Writer: Tom Murray
Date:Monday August 11 2014
10/08/2014 16:00 BST
Watching Soccer Saturday as the scores came in, I still found my eyes glued to the League 1 teams. I made mental note of Chesterfield beating Orient and Fleetwood Town beating Crewe. On early form, League 1 looked to be as turbulent as always, with no dead certainties for anything. It genuinely took a good few minutes to return to sporting lucidity and recall that Wolves had been promoted, and we were playing on the Sunday. That pays ultimate testament to the changes brought about by Kenny Jackett at Wolves in the last 12 months, insofar as in my less alert moments, I could mistake our recent success for an ethereal haze.
And so, on rolled Sunday, 4 o`clock at Molineux. Confined to my living room with my Dad, this seemed like an appropriate way to start the season, because I remember my first Wolves match being with him in the stands against Norwich at home in 2002. I mark myself as marginally more optimistic than my old man, so I had primed us for a win, whilst he claimed he would have snapped one`s proverbial hands off for a draw.
Our collective initial thoughts were a little bit suspicious at the team selection. The omission of Ricketts, Henry and Jacobs looked a little bit suspect, and I was not enamoured with the inclusion of Van la Parra, who I thought looked a little frazzled by English teams in the pre-season. It is at this point one might consider closing this article, because my initial thoughts were so obviously wide of the mark one might wonder if I had ever watched a Wolves match before! We lined up in the ever familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, with Edwards playing an advanced role, supported by RVP and Sako either side, just behind Nouha Dicko up top. Kevin McDonald and Lee Evans acted as hefty anchors in the midfield, and the back four remained rigid in formation as usual.
As Dave Edwards opined in his interview with Chris Iwelumo after the match, the first 15 minutes or so of Norwich`s game did indeed resemble Wolves immediately after Premier League relegation: nerves wrought jagged and a yard off the pace of the game. The boys from the Black Country certainly took the fight to Norwich, with their slick, fast passing triangles and strength in width. It`s important not to get ahead of ourselves, but I thought Wolves would have been kicking themselves for not scoring in the first 20 or so minutes, because the Canaries were there for the taking. Going into half time, Wolves looked by far the better team. RVP had run the fullback, Olsson, ragged and drawn a yellow card from him already. Dicko had beaten his centre-half for pace and strength, so it seemed like a matter of time before the Frenchman would broke away on a nippy run through the middle.
Wolves had directed play and dominated possession for large segments of the half, thanks to McDonald`s imperious ball retention, spiralling in little circles while he evaded the oncoming Surmans and Hoolahans. Evans made some sloppy mistakes but atoned for his nervy display in the second 45 with more assured passing, although with Jackett waxing lyrical about Price in interviews, I wonder whether Evans is playing as a stand in? Sako`s performance was admirable, because he had steered away from his brief acts of petulance that left Wolves supporters eternally frustrated over the last couple of seasons. It should also be noted how Jackett`s system seems to have adapted into having wing backs rather than orthodox fullbacks, as Golbourne and Doherty got forward with pace and overlapped where possible, as well as defending staunchly when called upon.
As against Celta Vigo the other week, Danny Batth was absolutely faultless in the air. Richard Stearman was as ever prone to the odd lapse of concentration, but essentially made amends in every instance. It is interesting that Doherty got the nod ahead of Ricketts, but Redmond did not get a sniff at goal, and Doherty certainly pressed forward with much gusto. Golbourne continues to impress me with his pace, distribution and technical prowess. He is one of the few players with the brain for much bigger things, and establishes telepathic links with players around him. Bar an initial flap from Ikeme and a smart save from an acute Grabban shot, his performance was solid, if more or less untested. Dave Edwards`s energy was something to behold, as it always has been, but his performances of late have been imbued with a new air of confidence and aggression that makes him a very useful player when he gets in the hole and makes lengthy runs. Van la Parra had a superb match throughout and was ultimately responsible for the sending off of Olsson, which proved pivotal, especially as the Canaries were having a spell of dominance at the time. The precise, curling cross for his assist paid tribute to his excellent delivery ability and he was just as tireless as Edwards, looking a constant threat on the ball.
Overall the win was very well deserved in my view. Jackett`s game plan came to fruition and the team was not intimidated by the wilted, but nevertheless star-studded team sheet presented to them at 3 o`clock. Certainly, the sending off was a critical point in a match which could have swung either way, but the match was won on merit, not luck.
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Date:Monday August 11 2014
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