It's A Funny Old Game
At last, I no longer have to lie to my grandchildren (when I get any) that I had seen the memorable match against Manchester City earlier this season because I have watched the Wolves defeat Chelsea and now Manchester United.
Yesterday was certainly a night to remember and, unlike the previous encounters this season, we played the full MU side, minus Ferdinand of course. There they were - Giggs, Rooney and Scholes - in front of me on the pitch and we beat them! And it was no fluke.
It`s becoming a bizarre pattern. When we absolutely have to win (I know we all said that we had to defeat Bolton, but we did not expect to take three points off MU) MM and the lads pull it off. It must be magic (or the gods of sport are finally taking my bargain seriously: Wales lost the previous evening. I am disappointed but on balance elated with the weekend`s events). So, why can 't we play like this every game? Let`s hope we have finally cracked the problem.
And the day started badly for me. I had intended to leave home at 7 a.m. to do some work at Worcester before going on to the match. However, it took me half an hour to break through a three mile circle round my house, having to return home twice to pick up things I had forgotten. Then, my digital camera died on me half way through the day.
All this did not improve my mood, which was somewhat tense anyway, given the daunting task facing the Wolves that evening. A pint of Banks`s bitter at The Varsity helped a little, as did the news that WBA were losing (but only because they are our relegation rivals and not because they are the Baggies). Even so, it was with a sinking feeling that I noted Wigan`s performance. We really had to win.
I made my way to the ground with plenty of time to spare, buying a woolly hat - in understated black with the team logo on it - in the Wolves shop (something else I had forgotten). Naturally ignored by all those around me, who were busy talking to other season-holders, I enjoyed player-spotting and watching Pan`s People in the corner.
I had hardly converted my time-piece to stop watch mode when we were a goal down. Oh dear, this is going to be a long night, I thought ... as did everyone around me, judging from the shocked silence. Perhaps MU relaxed , as MC had done after scoring their early goal, and Wolves forced their way back into the game. When Elokobi scored we all went mad ... and then topped it when Doyle put us ahead. I only really appreciated George`s header when I viewed it on MOTD later that evening. I bet Ferguson was not amused: it was sloppy marking on their part, but didn`t George take his chance well?
I actually talked to my neighbour in the second half, the shared tension compensating for the natural aloofness of a Molineux crowd. Resisting the temptation to 'park the bus` by bringing on defenders, the game continued as before. As time ticked by soundlessly on my digital watch (and I looked every few seconds), I began to dare to hope that we would survive. In fact, we contained MU fairly easily, much better than we had done in the first half. Even the generous five minutes of extra time (in fact, six: we were playing MU), did not dent my confidence that much (hmm?), as I counted down the minutes for those around me.
When the final whistle sounded, we jumped up and down, hugged each other, punched the air and gave high fives. If only Hosni Mubarak and the crowd in Tahrir Square were Wolves supporters, the impasse would have ended there and then. I had driven up to Wolverhampton under a cloud, but returned as though walking on air. Listening to UFO`s Live at Chicago CD with Michael Schenker`s howling guitar played at '11`, I head-banged my way back to Surrey.
To the detriment of my back (and, clearly, my neck) I only made a short obligatory stop at Warwick services, where I talked to a few Wolves supporters, shirts and scarves prominently on display. No sign of the usual MU supporters though, that is, unless they had covered up their tokens of support. Even so, I don`t think the feelings of brotherly love I had experienced at Molineux had extended to the away team enclosure (George`s goal had shut them up anyway).
I hurried on, savouring in anticipation the beer in the fridge and the match on Football First, having phoned up my wife to record the match. She wasn`t particularly happy: there was a costume drama on the box and I don`t think I explained the procedure with the red buttons and options very well. I made it home just in time, only to be told that she had not recorded the game. Luckily, I did not call her something I would later regret because she was right: bloody ESPN had bought the rights to screen the match. I had to make do with the snippets on MOTD. Incidentally, does anyone out there know of a freeview site that is still available for us to watch?
What about the game? In many ways MU were the superior team. They sent the ball wide on every opportunity and the wingers looked dangerous when cutting inside: Nani`s goal, for instance. We were far more laboured in our build-up, to the extent that the crowd started to get restless in the second half. Regularly, a movement broke down because it lost its forward momentum. Often Henry was the culprit (one glorious pass, notwithstanding). He had a dreadful game: weak on the ball, poor in his passing and not that effective as a defender. Whenever he was brought into play, the crowd collectively held its breath. He is clearly not match fit yet, either in thought or action.
The defence as a whole fought heroically, the occasional wobble apart: 'magnificent` was the word Shearer used to describe them on MOTD. Berra and Stearman played particularly well and the two full backs redeemed themselves for their recent poor performances. It was extremely pleasing to see Zubar back to his best. I love his loose-limbed gallops up-field.
In attack, Doyle was indefatigable and he rounded off the perfect performance with a goal. Whatever happens at the end of this season, we mustn`t lose him. No-one holds up the ball better than he does or causes so many problems to opposing defenders. That`s evident in the tactics they employ to stop him. The midfielders played alright but, according to my notes, did not stand out. Did O`Hara make the right decision when electing to shoot from a tight angle rather than squaring the ball across the goal? It`s a little worrying that we have to rely on set pieces to score goals rather than bag them in open play. Even so, I think we now have the line-up that will improve the tally.
In the end it was a great team effort that won us the match. If only we can put in the same performance in all remaining games, we will survive. We could win against Arsenal next week but, as it`s at the Emirates, I would take a draw (I couldn`t get a ticket: they had sold out within minutes). It`s what we do against Blackpool a fortnight later (I do have my ticket) and the winnable matches thereafter that will really decide our fate. At least, it is now in our hands.
Oh! I drank the beer anyway!
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