Analysis & Ratings: Birmingham City v Wolves
Only future can tell if this was a lost opportunity that costed Wolves their Premier League status or a very valuable point gained to stay up in the best league in the world.
All I can say right now is that we did not play to the best of our abilities when one man up on Birmingham City for an hour. Such an advantage should be taken better care of than we did today.
Wolves were a lucky team today. We got a penalty and a sending off of a player in the opposing team – both rulings given according to the book of the game – but not every referee would have recognised the foul on Ward and the dive by Gardner. Thank you, Mr Friend!
The first decisive incident did see Wolves take the lead very early in the game from the penalty by Fletcher after the foul on Ward. The second decisive incident should have had the same result following after the equaliser by Larsson and the debacle by Mancienne.
But it didn’t. Why? Playing eleven against ten for an hour against a team with only four points more collected than ourselves so far should for sure give another result. But all it resulted in was one lousy shot on goal and a couple of half chances. Disappointing!
Playing with two upfront was surprising and daring in my opinion, but I believe it was the right decision as it should – at least theoretically – give us a better edge when going forward. The bringing on of Mancienne for Berra was a big surprise for me as I thought that McCarthy would be too conservative to change the central defenders once again at this point of season.
It was a mistake by Mancienne that gifted Birmingham the equaliser, but Mancienne otherwise actually played rather well in the game in my humble opinion. Bringing on Ward from start was of course a master stroke as he was instrumental for giving us the penalty and also played fairly well otherwise – at least in the first half of the game.
One right and one wrong, then, equalling up to a draw? No, I don’t believe that the final result had to do with Mancienne or Ward per se. It was also a question of applied tactics and instructions. Wrongly applied, I would like to add.
When having the opportunity to play with one more player for an hour Wolves should have used it as much as possible to our advantage by holding the ball in the team while moving forward and by that pressuring Birmingham in their own half.
Theoretically it’s a huge advantage to have one more player in the passing game as they always will have to leave one player unmarked if you do it right. But we did seldom use that advantage. Instead we used a long ball tactic that miserably failed most of the time, giving the ball to the Birmingham team to start a premature counter-attack instead of us applying pressure and multiple chances in each attack.
That’s the reason – as I see it – why we didn’t get those three points we so much need at the moment. And the fact that Wolves didn’t take better care of the ball and pressure more is not the fault of individual players on the pitch, it’s a managerial issue. It’s something Mick McCarthy should have instructed the players at half time if not coached it to them even before.
Maybe I’m unfair to the Wolves management and Mick McCarthy now. He could have said just the things I have written about above at half time. But if he did it didn’t get through to the players – or at least not to most of them – and that falls back to management again in my opinion.
Well. As I said to start with. One point might be what saves us from relegation at the end anyway and Wolves still have a good chance to stay in the league. But we better start to play better now and I demand three points from the game against the lot down the road at home next Sunday. And I’m not alone.
Hennessey – 6 – Did nothing spectacular, but looked solid at the back. Not much to do, really. Someone said that he jumped at the goal when he shouldn’t, but that one was not his.
Stearman – 6 – Played the first half on right back and he was very competitive, but perhaps a little too much so. Maybe MM thought that he was in risk of getting a red card if he continued. Edit: Apparently he picked up an injury and couldn’t continue.
Foley – 6 – Played first half at right wing and second at right back. Did fairly well in both positions, but still looks a little weak and nervous in my opinion. Needs more confidence.
Craddock – 6 – A descent performance without big errors. Did well to keep Jerome at bay.
Mancienne – 5 – Very involved in play and a much better passer of the ball than Berra. But he made that crucial mistake, heading the ball to Larsson instead of away.
Hammill – 7 – Came on after half time for Stears and did a good job on the right wing – and on the left when they changed. Always much involved from start. Some good crosses and a chance that went close. I believe he is the best on the right wing for the moment and he should get picked to start. Adam Hammill gets the little star!
Henry – 6 – The inner midfield played better than previous games and measured up to Birmingham well defensively, even before the sending off. But they should have pushed up more as a team while holding the ball (see above).
O’Hara – 6 – As usual he has more ball contact than anybody else, but in this game he lifted it up too aimless into the area in my opinion. He can play better, I’ve seen it!
Jarvis – 6 – A very nice pass to Ward when he was fouled and we got the penalty, but I want to see more from him. Not much involved when going forward and when he was he didn’t get through, except on that one occasion when he took a shot at goal while out of balance. We need him to be in top form to stay up! Hunt came on for him after the hour, but he did no better.
Fletcher – 7 – Took the penalty very well and had a very good first half, allthough no clearcut chances. Flicked the ball on with his head several times, but there never seemed to be anybody their to feed on him. The reason is that they were long balls from the back and only Ward was in the vicinity and he was well taken care of by the Birmingham defence. But Steven Fletcher is Paddytheflea’s Star Man.
Ward – 6 – Starting with Ward was a surprise but picking him paid off when he was fouled in the area after his break-through. He was active through out the game, but going forward mostly in the first half. I wrote earlier that he hasn’t what it takes to be a Premier striker, but at the moment we haven’t got any better and he did a good shift. But I long for Doyle and Ebanks-Blake.