Having looked at the team sheet before kick-off, the Wolves side was clearly a strong one. In fact, out of the starting XI, I had saw (or at least heard of!) seven of their players, which at a reserve team level definitely indicates a strong side.
I then glanced at ours and, seeing that Albrighton, the Gardner brothers, Isaiah ‘Fingers` Osborne and the Hoff were all in the line-up, I assumed it would be a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation with James (Paddy, not Taffy) Collins spearheading the attack.
As it was, in the style of the first team, we operated in a 4-4-2 formation. Albrighton started up front with Gary Gardner on the right. The problem with that is that neither of them are really suited to those positions. In fact, they were switched round within seconds of the first time that Albrighton got the ball on the right wing and whipped in one of his trademark crosses; it was as if they realised, “Well this way, we only need to pay one player out of position”! Incidentally, the Hoff should have scored from the cross. Oh well.
That change came after Wolves had already taken the lead. The visitors generally got the better of the early exchanges and, after some sloppy Villa play that gave the ball to Wolves, Kightly found himself with FAR too much space in the area and duly slotted the ball home.
That gave us the kick up the backside that we required and after the Albrighton/G Gardner split happened, we started to look the better side. After all, we had a good outlet on the right and Gary Gardner, while certainly not a forward, did offer us a bit more of a physical presence up top.
Indeed, it was who Gary set up older brother Craig for our equaliser. Craig looked to play the one-two with his younger sibling, and as he collected the scooped pass out of his feet and powered his way past a couple of Wolves defenders, he finished with some aplomb.
We finished the first half the stronger team and were unlucky not to grab a second as the ball spent a lot of time in and around the Wolves area.
The second half was not the most open game. It was essentially us pushing forward without creating anything. Perhaps a little surprisingly we actually looked the stronger of the two sides in the latter stages and there was a feeling that had the game carried on a bit longer we would have probably nicked a winner. We especially looked more threatening once Adam McGurk came on, which raised the question of, while Gary Gardner is undoubtedly a talented lad (and was involved in the goal), if we wanted to play 4-4-2 why did we not just start with McGurk?
Still, we remain unbeaten and given the amount of senior players in the Wolves side – plus the lack of Delfouneso and Bannan in ours – the lads did well.
Parish – 7
I have no idea where Marshall was, maybe they will alternate the keepers. Anyway, Parish did fine, he collected everything well and while he wasn’t forced into making many saves, he dealt with what he had to.
L Young – 7
He looked stronger as the game went on and was helping to drive us forward in the latter stages as we looked for a winner. HAs to be close to a first-team recall.
Bouma – 6
BBBOOOUUUMMMAAA! I love Wilf. Anyway, he was a bit rusty in the first half, giving the ball away a bit and all that. But like his fellow full-back, he looked better as the game went on. It will be interesting to see the battle with Warnock once he is fully fit.
Lichaj – 7
Considering he is a right-back by trade, he looked very comfortable in the centre. Composed on the ball and posiionally sound, I have no idea about his long-term future but he could well be a good squad player for us at the very least.
Clark – 7
Cool, composed and in charge, this lad needs a loan move to a Championship club, in my opinion. One misplaced pass aside, it all looks very easy for him.
G Gardner – 6
A 6 may be a bit harsh but despite the fact that he gave 100% in two positions and didn’t disgrace himself in either, he is clearly better in the middle of the park. Still, a few nice touches and involved in his brothers goal.
Osborne – 7
If there was anything on his mind given recent events, they soon left after a shaky opening few minutes. Bossed things with his old central midfield partner Craig. My only issue is that after being enthusiastic about him when he first played under MON 4 years ago, he hasn’t really improved in my eyes.
C Gardner – 8
Craig Gardner is one of those players that seem to be a no-go in some fans eyes, no matter what he does. I however, have always been a fan. I believe he is better on the ball than either of Sidwell or NRC and I am sure that some will disagree with me but I think he is unlucky nt to be involved in the first-team shake-up a bit more.
Hofbauer – 7
He was better tonight. The nature of the game meant that he wasn’t involved as much as he could be but every time he got the ball he looked quite threatening. If he keeps up this kind of form I may start to hold out a bit of hope over him. Unfortunately he was stretchered off towards the end, I believe with a twisted ankle.
Albrighton – 7
Much, MUCH better when he was on the right. Not that he wasn’t full of effort as a striker, but it’s just not his position. Nearly all of his crosses go into a dangerous area. If Ashley Young had a supply as consistent as Albrighton he might actualy be worth the £25m or so that many fans scoffed at as being too low during the summer. (Although if Ronaldo is worth £80m… anyway…)
Collins – 6
A lot of pressure on his shoulders and he did as well as could be expected. He didn’t excel unfortunately and didn’t get any clear chances but worked hard as always. I imagine he’s great to play alongside as never stops running! His touch let him down a couple of times but I think he would have done better with the Fonz (or even Weimann) up there with him.
On for the last ten minutes or so and as hard as Gary Gardner tried, he looked more dangerous in that period. I was baffled as to why he wasn’t starting given the players available and his few minutes on the pitch semeed to back up that thought process.
Came on for the injured Hoff in injury time. So, he still exists!
Dau, Williams, Roome.
The Comeback Kids
Young looked unsurprisingly a bit ahead of Bouma, but the pleasing thing was that they both seemed to get stronger as the game went on. I am sure they’ll both be a bit sore today!
Absolutely woeful! I moan about the standard of Premiership referees but if this is the standard of the B squad then no wonder the shower that are supposed to be our best refs are actually considered so!