Cardiff is more achievable if they sustain their current form.

Five wins and two draws from their last seven makes them the league’s top dogs and they’ve scored some notable successes in that run.

Villa were brushed aside in their last game at Craven Cottage and they backed it up with a solid point at Ashton Gate in midweek.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was a notable deadline day addition and the big striker adds to a frontline already boasting the correctly hyped Ryan Sessegnon who is still, unbelievably, just 17 years old.

Wolves

I’ve been repressing the idea Neves would eventually get that tenth booking of the season, but it was always coming.

With the maestro out and Costa possibly injured, I would be sorely tempted to return to frontline that got us moving in the early parts of the campaign.

If Leo is fit and firing, I’d like to see him linking the play and bringing Jota and Cavaleiro into the game.

Saiss and N’Diaye must start in midfield. I like Gibbs-White but I just don’t think he’s ready to anchor the team in such a crucial part of the pitch.

John Ruddy came in for some deserved stick after letting that late goal slip through his grasp, but I think it’s too late in the season to be making a change between the sticks. It could de-stabilise the whole defence and isn’t worth the risk.

Predictions

Getting a result against the division’s in form team after such a kick in the guts against Norwich would be another huge statement.

But being honest, I can see this one getting away from us.

Without Neves I’m concerned that we won’t control the midfield and against such a good attacking side, that could be crucial.

I fear defeat but will back us to get what would be a very tidy point.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 2 Norwich City 2

Like many of you doubtlessly were, I was seething at full time.

I imagine the subject of most attendees’ ire will be at referee James Linington and fourth official Andy Woolmer for their timekeeping, but in truth neither can be accused of influencing this result.

Sure, the former was a little on the whistle happy side but when two teams move the ball with the sort of pace that Wolves and Norwich do, fouls will always be conceded.

Unlike many of those sat around me in the North Bank, I didn’t really begrudge any of the decisions that went the way of the visitors.

On tonight’s evidence, Daniel Farke is building a very decent side that should contend for promotion next year.

Their chances will of course hinder on whether they keep James Maddison, who is without doubt the best opposition player I’ve seen play live this season.

I thought he was tremendous this evening, and will be keeping my fingers crossed that the rumours of our interest in signing him are true.

But that’s enough about Norwich. The real reason we slipped up tonight, a potentially unpopular opinion though it may be, is because Nuno got his substitutions horribly (and uncharacteristically) wrong.

In the first half, Costa and Cavaleiro were enjoying the freedom of Molineux against the Canaries’ full backs.

Both were instrumental in creating the space needed to craft the opener, with their direct running also contributing to the healthy tally of dead ball situations we racked up in the early throes of the game.

The second goal was conjured from one of those exact situations, Douglas again delivering the goods and allowing N’Diaye to net his second goal in three games.

Our dreams of a Molineux rout to match the recent Sheffield United game were dashed, however, by a quick Norwich response served up by Maddison and scored by the imposing Christoph Zimmermann.

This led to a typically nervy end to the first half, though few would be fearing a second half quite as arduous as the one we were made to endure.

Costa’s removal at the break was seemingly down to a knock sustained during the first 45, one which had admittedly slowed him down.

But the decision to hook Cavaleiro – arguably our best player as of late – when Norwich were in the ascendancy was baffling.

I’m not going to dig Benik Afobe out too much given he is still in the early throes of his feted Molineux return, but his signing looks a gesture of pure romanticism at present.

Contributing precisely nothing to our performance, he was more a hinderance tonight than anything else.

Let’s hope we’ll be able to put this down to stage fright in the near future, but Leo Bonatini and Rafa Mir must be feeling slighted whilst twiddling their thumbs.

The lack of width caused by Costa and Cavaleiro’s removal left the opposition with plenty of space to play with and, though few shots on goal were resultantly mustered, an equaliser began to feel more and more of an inevitability as the game dragged on due to their possessional dominance.

After Morgan Gibbs-White, mightily impressive once again, spurned a great chance to put the game to bed it felt as if the ink had dried on a grisly script and, sure enough, the scores were level at the death thanks to Nelson Oliviera’s speculative piledriver.

With Cardiff increasingly breathing down our necks, things are about as close to squeaky bum time as they’ve been all campaign.

Alas, we’ve done enough so far to suggest that there’s no cause for anything other than slight concern. Saturday’s game against a flying Fulham side will no doubt prove difficult, but we’ve said that before plenty of big games this season and come out smiling.

Let’s hope we do again.