Analysis & Ratings: Wolves v Birmingham City
Yes! Finally! A very deserved win and well-earned bragging rights locally (and globally).
I was very worried before this game and with so many injured rightly so. With four Development players on the bench it was clear to everybody that Wolves were in the midst of their worst injury crisis in years and years and manager McCarthy also said before the game that this was the most depleted team he had ever managed.
But the ones playing didn’t care at all about that. They outplayed Birmingham City totally in the first quarter of an hour, coming through in wave after wave and it was only because of their keeper they were still in the game after those minutes.
But I admit to still being worried after that and when we didn’t score the bad thoughts entered my mind again, thinking we would sing to the same old tune once more.
But the team made clear that was not going to happen when Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – who got the nod from start in front of a dead legged Doyle – crossed a perfect ball in low from the right and with special goal-thief Hunty running in position the long-awaited for goal was a fact.
The characteristics for Wolves this beautiful afternoon was that many of our midfielders attacked and came into the area with full pace searching for and creating chances instead of waiting for them to come their way.
Could this really be a midfield without three of our usual starters? Ward – working hard upfront in a second striker role – Hunt – getting in the prefect position more than once and working his socks off all over the pitch – Edwards – our best player in the first half and very close of scoring aswell and a true grafter – Milijas – also a very good save from scoring and one of the best in the second half – and Foley who did everything a holding midfielder and captain should do, and then some. Awesome!
But I knew that we would get our chances. Wolves has created many chances in every game we have played this season and especially in the latest four. The team plays some kind of total football today with everybody doing their bit both in defence and going forward.
You could see that when SEB was tracking back taking the ball from advancing City players several times and also when Berra went forward trying with his whole body to get the ball in from the back post when he hit it hard with his thigh. That’s commitment and McCarthy style total football.
If I would offer some critique this could also be part of the reason why we are not scoring on all the chances we create. Sort of the other side of the coin. The players that get the chances are sometimes not players with the technique and the instinct to slot in from them. But in many cases today it was the skill of the Blues keeper and bad luck that kept us from scoring a couple more – not lack of skills.
I believe that McLeish did a big mistake by playing a 4-4-2 with Zigic and Jerome upfront today. Wolves owned the midfield and they earned it by hard work and great skills from everybody.
But I also believe that Stearman and Berra did a great job to take Jerome and Zigic down when the aerial balls came to them. The back four contained the Birmingham attacks and the midfield worked hard to hinder the attacks from even getting started. Not a shot on goal from the Birmingham team says it all, really.
Everybody now asks themselves if it was Birmingham who played under their strength or Wolves who played very good?! My usual answer is that we make other teams look bad by not letting them going on with their business.
But the Blues looked a little bleak today, I must admit. And I really don’t recognise the Wolves play as much better than last week or the weeks before when we have got beaten.
The fact is that a team can play well and get beaten anyway. That’s football for you. But the difference from the last weeks is of course that we only made a couple of mistakes in defence and that Birmingham didn’t score on them.
And another difference is that we managed to get to them faster by turning play and run into their penalty area with speed taking them on when they were not fully organised.
And last but not least. They were determined to take three points from this game and they did everything to succeed in their mission. And subsequently they did. Simple as that.
To the individual ratings (and a special eloge to our magical manager who picked the right team and played them in the right positions, totally outsmart McLeish. Ten points!)
Zubar – 7 – Took care of Fahey totally, but had some problems with his speedy replacement the last half hour. Also helps out in the middle a lot with his aerial reach and did go forward a couple of times.
Stearman – 7 – Don’t write him off! He could be one of our best for the future. Without mistakes his play is mature with great passes and he takes on very good forwards like Zigic and Jerome with astute.
Berra – 8 – Fights like a tiger in the second half and also had two great chances to score. His first goal is bound to come soon, I’m sure. Hopefully he will put some ice on that thigh to be o-k to play next Sunday.
Elokobi – 7 – Went a little missing in the first half, but made Mr Larsson very mad on several occasions, which is a good sign. Combines good defending with going forward, but could be better when passing the ball.
Foley – 7 – Helped our back four a lot and is better getting the ball forward than both Henry and Mancienne in this role. Hopefully McCarthy will notice this.
Edwards – 7 – Were playing on the right wing, but not as an out and out winger. Our best player in the first half. Had three attempts on goal, tackled well and was everywhere. With better precision in front of goal and strength to last the whole game he will get better ratings. He gave the ball away that resulted in the Jerome chance, sloppy and probably because of fatigue.
Hunt – 8 – Goal thief, defending close to the corner flag and taking corners and free-kicks very well. He is a very busy bee, Mr Hunt. And he never seem to forget to tell his fellow players to march on to victory. Scored the goal, well taken of course. Could have scored another one, but came to close to the keeper. He is there now and our future opponents will get to know him.
Milijas – 6 – Was anonymous in the first half, but came back in the second taking much more ball and responsiblity. Had a beautiful header that should have resulted if not for a great save.
Ward – 7 – Back as a striker, but with his workrate he is a midfielder aswell. It surprised me that McCarthy played him as the number ten when Edwards was available, but it worked out very well. Very close to score early on and his crosses are formidable. Moved back to defence when Fletcher came on and did a good job there aswell.
Ebanks-Blake – 8 – Wondered how we would fare with Doyler out injured, but Sylvan Ebanks-Blake took my worries away early on in the game. He has been a striker in form all season and it’s a pity that he has not got more time.
He did everything right, running the channels, turning and firing and crossing. As I said above his cross to Hunt made the goal and was terrific. I didn’t miss Doyle a bit as SEB also did work very well defensively and snatched the ball from advancing Blues midfielders.
The only thing Doyle is better at is to take the ball down with a defender in the back, but the times Ebanks-Blake does that right he turns and goes to attack. Doyle only passes the ball to a midfielder in similar situations. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is Paddytheflea’s Star Man.
Links to highlights of the game as always in the right margin