Blackpool avenged the 2-1 defeat suffered at the hands of Wolves before Christmas, two goals from Tom Ince flipping the scoreline on this occasion. While the losing home side were nowhere near as dominant in this encounter, Wolves fans will have certainly left the game wondering how their side contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
It all started so well. On paper Peszko and O’Hara added strength to the midfield and the absence of Ward gave some hope that Ince wouldn’t run riot as he had done at Bloomfield Road last month. When Ebanks-Blake headed home from a pinpoint Zubar cross, Wolves in flashes looked something like the side that won the league three years ago.
As Saunders prepared to address his side whilst leading at the break for the first time since his appointment, an incredibly lacklustre piece of defending gave Ince the simplest of chances – the winger poking the ball beyond Ikeme as he and Roger Johnson got caught in two minds in a perilous area.
Understandably, it knocked the stuffing out of Wolves, but Ebanks-Blake hung his head in shame shortly after the break when he missed a guilt-edged chance to give Wolves the initiative again. Tom Ince showed no such mercy in the last fifteen minutes of the game.
Despite Ince’s one-track mind as a left footer playing on the right wing, O’Hara and Berra, who had wisely doubled up on him, inexplicably showed him in onto his left foot rather than down a blind alley on his weaker right. Ince accepted the invitation gleefully and cracked a thunderous effort beyond the dive of Ikeme.
To add insult to injury, Johnson saw red as he wrestled Angel Martinez to the ground having felt that the Spaniard had prevented him from supporting a last-minute counter attack unlawfully.
A long road ahead
Okay, Wolves were by no means awful yesterday and Saunders will know his side should have got something out of the game. But his post-match comments were interesting, suggesting that actually a win for his side yesterday would have papered over the cracks of another dour performance.
I can see what he means. The defending from Berra and Johnson was again reckless, both responsible in part for avoidable concessions. The midfield looked disjointed with Peszko performing as a traditional winger and Sako drifting into more central areas. As an aside, Sako who has attracted interest from top-flight clubs, performed dreadfully yesterday and certainly did not evoke the work ethic Saunders has demanded from his players.
Henry and O’Hara on paper is a decent combination but in practice the pair frustrated themselves. O’Hara realises that the defenders behind him don’t have the necessary skill to distribute the ball effectively from the back and subsequently acts as a deep lying playmaker. That means Henry is virtually standing on top of him. O’Hara should be the creative lynchpin of Wolves attacks with Henry protecting the defence behind him. But Saunders needs to figure out a way of allowing him to get on the ball further forward.
As for Kevin Doyle, another player linked away from Molineux this January, his lack of goal scoring prowess is fast becoming unforgivable. Brilliant all round football that he is, the options he provides with his runs into the box are predictable at best. No evidence of gambling, attacking a post or pulling away from his man to invite ball in behind the defence. One can only presume that Rafa Benitez wants to stick him up front with Torres to wind Chelsea fans up even more.
The chants of ‘Where’s the money gone?’ from Wolves fans seem misinformed but do strike a sensitive chord. It doesn’t feel as if the squad has been strengthened significantly since the 2010/11 season when Steven Fletcher and later Jamie O’Hara added some Premiership know-how to help Wolves avoid the drop.
January is famously the wrong time to buy players, but Saunders will certainly be busy looking for a few deals this week. If he isn’t, the powers that be will certainly have to answer some serious questions come the end of the season. There is no saying that Wolves couldn’t drop down to League One this year.