Wolves in need of Bank Holiday pointsBy: DJ | March 29th, 2013
Wolves go into the Easter period just one place above bottom of the Championship and are clearly desperate for some quick points as they attempt to avoid a second successive relegation. The win in their last game has given them a 3 point gap over Bristol City who look odds on for the drop. But the improvement in form of Peterborough and Barnsley has left Wolves in a relegation spot despite getting two wins from the last three league games.
At least those wins have provided an up turn in results to go with some improved performances but with the league so tight it is going to take a sustained run of points to pull clear of relegation over the remaining 8 games. And the first two of those games come in the space of three days with Middlesbrough at Molineux on Easter Saturday before the short trip to St Andrews to face Birmingham on Monday afternoon.
Times are not good for Boro who looked a good bet to make the play offs at least not so long ago, but 2013 has seen a distinct downturn in fortunes. they ended 2012 in 3rd place in the table but then lost their first 5 league games of 2013 and in total this year have won only 2 and drawn 1 of 13 games and have sunk out of the promotion picture into 9th place. Their recent record against Wolves is pretty good though with 9 wins and 2 draws in the last 13 meetings. What makes matters worse for Boro is that the parachute money that came with their relegation from the Premier League has now come to an end and they posted a £10m loss last season to make prospects none to optimistic.
Birmingham meanwhile have improved in 2013. They were 20th at the end of 2012 but have won 5 and drawn 5 of their 13 league matches this year and are now up to 12th. Matches between these local rivals could not have been more evenly spread in recent years with 5 Wolves wins, 5 Birmingham wins and 7 draws in the last 17 meetings.
We know there will be changes to the Wolves team for these game because Ikeme, Edwards and Sako who all started against Bristol have all been ruled out for the rest of the season as a result of injuries picked up that day. The Sako loss could be a particular blow as he has either scored or made almost half of Wolves league goals this season. While Ikeme has had a very good season in goal and been a rare success in a disappointing season. De Vries and Hunt look likely to get their chance to replace the keeper and left sided midfield player respectively although Wolves have made use of the loan market that ended on Thursday to bring in reinforcements. Marian Kello has signed for the rest of the season as a free agent having agreed a termination of his contract with Hearts. And Nouha Dicko has signed on loan from Wigan.
Kello was on trial at Wolves last summer and played in one pre season friendly but was not taken on at the time. But his pedigree is quite impressive. After making his name with Viitkovice in his native Czech Republic he moved to Kaunas and impressed in some UEFA Cup games including against Rangers. That brought him to the attention of Hearts and after a season of settling in he became their first choice keeper. His save from Rangers Steve Davies in 2011 was voted the SPL save of the season and he was later due to transfer to Austria Wien but turned down the move and Hearts then left him out of their team for ‘political’ reasons. Dicko meanwhile, who can play as a striker or wide man, made a big impression at Strasbourg as a 17 year old and netted 12 times in his first season. Wigan took advantage of financial problems at the French club to sign him in 2011. He has made cup appearances but not a league start for the Premier League club and has spent most of the last 18 months on loan at Blackpool where he has scored 9 times in 32 games.
But they are likely to be extra cover rather than starters this weekend as Wolves must surely look to get three points as a minimum from the two games. De Vries will start in goal and Stephen Ward is likely to return to the left back slot after his one game suspension to join Doherty, Johnson and Gorkss in the back four. There will be two from O’Hara, Henry and Davies in central midfield. And then Ebanks Blake, Sigurdarson, Doyle and Hunt will likely be the most forward four in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation.
Time is running short for Wolves to prove they are too good to go down from this division and they will need to find some points over this bank holiday to keep on track to do so. The fans are torn between being resigned to going down and still not really believing it can happen. The team may well need to win half the remaining 8 games to be sure of staying up and that would represent a big upturn in results compared to most of the last four seasons. Whether it is expectation or just hope that says they can do it is open to opinion.