Having sat atop England’s premier division for the first time in fifty years in the wake of an impressive 2-0 win against Fulham, even the most pessimistic of Wolves fans could be forgiven for sporting a wide grin. An early season fixture with Fulham was arguably the catalyst for Wolves’ sudden loss of form last campaign; it was the Cottagers who inflicted the first defeat of the 2010/11 season upon the Midlanders, a result which extinguished the flames of early season optimism around Molineux as they lost eight of their following ten fixtures.
The ‘Dirty Wolves’ tag, one which a feisty encounter against Newcastle have given birth to, was firmly cemented in the minds of both fans and referees nationwide as the unfortunate Bobby Zamora broke his leg under a strong, yet fair tackle from the tenacious Karl Henry.
Mick McCarthy will hope that this convincing victory over a lacklustre Fulham side will be the final step in exorcising that particular lowlight of last season, as he saw his Wolves side put together back-to-back victories for only the third time since their induction back into the top flight. Fulham, without talismanic striker Zamora through a late injury, were subdued throughout; their best chance fell to nomadic winger Damien Duff after just 10 minutes – the Irishman failing to steer the ball past Wayne Hennessey. Wolves, in contrast, looked dangerous throughout and could, perhaps should, have scored more than twice. Christophe Berra and Henry had arguably their best games in a Wolves shirt, while Kevin Doyle will be happy to have gotten off the mark in August – three months earlier than he managed to do so last year.
As a result of their 100% start to the season, Wolves will travel to local rivals Aston Villa full of the confidence that only winning can bring. Newly instated captain Roger Johnson has instilled some much-needed steel into the Wanderers’ defence, while Stephen Ward is finally beginning to look like a natural left-back – as opposed to a converted striker. An injury to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake notwithstanding, McCarthy will be quietly confident that his hardworking side can repeat their heroics of last season and beat Villa in front of their own fans.
Early indications are that McCarthy plans to field an unchanged XI for the third straight game. McCarthy’s second string XI repaid his confidence in them midweek as they romped to a 4-0 victory over Northampton, yet the likes of Kevin Foley, Michael Kightly, Adam Hammill and Nenad Milijas are likely to feature only on the bench for Saturday’s fixture. An unprecedented third successive win would represent an outstanding start to the season for Wolves, as they aim to push on from perennial relegation strugglers.
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