Wolves bounced back from their heaviest defeat of the season to Aston Villa, with a clinical performance against Reading, beating them 3-0 with a brace from Matt Doherty and a goal from Benik Afobe.
Nuno Espirito Santo made several changes to the side that capitulated so dramatically in the second half at Villa Park. Benik Afobe made his first start under Nuno since returning to the club in place of Leo Bonatini, and Ryan Bennet was returned to the starting eleven, in place of Danny Batth. Romain Saiis was preferred to Alfred N’dieye in the centre of midfield, and Helder Costa was chosen over Ivan Cavaleiro in the forward three.
Wolves entered the game in some of the worst form of the season averaging five points in the last five games and faced a Reading side who, not having won in four, are languishing in nineteenth with a real risk of being dragged into a relegation battle.
Reading named David Edwards, and John Dadi Bodvarsson in their starting eleven who were both returning to Molineux for the first time since leaving in the summer. Both received a great reception from the Wolves fans, both always showing real commitment to the cause in their time at Wolves.
Wolves dominated the game shown through the shot count for each side, Wolves amasses 14 shots to Readings 2 (neither of which were on target). Wolves had early chances with the most notable being from Helder Costa, returned to the starting line-up, bringing a good save from Jaakkola in the Reading goal, who was probably Readings best player in a lack-lustre performance.
In a mostly successful night for the home side the only cause for concern came when Diogo Jota hobbled off the pitch. He has been a constant presence all season, and his goals and assists have propelled Wolves to the top of the league. It looks like a three to four week absence for the Portuguese forward, meaning the likes of Helder Costa, Cavaleiro and Bonatini will have to step up in his absence.
Wolves broke the deadlock just before half-time with the two wing-backs combing from a superb Barry Douglas header back across goal for his fellow wing-back to head over the line for his third goal of the season. It’s a cliché this season but when Wolves’s wing backs get forward and play well, Wolves are a force to be reckoned with.
Benik Afobe made it 2-0 to Wolves in the 58 minute to make it two goals in three games for the former Arsenal striker. He had scuffed wide a well worked chance just minutes before, but made no mistake second time around. Following an excellent dribbling run from Helder Costa, he was able to pull the ball back for Afobe to finish easily. Ruben Neves long pass was crucial in the build up to this goal releasing Costa into the Reading penalty box.
Matt Doherty scored his second of the game, his fourth of the season, to seal a dominant victory for Wolves in the 73rd minute. His placed finish into the low right hand corner, after some good interplay with Ivan Cavaleiro, gave the Reading keeper no chance. This was Doherty’s fourth goal of the season, three of which have come against Reading.
Reading failed to register a shot on target and this loss leaves them looking towards League One. It would have been hard to predict the clubs vastly contrasting fortunes considering where they both finished in the league last season.
Costa had late chance but Jaakkola saved well with his feet to deny the winger, who will look to cement his place in the first team in the absence of Jota for the remainder of the season.
With Aston Villa loosing to QPR on the same night Wolves extended their lead to ten points from third place, with the gap to Cardiff in second down to three points.Wolves have had a habit this year of bouncing back well from defeats, they have won all of their games following a defeat. In the words of Ian Dowie, Wolves have good ‘bouncebackability’, and that togetherness and mental strength is one of the key reasons they are top of the Championship.