With Wolverhampton notching up a third successive game without a goal manager Mick McCarthy may need to make changes to avoid the drop and further goal scoring woes. The defiant skipper Karl Henry believes the performance against Manchester United puts them in good stead for the rest of the season and morale is high at Wolves, but how can it remain so when a string of decent displays are not matched with the points deserved?
It seems to be a case of right formation, wrong players in McCarthy’s current Wolves XI, who are continuing a string of good performances but often ending up pointless. Saturday’s display against the reigning Premier League champions Manchester United is just another example of the many hard luck stories and wasted chances the Wanderers fans have had to endure so far this season. Matthew Jarvis had an excellent game and created two of the best goal scoring opportunities in the first half. First he put in David Jones, who scuffed wide following a marauding run from Kevin Doyle. Jarvis then created a golden opportunity when he crossed to Stephen Ward, who tamely nudged his header into the waiting hands of Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
No one will feel guiltier than Sam Vokes, who knocked a gilt-edged chance high over the bar in stoppage time after Ronald Zubar’s run into the penalty box forced a kind deflection which fell at the young Welshman’s feet. The home side can take much heart from their performance though knowing a similar display will surely bring home a far more positive result when they play against fellow relegation candidates Burnley at Turf Moor on March 13.
The team is working hard but the lack of form in front of goal is particularly worrying as Kevin Doyle bears a large burden as the lone striker and is not helped out enough by his midfield. Hopefully Andy Keogh’s return from injury can provide Doyle with some much needed support as Vokes is still very inexperienced at this level and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has not handled the step up to the Premier League very well at all and has probably been the biggest disappointment for the Wolverhampton fans this season after netting 25 goals last.
As Wolves struggle for goals would somebody also like to remind McCarthy that he has a Serbian international on the bench? It is fair enough to say that Nenad Milijas doesn’t put in a shift and is not the best defensively but he is still within his first season in England and deserves more time to settle in. The 26-year-old midfielder possesses a cultured left foot and could thrive in the current formation McCarthy employs. Wolves are crying out for goals and Milijas’ set piece abilities could be just what they need to help break their current deadlock. With ball winners such as Karl Henry and Adlene Guedioura to protect the back four it would give a creative player like Milijas a lot of freedom to do was he was bought to.
Standing in Wolverhampton’s favour over their relegation rivals is their ability to defend, something which has deserted the likes of Hull and Burnley. In the last four home games Wolves have hosted the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United and have only conceded three goals. The defensive heroics have been somewhat a pleasant surprise this season and Marcus Hahnemann has been impressive in between the sticks, but things need to improve on an attacking front.
One criticism that has been thrown at McCarthy a few times this term is his constant use of players out of position. For example, Kevin Foley, last year’s fans’ player of the season is mostly being deployed in the right midfield position when he is a right back by trade. Foley’s a tidy player but does not offer enough in a spot that requires you to be both creative and good at going forward.
Wolves are fast approaching one of their biggest games of the season at Turf Moor, against fellow strugglers Burnley and can take a huge step towards survival as long as they can put their lack of prowess in front of goal behind them.
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