Jangling Nerves at Molineux
It was my first match of the season, having had a major knee operation in June, but the tension of the last 26 minutes made it seem all too familiar ... apart from the unusual experience of watching us hang on for a win, of course.
Limping up to the top tier of the BW stand at 12.45, I saw acres of empty seats, many of which remained unfilled throughout the match. Some of the supporters may have relocated themselves to the SC Stand but with an attendance of 20,230 one wonders why it had to be heightened at this point in our history.
Prioritizing the spending of money on laudable but unnecessary improvements rather than on filling the gaps in our team seemed even more absurd as the game progressed. Yes, we won - and over in Upper BW we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle blew - but we were bloody lucky that it wasn`t Derby revisited. While I noted a number of positives, we still have glaring weaknesses and these should have been addressed when we had the chance to do something about them.
Funnily enough, the back four should not bear all the blame for today`s lapses. Having castigated Johnson for his shortcomings on numerous occasions last season, I have to admit that he is a transformed player this time round. He`s still slow but his positional sense has improved and he is solid in the air. Berra had a decent game too, making vital blocks and tackles. Even so, he is still prone to error and regularly had to resort to tugging and body-checking.
At RB Stearman was a vast improvement on the dreadful Zubar (and it pains me to write that because I like Ronald`s ' joie de vivre`) but he, like Ward, were hard pressed by their wingers. I would prefer the more dependable Foley at RB. Ward also had a better game (even if he still backs off too much) and executed a number of saving blocks and tackles. And he is good going forward, if as inclined to hoof the ball upfield as anyone else in the back four.
Surprisingly, given the quality of our new recruits in midfield, this is where we came under the greatest pressure. Thankfully, Henry returned to the side to give a modicum of stability and when WW were in the ascendancy in the period before half-time, his presence gave Doumbia greater freedom to move forward. Sako looked classy too. What a peach of a free kick on to SEB`s head for the goal. Peszko, on the other hand, had a more difficult game: his touch was awry, he seemed hesitant and was easily knocked off the ball. He`ll have better games.
Then, we lost it in midfield in the second half and Leicester streamed past our men almost at will. Doumbia`s contribution became more fitful and Sako tired badly. Even so, TD`s replacement by Edwards in the 66th. minute was a mistake (unless it was due to injury) because the latter was virtually anonymous. Sako`s tendency to hog the ball rather than lay it off to a better placed colleague also had the effect of squandering potential chances. We still lose possession too easily ... it added to the tension of a nerve-wracking finale to the game.
Leicester naturally came out after the break determined to wipe out the deficit. The situation screamed for calm heads with players concentrating on keeping possession of the ball , advice that was even more essential after Leicester had scored their goal. We needed players to put their foot on the ball and knock it around safely, frustrating Leicester and exploiting the gaps that would emerge. Instead, we panicked, allowing our opponents back into the match. As the bulk of the action was taking place at my end of the pitch, I could see at first hand how close Leicester came to equalizing. In the build-up to the shot that rebounded off our post, my friend exclaimed 'They`re going to score`. I still cannot believe that we kept them out.
Up front, Doyle showed that he is returning to form. His holding up of the ball was almost as good as it had been in our first season in the PL and he manages to get his head to the ball far more often than one would expect for a man of his size. In this respect, he is far more proficient than SEB ... nice headed goal though. Overall, SEB had a good game and he linked up quite well with Doyle. Between them, they engineered a number of chances. SEB, for all his bulk, is surprisingly mobile.
At the moment, they look the obvious pairing. While Siggie displayed one or two neat touches, in general he looked lost and out of sorts, typified by a dreadful missed pass right at the death. He will improve but he is not the instant saviour we thought he might be.
The main positives to be taken from today`s game are the three points, the boost that this provides and the form of some of our players ... and the potential among others to improve. We will get better but it will take time. And, we do need to bring in more recruits in all sections of the team to hasten the process. At least, we`re not going down!