The phoney war is well and truly under way and I was able to get to two of our warm-up matches during the last few days: against Cheltenham at the weekend, and last night`s outing at Northampton. Both games provided decent workouts for the side, and it was nice to see the new arrivals over the summer attempt to make their mark in a Wolves shirt.
Firstly, Cheltenham, and a thank you to Kidderminster Harriers for agreeing to host the game at short notice. A crowd of 1,673 were rewarded with a reasonably entertaining match that Wolves were able to win 3-1 courtesy of goals by Elliott, Kightly and Collins.
Unfortunately I missed the opening goal by Elliott but can report on the other two scores. Kightly was able to clean up the scraps after a fine move involving a good right to left run from Andy Keogh, who looks to be full of running already. The Collins goal was a powerful header from a set piece – a rarity in recent seasons, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Most of the time we looked pretty comfortable, and Gray was able to make his debut, which was reassured with the exception of being dumped on his backside by one nutmeg from the Cheltenham right winger.
I was impressed by Elliott and with Stephen Ward`s contribution from the left wing. This may be how Mick manages to shoehorn in as many of our front men as possible in order to keep them happy. Also Breen had a reasonable game at the back, barring one nightmare moment for the Cheltenham goal where he and Darren Ward appeared to leave a ball to each other and allowed a nippy Cheltenham forward to take advantage. That was sloppy but can probably be ironed out as pre-season continues.
Last night`s game was a second-gear affair that we were able to win as comfortably as the 3-0 score line suggests. (For some bizarre reason I have seen 2-0 quoted in various places, but it was definitely 3).
Mick experimented on the left with Mulgrew in front of Gray and this appeared to work well, although it was noticeable that there was a little extra spark with Dan Jones on the wing in the closing stages. Again the centre backs were Darren Ward and Gary Breen so it is probably safe to conclude that they will be the starting partnership when Watford come calling in two weeks time. Breen was much improved last night and the defence looked solid but I have concerns as to what would happen when our backline is subjected to the greater pace of Championship football. Neil Collins at right back was a success. He dealt with everything that Northampton threw at him and looked surprisingly competent out of position. Also, he was able to assist in the centre if needed.
In both games, Olofinjana and Potter have been the starting midfield pairing and both have fared well. Last night, Seyi even had the audacity to shave the bar with a thirty-yard pile-driving volley, which was a bit out of character for our tap-in expert last year. All good to see, but I am struggling to see how Karl Henry is going to fit into the side just at the moment, let alone any chance for Mark Davies if he could get himself fit. This is the joy of a bigger squad I guess. At least we aren`t scrabbling around to put 11 on the pitch.
Again Mick chose to start with Elliott and Keogh and this appears to be his first choice. Both players looked very busy and made intelligent runs providing good outlets for the midfield and wingers. Keogh also scored a very clinical penalty.
When Eastwood joined the fray as Mick did his best Svennis impression with seven substitutions, the style changed. It would appear that Fred isn`t match fit yet, but there is plenty to admire and be hopeful about for the fresh campaign. He likes the ball to be played over the top for him to chase into space or played to feet to run onto, but doesn`t seem quite so comfortable with his back to goal or presenting an aerial threat. His goal was a very good finish however, and I think there is a lot to come.
Finally, I must mention Michael Kightly. He has been excellent in both games and will come on in leaps and bounds thanks to a full pre-season with our team. I think he could have another fantastic season, but he also appears to have a bit of fire in his belly. After being denied a penalty towards the end he seemed to be keen to take his revenge and this could lead to problems if it occurred in a competitive match.
In summary, two good workouts, no significant injuries, plenty of goals and pretty secure at the back, even if we weren`t significantly tested. Not too bad is it?
Roll on Saturday. I think Reading may be a somewhat different proposition, but we might be able to find out if our stated ambitions for the season are realistic.
See you there
The Not-so-clueless Exile