Analysis & Ratings: Blackburn v Wolves (clip)
Not a bad start to the season, ei? A well deserved three points after the first win against Blackburn at Ewood Park since 1960. And there were lots of elements in play to be pleased over aswell.
As a surprise Ward started instead of Elokobi at left back and – very positive – Doyle was among the eleven. Blackburn were less lucky with their injuries as both Samba and Nelsen were unable to play and adding to their misery Givet had an illness.
The game started with a scare when Hoilett went close to score after only four minutes gone. The quality of our ace international keeper Hennessey was evident when he managed to stop the ball on the line. The Rovers faithful wanted it to be a goal, naturally, but if you look at the highlights (right margin below ‘video highlights 2011-12) the ball is not over the line.
The play shifted very much from side to side during those first twenty or so minutes of the game, but I believe there were good signs from Wolves play even then. The defense looked strong and resolute and when the team went forward their movement was much more straight on goal with less passes on midfield than we were used to from last season. The pace of the attack was also better than last season. Horray!
But faith was ready with a cold shower when die hard target man Roberts with some luck penetrated our defence between Berra and Johnson. The ball bounced his way and allowed him to pass it to Formica who for some reason was unmarked to the left. Despite the angle he managed to – with a touch from the fingertips of Hennessey – place the ball into the Wolves net right in front of the Wolves faithful.
Heads in hand on the stands and all sorts of negative thoughts went through our minds when preparing for the usual outcome, but it only took a couple of minutes before our hands moved from our heads to the air above.
A nice one-two between O’Hara and Stearman on the right flank resulted in a pass to Jarvis who rushed past opposition to the short line and centered the ball over Robinson to an attacking Fletcher by the far post and he did one of his favorite acts and headed the ball with force into the net.
It is indeed one of Fletcher’s favorite positions to score from and Jarvo knows that he shall opt for the back post when Fletcher is on. And we were in the game again, and actually more than that.
The psychological effect of the goal was tremendous and Wolves looked like, and was, the best team on the pitch from that goal onwards. Belief in self is a wonderful thing in sports and Wolves now had it in buckets.
Our most active players in the first half were Johnson, Berra, Ward, Hunt and Fletcher. I believe Mick McCarthy was pretty pleased with their performance at tea time, despite the best was yet to come.
For Rovers it was misery, though, as they had another injury blow when Emerton got problems with his hamstring and didn’t show up for the second half. I bet the defending job was a little bit easier for Berra, Hunt and Ward because of this. Berra had less to do in the second half and Hunt could help up all over the pitch, mostly in defending but also in attacking, and Ward could go forward a little more than in first half.
The second half was only a couple of minutes old when Jarvis went passed Selgado, the tough veteran of Rovers, on the left. The referee was well placed to notice the foul play and it resulted in a penalty.
Why Doyle took it is beyond me, but maybe he felt up to it. He clearly wasn’t, though, and it was not well taken. Robinson could probably see on Doylers body-language where the ball would end up and it didn’t have enough speed. Well done by Robinson to catch it, but Doyle made it easier for him.
Fortunately all that didn’t matter a bit as ready to go Wolves players took care of the rebounce. I believe it was Johnson who centered the ball again from the right and after some scramble it reached Wardy who was placed close to the spot and he could fire it into the net with a technically perfect half-volley.
I believe everybody felt for and fought for Doyler in that moment. They didn´t want his under par spot-kick to stand and they fought well as a unit to glue the ball to the net. Well done to all, but especially to Wardy, of course. He kept his cool and I believe he has grown a couple of inches. 😆
Watch the below fan-cam clip of the penalty and the Wardy goal. Pay especial attention to the supporter reaction. 😆
Soon after that Stearman had to go off, apparently to a bad lower back, I’ve been told. Foley came on for him, but that didn’t weaken the team at all.
Foley seemed fit as a fiddle again after injury and did a great job both defending and going forward. Just a couple of minutes after celebrating the goal Foles played a perfect cross to Fletcher in the area, with better handling of the ball Fletch could have scored on that one.
