Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 Hull City
The result wasn't unexpected and not many City fans would complain about losing at Wolves but the manner of the defeat is upsetting. The fact also remains that having put ourselves in a great position to stay up, 2 defeats in 4 days have left us right in the mire. We started OK, but once Wolves scored the first of 3 simple goals from crosses, we never once looked like taking anything. Even when we pulled a goal back, there was no change. Normally, when a team scores, they get that bit of belief and confidence and have a go at the opposition. We just continued plodding on.
Wolves are a decent side, but not unbeatable. There was no reason to fear them. They have a good set-up, 3 of the back 4 are vastly experienced, while the other looks a very good young full-back. The front 6 are a great unit of young, pacy, energetic players, with Olifinjana in there to give them a bit of experience and some real bite. They played good football at times, although shifting the ball around our creaking midfield wasn't difficult. At other times though, the game was scrappy and they panicked just as much as us and hit hopeful balls forward. We're talking about a team who lost 6-0 the last time they played at home and lost on Saturday too. We should have been in their face from the kick-off. They are a young side and our experienced players should've taken control of the game and forced them to play quickly and make snap decisions, not stood and watched them pass the ball and put in crosses.
It started up front. Vaz Te was utterly useless. Defensively, he didn't look interested in making tackles or closing anyone down. Windass had more willing, but looked leggy and also proved useless as a defensive force. That left Forster as the first line of defence and he wasn't at the races in the first half either. In the second, with good support from Elliott, they rushed Wolves more and more, but the game was gone by then. In midfield, Peltier was the pick in the first half. Again, there was little quality, but plenty of effort. He wasn't really assisted. Ashbee only came into the game when Wolves took their foot of the pedal. Ray Parlour had the poorest game I've ever seen him have. He was awful. He didn't make a tackle, he barely made a pass and he floated around, chasing shadows. Today was the sort of day he is here for. To take a game by the scruff of the neck, steady the less experienced players around him and put his foot on the ball and help the team play. He wasn't able to at all. When we needed bravery and steel, he went AWOL. The obvious change at half time was Marney for Parlour, but for whatever reason, the gaffer left Parlour on. It was a poor decision.
The back 4 were poor, as a unit. The goals were soft. No team should concede 3 times from balls across the box. The first came from the right, there was no pressure on the cross, they hit it to the far post, Bothroyd attached himself to Dawson and headed in easily. The second came from a corner. They hit it short to Kightly, who had bags of room, like Safri did on Friday and was able to pick out a cross. Olifinjana again attached him self to Dawson and headed in easily again. The third was a low ball across the box from the left. No-one stopped the pass and Ricketts did poorly against Bothroyd. Where Delaney and Turner where when the goals were going in, no-one knows. The sad thing is that aside from the goals, there wasn't that big a threat. Wolves had lots of possession and a couple of decent chances fell to Keogh from long passes, but generally, we were quite comfortable. Turner had a good game, individually, heading a lot of balls out and reading the play well to stride out with the ball on a few occasions. Dawson did OK in the tackle, but struggled in the air and Delaney was steady, if a bit lucky on a couple of occasions when he let the ball bounce. Ricketts deserves a bit of credit for trying to get things going. In the second half, he started flying into tackles and harrying the oppo's and looked like he wanted to win.
The problem was that we weren't an attacking threat. Whenever we had the ball at the back, it went long. Same old story, really. Forster, Vaz Te and Windass weren't able to win anything and the midfield didn't offer better options. Everyone seemed quite happy to watch the ball fly forward onto a Wolves' head. Things changed a bit in the second half, because Elliott won a few headers and Marney did well to pick up the ball in midfield. Hitting long balls made Vaz Te a spectator. The decision to swap Elliott for Vaz Te is absolutely baffling. If we were going to try and put quality balls down the side and in behind, it was the right thing to do, but to make the change and then hit crap, lazy passes made a mockery of it. We weren't brave enough and we didn't believe we could play football and beat Wolves. I've no idea where Barmby was, but he was missed. He's not a good sub, we all know that, but when he plays from the start and in behind the strikers, we play better football. I also think we missed Livermore, who is brave on the ball. He doesn't always have the quality, but he always wants a pass. He'll make a poor pass and then be there for the next one. That sort of bottle was missing from the line-up. Because of the football we played, we weren't able to hold the ball up and get the full-back's forward to join in, which left us looking very narrow. The lack of options from the bench hurt too. There was no-one to change things around, only players to make better use of the long balls and the resulting knock downs. Michael Bridges 10 minute cameo was one of the most pointless and ineffective sub appearances you'll ever see.
The result leaves us right in trouble again. We now have to win our two home games or get an unlikely result at Stoke or Cardiff. Unfortunately, 3 of our 4 games are now against sides with something to play for. The consistency issue is worrying. Every time we look comfortable, we perform horrendously in the next game. It applies to individuals too. Ricketts, Marney and Livermore have struggled for consistent form all season. Old campaigners like Elliott, Ashbee and Delaney are struggling for form, as are the older heads. When we're playing well, they look great, but when we're struggling, they all go missing. The manager is just as inconsistent. He cannot get the best out of the players in every game. I hope he was throwing tea-cups after today, because at the most crucial point of the season, our players have lost 2 games with a whimper when others have kicked things up a gear. Whatever happens, there'll be changes in the summer because the players have let themselves down far too often. Whether Phil Brown will be doing the changing looks less likely than it did two games ago.
It'll be nerve jangling on Saturday. Let's hope the support is noisier than today. Let's hope everyone believes they can win it. Let's hope Barmby is fit. If all else fails, let's hope the others lose!
Ratings: Bo 6, Ricketts 6, Dawson 6, Delaney 6, Turner 7, Ashbee 6, Parlour 5 (Bridges), Peltier 6 (Marney), Forster 7, Windass 5, Vaz Te 5 (Elliott).