Stu hall gives his view on Wolves win against Blackburn Rovers
So here we are again.
Another season here at last after a summer of nothing to do, football is back.
After last season, there is once again an air of expectation around Wolves that wasn’t really there last time out. Yes we had won League 1 easily in the end but no-one seriously expected a top 6 challenge to be a realistic prospect. To then only miss out on the play offs on marginal goal difference was a testament to how far the club has com in such a short space of time.
Yet now with our most talented and inspirational player in Sako gone, will Wolves be able to cope with the lack of goals and assists he has provided over the last 3 seasons?
The answer after the Blackburn game is possibly.
Without him, the team looks more functional than flair based with players having specific roles to play rather than having the flexibility to roam as he did last season.
Indeed this led to Wolves playing a diamond formation for the first time since the bore draw days of the Hoddle regime. Hopefully Shirley Bassey was wrong and diamonds aren’t forever because for me, this system does not suit the players that we have. The lack of width was obvious from the start with Henry on the right more of a right midfielder than a winger, or in fact, right side of a front 3 like we have played more frequently in recent times.
On the other side, Dave Edwards was even more tucked inside, leaving much of the left sided wing play to Golbourne overlapping when he had the chance.
At the base of the diamond was McDonald who failed to look anywhere near the player he has proved in patches last season that he can be. He was too casual on numerous occasions, playing O’Hara esq hollywood balls out of play and not tracking his runner on the defensive side of the game.
His central midfield partner however shone brightly once again and for me, was Man of the Match just ahead of Stearman. Conor Coady is looking an absolute steal at £2m and the comparisons with LA new boy Steven Gerrard when he was at liverpool are clear. His positional play, awareness and distribution are superb and he likes a tackle too. The kind of midfielder we haven’t had since Alex Rae. I urge people to appreciate him while we can because if promotion is not earned within the next 2 seasons he will be on to bigger things. He is to the championship what McDonald was to League 1, way too good for the league.
But it wasn’t Coady who was involved in Wolves opening goal. that was everyone’s favourite 100% man Edwards. He flicked the ball into Afobe’s path from a knockdown and last seasons english top goalscorer flicked the ball past the onrushing Raya into the net. On the balance of play it was a deserved lead, even if Blackburn had had plenty of possession before hand without really threatening bar Rhodes effort just after the start.
The man who wasn’t expected to start due to ‘injury’ and speculation of a massively over inflated bid from Middlesborough of £14m, leathered the ball from just outside the penalty area which curled away from Ikeme and thankfully hit the post.
At the time it looked like it was going to be a rough afternoon for Wolves but that never really materialised, even when the equaliser came it was from a ridiculous deflection. The ball was blocked on the edge of the Wolves 18 yard box following another long ball up field and when it fell to Conway his strike looped up into the air and totally deceived Ikeme so much so he ended up palming the ball onto the bar only for it to drop in the net.
It was reminiscent in a way of Adrian being totally confused when Rooney scored from just inside the West Ham half a few seasons ago. It was a bad mistake to make and it may have something to do with the spin of the ball and the blazing summer sunshine but still not something you expect of such an established goalkeeper.
There were a few times where Ikeme didn’t really seem himself and it wasn’t until the second half when he came and collected a ball in a crowd with confidence. Thankfully, an off day by his high standards wasn’t a problem just before the end as he pulled off a magnificent one handed save onto the post to keep the score at 2-1.
The 2nd Wolves goal from Dangerous Dave Edwards ™ was shrouded in controversy. From where I was at the other end of the pitch it seemed to have taken a deflection off the cross but watching again on tv replays the ball clearly hit his hand and took a 45’ redirection leaving the keeper no chance.
It didn’t seem deliberate, just a mistimed attempt to head the ball but it was handball all the same and should have been seen by the officials. To his credit Edwards didn’t seem to celebrate, but after the ridiculous amount of decisions that went against us last term I’ll take any injustice going our way.
The result could have been more at the death when James Henry almost scored the goal of the day from distance. Similar to his drive at Bolton last season he hit the ball with venom only for it to cannon back off the crossbar rather than burst the net.
3-1 would have been unfair on Blackburn though as they did put up a fight and threw everything they had at Wolves in the dying minutes. So much so that Doherty was bought on making the formation 5-4-1 with Le Fondre ploughing furrow up top gathering up scraps and holding up the ball which he did well.
There was one more moment of controversy at the very death though where Sako’s song replacement Ojo seemed to get scythed down in the box which was either a penalty or a great tackle. What it wasn’t though was a dive yet Referee Haywood seemed to be the only person on the pitch who thought otherwise, booking the youngster.
The ref didn’t have a great game but in the end it did not matter, a solid 3 points away from home on opening weekend is all you could ask for and Wolves delivered.
images via www.wolves.co.uk