The threat from Blackburn was not over, though. Nervously some of us were waiting for that lousy individual mistake to come and make our evening at the pub less enjoyable. O’Hara went close to that awful behavioural flaw when he tried to back-heel away the ball when under pressure in own penalty area. I hope that Mick took him by the ear after the game. 😆
Otherwise and contrary to that incident Wolves defended well all over the pitch. McCarthy told the press already before the game that they had practised especially to hold the ball within the team in pre-season and that they had talked about not going for to kill a match with a goal, but instead kill it by secure possession.
That really worked and although Wolves didn’t lack chances to get another goal it was safety first and Rovers never got close to score again. It looked solid and my worry-meter did not peak. A good sign. 😆
To the ratings then, but first I have to applaud manager Mick McCarthy for his tactics and preparation. Wolves managed to get three points in an away game while playing 4-4-2. They managed to do that much because they did not play with two out-and-out wingers. Hunt had a role as a helper all over the pitch and that stabilised the team. Mick gets a niner from me. 😆
Hennessey – 8 – A fabulous save on line in the early attempt by Rovers. A couple of good high claims aswell.
I’m very impressed with his kick-outs. The stats say that he reached Fletcher nine times and Doyle ten with them. Fantastic precision! Can he partly thank Hahnemann for that developed skill? Hens get the little star!
Stearman – 6 – Involved in the first goal, but went for some reason absent when Formica scored from his flank. Great talent, but he must use the inside of his head more.
Foley – 7 – Came in for injured Stears early in the second half. Had double the possession of Stears, just what we needed on the pitch when trying to kill time in the lead. Went close to a goal assist with a perfect cross to Fletch and defended well.
Talks a lot on the pitch and instructs the others how to play, where to be and who to look out for. Total control! Also involved in the second goal. A real quality player who will develop our defensive play, I’m sure. With close competition from a couple of players he is Paddytheflea’s Star Man!
Berra – 7 – Could be blamed for the Rovers goal, but he tried his best to get first on it and once in every game a target man like Roberts will get the upper hand. Otherwise Berra was as good as Johnson in the first half, but had less to do in the second.
Is this then the best central defence pairing? One could remark that Berra and Johnson are too alike each others in play and that they are both lousy passers of the ball, but the main thing is to fend of threats from opposition forwards and I believe they are the two best at that, but time will tell.
Ward – 8 – A surprise for me, but a pleasant one! Stopped almost all enemy activity on his flank and linked up well with Hunty and Jarvo. But firstly of course, and an extra point, for his fantastically well taken goal. Elokobi will wait in vain to join the first eleven if Wardy continues to play like this. What left back problems?
Henry – 6 – Very little possession in this game but was annoying the opponents with some success without the ball. Ran miles as usual and had a recently shaved head.
Jarvis – 8 – Not that much possession in the game, but when he was involved he did beautiful things. His centre to the first goal was pitch perfect and he also was the reason to the penalty that ultimately lead to the second. A class player, but he can play even better and probably will.
O’Hara -7 – Our main man in the middle had much ball in the first half, but was less involved in the second, funny enough. He has a great work rate and I don’t know if his back-heel kick was a sign of tiredness, but he will get a point drawn off for that. He had much to do with the short-cut and pacey way we moved forward in this game and gets the point back for that.
Hunt – 8 – Only six and seven points to our inner midfielders. There must surely be something wrong?! How did the team hold together? The answer to that is Hunty. The shortest player in Wolves, but the best tackler. He was everywhere on the park and did just great things.
He’s a great passer with 81% success in that department in the game and did win the ball back five times. Some critics didn’t notice this when used to him going forward more. He did that aswell a couple of times, but this day his main job was strengthening defence and link up all over the pitch. I’m impressed! Without him Wolves would be much weaker as a team, especially in midfield. Very close to a nine and a star, but he will get the bouncy, smiley thing.
Doyle – 6 – Far less involved in play than his forward partner. As usual he worked hard and kept the Rovers back line busy, but no penetration. I’m a hard flea and will take one point off for the penalty. His head was not with him on that. Perhaps because of the injury to it in the first half. He can do much better – and most surely he will!
Fletcher – 8 – He carries on like he did at the end of last season and looks in top form already. I saw somewhere that he aims to get ten goals in much a shorter time than last season and if he carries on like this he will. Knows how to place himself and a good grafter aswell as striker. Maybe he could have done better with the cross from Foley and one from Johnson, but if he scores one in every game it will do for me. 😆
UP THE WOLVES!!!