“We’re Wolverhampton, we’re top of the league” rang out from the St Andrews away end last night, however, speaking from a personal perspective it’s a right kick in the bollocks that we’re this good at the minute because I’m half the world away with work and the time differences are a nightmare, but, as it stands the messed up sleeping pattern is proving to be worth it.
I was awake before my 2:30am alarm, quite a bit before in fact, which meant I could attempt to watch the FA Cup draw. Some people think the magic of the FA Cup has gone, not for me though, so much so, when I was working in England I booked the day off a couple of years ago and a few of us went to the pub to watch the draw, hoping that we would finally get the chance to get revenge on our Tesco neighbours from down the road. The stream was a bit on the dodgy side via the BBC website so I had to rely on the live text page. Swansea at home. Brilliant. All jokes aside though, we haven’t conceded in our two games against Premier League opposition this season so it will be a good test for what will no doubt be our second string eleven.
Now onto the game itself; we took all three points for the sixth consecutive game as we made the gap to third place ten points. This wasn’t the total football that we’d witnessed against Bolton or Leeds, this was a performance of grit, determination and composure. Now, you don’t normally see the three of those together, it is normally the first two on their own and composure is normally complemented with a word like calm or something along those lines. Let me explain.
We weren’t at the races at all against Birmingham, we probably just about arrived into second gear in the first half with some pulsating football on show. There was an instance where Ruddy plucked the ball from the air and within a blink of an eye, we were down the other end, having yet another attempt on goal.
Our goal which came quite early on came after a mistake from a Blues defender and I couldn’t tell you his name, as he decided to present us with the ball in the final third and the rest is history. Cavaleiro had the first shot which Stockdale did well to save, then Jota had a go with the rebound, again saved, then finally, Bonatini got it passed Stockdale but it was cleared on the line. On first view, I thought it was over, but the second it took for the ref to give the goal seemed to be an eternity, however, in the end, he gave it. 1-0.
For the rest of the first half it was a training ground exercise in many respects, pass and move, pass and move then repeat. Whilst this was easy on the eye, it also gave the commentators to start talking nonsense, as per. The main instance of this was their mention of Jorge Mendes; now, don’t get me wrong, he has an influence at our club, you only have to look at the number of players we’ve got that are clients of his, but there is no need for the repetition. When Man United play, how often is Mino Raiola mentioned? Barely at all, if ever. Yet, more of his players play for United than anybody else.
Funnily enough, Jorge Mendes doesn’t pick our side, he doesn’t decide on the tactics and he doesn’t do any other of 101 different things yet he gets mentioned more than our gaffer, it’s a bit of a piss take really. Anyway, back to the game. Blues made a change at half time with ex-Wolves boy Stephen Gleeson coming on and maybe Blues had finally remembered that we always seem to concede against our ex-players and for the first five to ten minutes of the second half, Blues seemed to click as they had more of the ball. Even still, for all of their possession, they still lacked the cutting edge that would have made all the difference.
Despite the fact that Blues had more of the ball, the next big chance of the game fell to Diogo Jota after some neat interchange play but between the Portuguese talisman and Leo Bonatini, they somehow managed not to score. Any other season we would live to rue to that miss, but we are resilient at the back this time around and again, the next chance came to us. Costa, who was brought on just moments before, was put clean through one on one with Stockdale. If I was in that position I’d of twatted the ball as hard as I could and hoped for the best. In hindsight, maybe Costa should be attending my footballing school as he tried to roll it past him with his studs, missed the ball and that was the end of that. Another chance went begging.
Two clear-cut opportunities squandered and the Brummies could smell blood and there very nearly was blood as N’Diaye, the suspended Neves’ replacement, thought it would be a good idea to push the aforementioned Gleeson in the face after going forehead to forehead with one of their other players. There are no two ways about it, N’Diaye should have been walking off the pitch for an early bath. It was a stupid thing to do and as far as I can recall, to make matters worse, the officials had a clear view of it but for some reason, the referee decided a yellow card would suffice. Lucky.
There was another bust-up in the last ten minutes of the game that saw Jota chucked to the floor by one of their mob that had already been booked and they were reduced to ten men which meant that the training game of the first half was back and I could relax, the job was done. As I said earlier, this was the sixth game on the bounce we had won which means we are slowly pulling away from the chasing pack, although Cardiff are lingering around like a bad smell. Next up is Sunderland on Saturday which should be a sell out there or thereabouts.
If we win the rest of our games this season we will finish on 125 points and it’s difficult to see where our next defeat is going to come from (cue a 1-0 defeat on Saturday), however, we are bound to drop points somewhere along the line. Bearing that in mind, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I would be backing us to break the Championship points record (107 or more).