Wolves achieved a double objective from their trip to Hillsborough on Tuesday night. Firstly they progressed to the next round of the Carabao Cup, and secondly, they gave match time to some players who have not been in the Premier League starting lineups so far, including some academy products.
The 2-0 win came in a game that Wolves controlled more and more as the game went on and proved to be a personal triumph for a few individuals as well as for the team.
Big summer signings Adama Traore and Leander Dendoncker both got their first starts in Wolves colours although Traore had already impressed in cameo performances from the bench. At Hillsborough he was largely not able to escape the shackles of the Wednesday defence in the first half, but as more spaces appeared in the second half and he was able to show his speed and skill including setting up the first goal. Dendoncker meanwhile has been catching up on fitness on the training ground. After appearing in the World Cup for Belgium he was given permission to be late commencing pre-season training with Anderlecht and then the prospect of the move to Wolves came onto the agenda, so he has had little pre-season fitness work. But he at least got 90 minutes under the belt at Hillsborough. He can play as a defensive midfield player or in defence, and it was on the right of the back three where he made his debut, giving a solid performance to help the club to a clean sheet.
There was also a welcome goal for Leo Bonatini as he opened the scoring. The goals dried up for the Brazilian last season after a very impressive opening 4 months in the first team. With no cover for the central striker role until Afobe arrived in January, Leo was probably played beyond the point where tiredness was catching up with him after playing the previous season in the far less arduous Middle East game. But his ability was there for all to see before then and although his goal at Wednesday was his first of 2018, his stronger all-around game than Afobe earned him a place in the squad this season. With the confidence of breaking his goal drought, hopefully, he can recover the form of a year ago.
Coady and Doherty were the only players from the Premier League starting 11 that started again here although Helder Costa came on as a sub and he made the run that lead to the penalty kick that he converted for Wolves 2nd.
What was in many ways the most pleasing aspect of the Hillsborough game though was that Hause, Vinagre, Watt and Gibbs White were all trusted with a starting position and Ashley Seal also made a late sub appearance. It shows that as well as the transfer market investments, Wolves are developing talent of their own, and Nuno is prepared to give them opportunities. With Ryan Giles also impressing in pre-season, there is clearly a healthy youth set up at the club that can only augur well for the future.
As we await the draw on Thursday for the next round of the Carabao Cup, attention also switches to Saturday’s last game before the International break when Wolves travel to the 2012 Olympic Stadium to meet West Ham who also got their first win of the season on Tuesday, winning away at Wimbledon. And Wolves will be going into that game with a high degree of confidence after their well-lauded draw against Man City.