I started my New Year`s resolutions early: I did not over-indulge on Christmas Day and put in a sprightly shift on the bike yesterday morning. It`s a pity that the Wolves team did not do the same. They looked heavy-legged, dithery and lacking in sharpness and invention.
When I shooed my elder daughter off the computer just before the match, I noticed that she was buying underwear online. It was my only bit of excitement all afternoon! And even when I turned to the match all I saw on our side of the pitch was another collection of big girls` blouses. We were awful, to the extent that the fans booed the players off the pitch at the end of both halves. Who are the numpties now?
I was so looking forward to the match that I frog-marched my wife and daughters round the lunchtime visit to the garden centre, the cost of being allowed to watch the game uninterrupted by domestic duties. Clearly, we had flattered to deceive against Birmingham, as I suspected we had done. I suppose it`s some consolation to know that there is at least one team worse than us in the league … though I expect that that`s an erroneous assessment too. That match also fooled MM, given that we played an unchanged team and left Jarvis on the bench.
Apart from one dodgy moment in defence (a portent of things to come) the team started well and the goal came against the run of play. Once again, we were undone by a basic defensive error and unsurprisingly it was Stearman who made it. He was at fault with the second goal as well, though Zubar has to take some of the blame. If we do not eradicate these lapses, we`re doomed. We have to invest in experienced, capable and reliable defenders in the transfer window but which players, who fit that description, would want to board such a rickety boat?
One can point to some positives in the match. We did create some chances and did score a goal, albeit too late to affect the outcome of the match. We should have had a penalty and a goal then would have brought us back into the game with time enough to do something about it. But, as I have to apportion criticism fairly, our forwards, as Premier League players, should have put away more of the openings presented to them. As the commentator stated at one point, Bull would have buried a missed header by Hunt. Fletcher continues to remind us why he should be on the field, scoring an opportunist goal of the kind that has so often gone begging throughout the season. However, until we tighten up our defence we cannot afford the luxury of an extra player up front.
Crete Wolf put his finger on the problem: we lack pace all over the field. Wigan always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and their passing was so much slicker and more accurate than ours. We wasted chances by dithering or by taking the wrong option. Zubar`s wild kick into touch as we were pushing for a late equaliser seemed to typify the lackadaisical approach of the team. Some of our players are literally not up to speed for the Premier League.
Players will return (perhaps even Kightly) and we might conceivably plug our holes with new recruits, but by then it could be too late. Yesterday was the first match of five we are playing in a fortnight and, as they include Liverpool (A) and Chelsea (H), as well as the next must-win game, against WHU (A), we need a fully fit squad now. By the end of January we could be miles adrift and having to play catch-up. What makes it all the more depressing is that we expected so much at the beginning of the season, an optimism that did not seem misplaced when we comfortably defeated Stoke on the opening day. Were we wrong and is it our fault?