Clutching at Straws: A Win at Eastlands?
Although you might have expected me to pedal round to view the glum faces at Chelsea`s training ground the morning after the match on 5 January, today was the first time since that glorious evening that I have ventured that way on the bike.
As I passed the entrance (only one forlorn fan there), I wondered whether we could do the same against Manchester City this weekend. Of course, it could be construed as an exercise in clutching at straws, if only because a direct comparison would result in a 1-3 defeat. Moreover, Manchester City`s team has overcome a blip in perfomance, having won four and drawn one of the last five PL games.
However, the statistics also indicate that Wolves will win their next match, having failed to secure a victory in the previous one. It`s MM`s winter plan, a bit of magic from Merlin. More realistically (if still an abstraction), the victory over Chelsea must have boosted the self-belief of our players enormously. As long as they are aware that a lack of confidence among the Chelsea players contributed to the victory and do not become complacent (a worrying habit), they should be able to lift their game and compete effectively.
More prosaically, the manager has, for the first time in ages, a choice to make in most positions, though unfortunately not at left back. Henry and Craddock might feature in the game, which will respectively toughen our midfield and concentrate the minds of Stearman and Berra. Up front the partnership between Doyle and Fletcher is shaping up nicely, though it`s doubtful whether MM will go for a 4-4-2 formation at Eastlands. Similarly, as the second half against Doncaster proved, the whole unit is beginning to gel. In particular, Milijas continues to impress with his reading of the game ... and his newly found defensive steel. And, what a strike!
Much depends upon the first ten minutes, the time when the Wolves traditionally like to extend the hand of friendship to their opponents. At least, Henry will be on hand to squash such misplaced acts of bonhomie. I suspect that MC will not approach the game in the same flippant mood, as at Molineux, but it could work to our advantage. Their players will be determined to win, but the memory of the defeat could engender tightness and the seeds of doubt.
As we can no longer count on Blackpool imploding (I gave that up long ago) or even WHU or Wigan shedding points every game, we have to take points from whomever we are playing, no matter what their status or their position in the league. The plan insists on it. It`s not much of a comfort to note that we have teams like Liverpool as relegation rivals either. Surely, Kenny will soon begin to cast his spell but not, I hope, before Merlin can work his magic. I shall be at Molineux to see the outcome. In the meantime a point at least at MC would be a nice belated Christmas present, the one the team forgot to post on Boxing Day.