Wolves 1-2 Preston North End
By Tom Bason
February 14 2016
Yesterday, a disappointing performance added to defeat against Preston North End. Preston took a first half lead through Paul Gallagher, which Adam Reach doubled after the break. Joe Mason pulled a goal back, but Wolves never looked like securing an equaliser.
- So let's start with the lineup (for a change). I'm genuinely starting to think that Kenny Jackett puts a load of names in a hat, and pulls them out at random. Today, it was Kevin McDonald's turn to be left out, as we went with a 4-3-3 formation. Jack Price sat the deepest, with George Saville and Conor Coady sat slightly further in front of them. It was clear that it was Coady's job to break the midfield ranks and get close to Björn Sigurðarson, with Rajiv van La Parra and James Henry supporting from the flanks.
- It was clear from the outset that the style of play was to be different from the dire performance against Bolton. In that game, long balls were the order of the day, but there is very little point in picking Jack Price in midfield if everything's going to sail over his head. Yet, if you're going to play a passing game, would you want your best passer of the ball in the team? I know McDonald's form hasn't been the best of late, but he anyone's? Instead, we were left with Coady as the player getting forward, a midfielder without a creative bone in his body.
- Preston played 5-3-2, and played very well. They kept possession and looked to get the ball wide at every opportunity. Most notable was right wing back Calum Woods who had chalk on his boots for most of the game. Even when the ball was on their left flank, Woods kept his width, meaning Matt Doherty couldn't tuck in as much as he'd like, creating space in between our defenders. One of Preston's favoured tactics was to get the ball down the left, and then switch play to Woods who was inevitably in space on the right. On the other flank it was often Adam Reach moving from central positions to the left hand channel, which made it very difficult to defend against. Daniel Johnson would tuck in and drop deep on the left and pulling Dominic Iorfa out of position. Reach would then make a run from the middle into the space vacated by Iorfa.
- Saying that, Preston's first half goal came down the middle. I won't lie, I didn't see a huge amount of the goal. James Henry was hobbling about at the other end of the pitch having injured himself trying a back heel, and I was watching him and keeping an eye on what the bench were doing. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about that injury was that the back heel wasn't necessary; he had a relatively easy pass to play in van La Parra on the right, but instead tried the elaborate back heel to Sigurðarson which was inevitably cleared. Preston went up the other end, sliced through our defence and Paul Gallagher calmly lifted the ball over the stranded Carl Ikeme.
- With Henry going off, Nathan Byrne replaced him. We kept the same formation for 15 minutes, before we switched to a 4-4-1-1 formation. This time it was George Saville's turn to be a square peg in a round hole as he played on the left hand side of midfield, with van La Parra moving inside to play just off Sigurðarson. Van La Parra was having one of his off games, and it was no surprise that Joe Mason replaced him at half time. The issue with playing Saville on the left, ahead of Matt Doherty is that neither offers any width on the left flank. One of the ways to trouble a five man defence is to play three forwards, with the wide men playing high up the pitch and on the flanks. This means that either the wingbacks are pinned back, or the three central defenders gave to split a lot more than they'd like, leaving effectively three v three at the back. But we didn’t trouble them at all, and Woods on the right hand side had no worries about anyone getting in behind him and causing him problems.
- Thus, it was no real surprise that Woods was heavily involved as Preston doubled their lead. With Preston having three central defenders and only Bjorn Sigurðarson to deal with, one of them could step out with the ball, and add an extra man going forward. This took us slightly by surprise, the ball was worked to Woods on the right and he was able to cross. Carl Ikeme should have done far better with the cross, with the ball ending up at Adam Reach's feet and he was able to tap in.
- We changed things slightly again, with Mason moving to be the central striker and Sigurðarson dropping deeper, and Mason got his second goal for the club. Coady, who spent most of the second half wide right, despite us having Byrne and Dominic Iorfa on that flank, sent a searching ball to Mason, who did really well to round the goalkeeper and score. But that was about it for attacking threat. Despite only being one goal down with 25 minutes to go, Preston controlled the rest of the game. Even with 10 minutes to go, we were penned in our half, with them happily keeping the ball. On the few times that we did win possession back, it was almost immediately squandered. I don't think anyone in the ground genuinely expected us to equalise. Tommy Rowe was introduced for George Saville to try and give us a bit of width, but it was to no avail.
- Something struck me during the game, and that is how few players we have who are actually good at football. I realise it’s really easy to underestimate the skills needed to be a professional, but I was watching Sigurðarson and thinking that everything he did when he didn't have the ball was excellent, but then as soon as he does have the ball, he doesn't know what to do it. Similarly with Conor Coady. Sure, he'll run about a lot and put in the odd tackle (and his pass for Mason's goal was good), but so often the ball would bounce of his shin and the ball would be lost. And his passing. Bloody hell, his passing. I counted three separate occasions in the first half when his pass was behind the receiving player, forcing them to check back. These were simple side footed passes, nothing difficult. Now I'm not expecting us to have Modric and Rakitić in midfield, but it seems like we have too many players in the team who are being selected for their physical attributes rather than their footballing ones.
- I didn't write up a report from the Fans Parliament during the week as everything that was said was on live blog. The had screens up around the room, so you could see what was being said, and it was incredibly accurate. The evening started with the financial results, and we weren't told anything that wasn't on the press release. Then Ryan McKnight did a really interesting presentation on fandom and what it means to be a Wolves fan that I wouldn't do justice on here. I'm hoping the club will find a way to disseminate it, because I think it's something every Wolves fan should see. Then there was the Q&A, and I think that the only thing that was said that wasn't on the live blog was that the Early Bird was to be opened on Friday. I felt it was fairly clear that there was calculated attack on Benik Afobe, with both Jez Moxey and Kevin Thelwell being pretty scathing about the striker.pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2016:02:23:08:07:32 by Badge32.