Sickening Late Loss for Wolves
06/12/2014 15:00 GMT
It is hard to remain measured and reasonable in times like these, when Wolves have lost their last 5 games and shipped 16 goals. Those statistics point to a profound dysfunction at Compton and serious problems within the team and management structure. However today's loss to the Cherries proved all the more bitter, because it should have been the game where Wolves turned their fortunes around.
Expectations were pretty low for Wolves going into the match; Jackett beleaguered by naysayers, Nouha Dicko on the physio's table, heads down and fortunes ill. In recent games, Jackett had tinkered with the team, trying to seal up the leaky defense, and afforded a debut 19 year old Dominic Iorfa at full back.
Wolves started the game brightly, dominating first half possession and carving out a number of changes. Artur Boruc's fingertip save denied Danny Graham's close range header around the half hour mark, but could do nothing to see the Sunderland loanee delicately nudge a cross into the corner of the net with a deft header after 41 minutes.
Going into the break, Wolves had momentum and impetus on their side. Bournemouth had demonstrated potential going forward with some neat interplay and composed passing, but were exposed on the break and on the wings by the raw pace of Rajiv van La Parra and Bakary Sako. Midfield remained a sketchy area for Wolves, with Kevin McDonald still not achieving his erstwhile form and Jackett unable to find a suitable partner. Edwards showed flashes of ability going forward with a hopeful 25 yard curler veering wide early on, however it was clear that the middle of the park was a frailty which Bournemouth's technical aptitude could expose.
Some credit must go to Jackett for resolving the defensive conundrum that has plagued the team for several games. Dominic Iorfa had reasonably solid game: he is composed and skillful on the ball, has the ability to bound forward and can track a man well, however his distribution was perhaps a little awry. It was certainly not the back 4's failures that cost us 3 points today.
The turning point of the match came when referee Mike Jones gave Wolves winger, Rajiv van la Parra a red card for 'violent conduct'. I am loathe to pin our defeat exclusively on a refereeing decision, and were this a different team enjoying better form and more confidence, I would suggest that we could return from this misfortune. However in these circumstances, I think it is fair to say that the referee committed an outrageous miscarriage of justice and was overzealous with his cards towards Wolves throughout the match.
The sending off incident, from my vantage, was as follows: the ball is lumped from the Wolves back line, bouncing awkwardly in the B'mouth half between the midfield and defence. The ball pitches up for an aerial contest between the B'mouth #3 and RVP, both of whom angle their heads towards the ball. RVP is coming in pace, whereas the B'mouth player is static; their heads collide and the B'mouth player goes down like a sack of spuds, thus provoking the red card from the referee's top pocket.
If Mike Jones adjudged that to be violent conduct, his understanding of the situation must have been either a) RVP executed a flying headbutt, or b) RVP led with his elbow. Given that a) is a truly ridiculous proposition, and b) is very improbable given the physical logistics of the incident (insofar as RVP couldn't really angle his torso that way, whilst also running in at pace), the referee's decision was incorrect.
From that point, Bournemouth took the momentum and took full advantage of the extra player, to their credit. They peppered Ikeme's goal and flooded men into the Wolves box. At this point, the tenuous midfield partnership of McDonald and Edwards was overrun, and Graham was starved of service.
It was a deflected effort from the edge of the box that saw the Cherries draw level through Harry Arter. Wolves did at this point completely crumble, their confidence eviscerated and the odds stacked heavily against them. The 88th minute winner from Matt Richie came as a complete sucker punch after a goalmouth melee that saw Danny Batth incapacitated in a remarkably similar fashion to that which saw RVP sent off.
The game ended with Matt Doherty's rash tackle inciting another red card, in perhaps more understandable circumstances from Mike Jones' point of view. It's hard to decide whether Doherty's frustrations can be seen as a sign of his passion and genuine commitment to the club, or whether it is puerile indiscipline and poor professionalism. However I think to dissect this is flogging a dead horse.
Jackett got some things right today, and some things wrong. On balance, the effort of the team and Jackett's nous probably did deserve three points, against a backdrop of our poor confidence and form. Bournemouth should be credited for a fighting display, but ultimately the match lies at the feet of the referee.