No New Year’s honours for Wolves at the PalaceBy: DJ | January 1st, 2013
Wolves fell to their third defeat in a week to make it a miserable holiday period for everyone associated with the club. What is the biggest indictment of the club’s current standing is that it would have been a major surprise if there had been any other result today and the recent three wins in four games is fast looking like a blip on a downward spiral that has now seen them win only 3 of the last 16 league games.
After the poor home displays over Xmas where Wolves failed to trouble either the Peterborough or Ipswich keepers, Solbakken decided to pick a more defensive team with Foley moving forward to the right midfield position instead of Sigurdarson and Stearman filling the Right Back slot;
Stearman, Johnson. Berra, Ward
Foley, Henry, Davis, Sako
Ebanks Blake, Doyle
Zaha may well be playing his last game for Palace here and it was clear Wolves were trying to give him little space after his match winning performance at Molineux three months ago. Ward and Henry were doubling up on him early and Henry is penalised for a couple of fouls. But out of the blue there was almost early joy for Wolves as David Davis slips past two defenders before hitting the bar from 25 yards. The rebound came out to Sako who shot a yard over the bar.
But that was the cue for Palace to start imposing themselves on the game and Bolasie had a chance but blazed over. Then Zaha showed his ability when he got away from Henry, drifted past Ward and pulled the ball back for Murray who fortunately for Wolves scuffed his shot. Then Davis gave the ball away and Berra came to Wolves rescue as Zaha again looked to get in. But the winger tipped to move to the top flight in the next week was starting to test Wolves and he shot inches over before hitting one across the face of the goal that Johnson hooked away off the line. A goal for the home team was coming and it arrived on the half hour. Sako fouled Zaha twice in a minute and from the second one Moritz curled an excellent free kick over the wall and into the top corner.
Eight minutes on and it was 2-0 as Zaha shows great skill to get away from Stearman and send an inch perfect through ball to Bolasie who beat Ikeme easily. And there was another half chance as a corner went beyond the far post to an unmarked Murray who headed wide. It had been a first half where Wolves held their own early but with little creativity in their armoury the initiative gradually went to Palace and there was a certain inevitability that they would take advantage of their greater attacking threat.
It didn’t get any better for Wolves after the break and Palace were three ahead within 7 minutes of the restart. Ward tripped Moritz 25 yards out to give the Palace man the opportunity to repeat the opening goal direct from the free kick. Ikeme lined the wall up but then positioned himself in the middle of the goal as he was worried that the taker would again curl the ball over the wall. But the Palace man simply knocked the ball into the unguarded side of the goal.
There was a real feel the Palace could stretch their lead at this stage and when Foley gave the ball away, Johnson had to block a goalbound shot. O’Hara and Forde replaced Davis and the ineffective Sako but Wolves were in danger of losing their discipline and Johnson may have been lucky to escape with a yellow card after he reacted to Stearman being fouled. And then Wolves supporters have a cheer as their team has a shot with SEB hitting the side netting. But its all getting a little fractious with Stearman sending Bolasie tumbling over the advertising hoardings and Johnson’s every touch being booed by the home fans. Although Wolves fans were also giving Zaha the same treatment as he went over easily a couple of times to show he is ready for the Premier League.
Then it was surprise surprise as Wolves scored a goal. Stearman’s free kick dropped to SEB in the box and he made no mistake hammering the ball in on the turn from 8 yards. Pennant replaced Foley with ten minutes left but Wolves were not able to create another chance and there was a comedy moment in the last minute when Bolasie was stopped in his tracks with a tackle from Stearman that would have earned him plenty of praise at Twickenham but here got him a yellow card.
Ikeme – busier afternoon and generally did well but not positioned well for Moritz’s 2nd free kick
Stearman – did ok against the tricky Bolasie but lost some discipline late on
Ward – won’t be the only Championship defender to have found Zaha a difficult opponent this season
Johnson – mixture of good challenges and loose distribution
Berra – again the steadiest of Wolves defenders but got away with a foul or two
Foley – looked like a fish out of water in midfield and not playing well
Henry – got in some tackles but passing was poor and not his best game
Davis – started well and closest to scoring but passing sometimes lets him down
Sako – like Doumbia before him seems to be in need of a rest
Ebanks Blake – took his goal well and battled hard but gave the ball away a number of times
Doyle – far from at his best at the moment and lost possession a number of times
O’Hara – looks like he can add something to the team when match fit
Forde – did quite well in his short appearance
Pennant – no real impact late on
So the misery continues for Wolves and you do wonder if Solbakken has the answers. The defensive set up meant Palace were always going to have the majority of the play and it never looked likely that they would keep a clean sheet. And when they fell behind the lack of creativity in the team meant they were unlikely to find a way back. Does Solbakken need more time, does he need more of the players he brought in to be fit? The excuses are there but Wolves do not look to be improving under his management as a defensive team, a creative team, a goalscoring team, a passing team or a possession team. So there is little to encourage the Board to believe that even with more time he will prove to be the right man for the job. And next there is the possibility of a real embarrassment of going out of the FA Cup on Saturday to a non league team. And I for one would not bet against it.