And back swings the pendulum. Football’s a funny old game. As with life, you cannot afford to be down in the doldrums after a defeat and you mustn’t get carried away with success, But we’re one game and three points closer to that success we’ve worked all season long for.
Much was made of the atmosphere required to ensure vicotry against Reading. Troops were rallied, battle cries were heard and fans were armed with songs of praise for our heroes. We came for a war. Reading came for a procession. This was a meeting of unstoppable force and invisible object, like sending Spartans into battle with the Teletubbies. For all the bravado we thought we required to overcome Saturday’s ignominy, we pretty much turned up to tickle Reading’s belly as they rolled over for us.
Molineux can be a notoriously edgy place to play football. As the story goes, keep the Molineux crowd quiet, they get edgy, the anxiety spreads to the players and they wilt under that pressure. There have been a couple of times where you could say that has happened, notably against QPR and Norwich. But the tension that was predicted pre-match never really seemed to materialise. Are we a tougher bunch given our recent travails as a club? Or is it just that this team deserves better. I’d like to think it is the latter. I’d like to think that the years of mediocrity have given us the ability to appreciate real class.
We only had to look at our opposition to see what we have had to deal with over the past few years. Dave Edwards. As anonymous as he ever was in a Wolves shirt. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, seemingly forever bound by his duty to plough a lonely furrow up front. You could move him on to the best club side in the world and there he would remain – detached, exiled, with just an Icelandic Thunderclap reverberating in his ears to accompany him. The Molineux jitters can be a thing of the past, you just have to believe in what is in front of you. And for once, we all seem united on that front.
Maybe I’m doing us a slight disservice by berating Reading’s performance, but to walk out of any game winning 3-0, you have to have done a number of things right. The first thing that was correct was the team selection. In came Ryan Bennett, Romain Saiss and Benik Afobe and all contributed towards victory. Danny Batth’s woes are at the other end of the spectrum to Bennett, mainly because they are two different types of defender. Batth is an all-action centre-half and whether he likes it or not, he seems to be in the thick of the action whenever he plays, whether positive or negative. Bennett is such an unfussy footballer that you barely notice his presence at times – a good trait for a centre back. His distribution is underrated and his absence certainly made my heart grow fonder. He hasn’t commanded too many column inches and I’m sure that’s just how he likes it, but his signing has become an absolute revelation.
Benik Afobe’s whole performance was a mixed bag. But what really mattered is the fact he managed to get himself on the scoresheet. Make no bones about it – his touch is off, he looks a bit sluggish at times and his movement isn’t quite in sync with the rest of the team, but the boy scores goals. The first half felt like the team was longing for Bonatini, constantly switching the ball from side-to-side, with little penetration centrally. The funny thing was, it was a relatively aimless ball into the box that led to the opening goal. And from there it was an exhibition.
There will be concern after Jota was pretty much carried off injured, but in his absence there was plenty to be pleased about. Helder Costa was twisting blood again and Matt Doherty took on even more attacking responsibility, to the tune of two goals. Ivan Cavaleiro may not have been the fulcrum of our attacks but he was a conduit for some lovely passages of play, including a sumptuous team goal for the third.
It was another performance that left us wondering what all the fuss was about after Saturday. Aston Villa, as mentioned in my last blog, were in nothing more than a purple patch. It was a run built on shakier foundations than our whole season has been and they reverted to type last night. We re-asserted ourselves, exactly how we should. Saturday looms large as another opportunity to flex our considerable Championship muscle. We could be in for that goal-fest we’ve all been banging on about….