Well there we have it. If ever we needed proof that this was a new Wolves! A Wolves reborn as such! The vast majority of us fans have never seen us return from Teeside victorious but this is Wolves 2.0. We still enjoy making things hard for ourselves. But our ‘Nuno Espirito’ was in full force yesterday.
The first half couldn’t have gone any better. We started the game well and kept the crowd quiet for the first 10 minutes. Boro then had a spell for 20 minutes without getting anywhere near threatening John Ruddy yet he still found a way to make us worry. I was personally very disappointed from what I saw from Boro. I would compare them to Man Utd. One of the most expensively assembled squads in their respective leagues and still such an agricultural game plan. But I suppose that was to be expected with Tony Pulis at the helm. The amount of ‘hoofball’ to the very isolated Patrick Bamford even had me feeling sorry for him. This is one of the silkiest strikers I had seen in a long time a few years ago when he was the championship player of the season. The only time he was able to showcase his class was in added time with his superb finish into the top corner. Boro were sent out with a definite game plan to ruffle our feathers. But we stood up to the challenge and were not prepared to get bullied into submission. The fact their players implemented these tactics so early on is the only reason I can think of as to why they weren’t reprimanded as equally as ours. Nuno constantly asks for protection for the players. All 22 of them. Stuart Atwal certainly took heed but only for 11 of them. He made a rod for his own back in the first half and lost control thereafter.
Our game plan was executed to perfection for the first 45 minutes. We were stout in defence showed control in midfield and ruthless up front. We finally have our Costa back. He was on song in the first half and once again a pleasure to watch in full flow. Cavaleiro was his usual bag of tricks and Afobe kept the centre halves occupied without really touching the ball. I was pleasantly surprised at the time afforded to both our central midfielders too, especially Neves. He just oozes class with every touch. He had a couple of long range efforts that on another day would have had just enough ‘swazz’ to sneak into the top corner. He did for the first time this season though show his naivety. To make the challenge he did for his second booking was hopefully a lapse in concentration we won’t see for the foreseeable future. Of course emotions were heightened by what had immediately preceded it and I don’t want to spend too long chastising the ref. But the indecision shown with the Costa incident was criminal. Whether it was a foul or not is neither here or there. Personally I felt it was a foul. But to not give anything and then not book Costa for diving showed a real lack of authority and this is where the game spiralled out of control. The positives are of course that we did see the game through and two of our best players (who didn’t get a rest over the international break) will be fresh for the huge game on Friday.
In the lead up to the game I was reassured by the many Villa fans I work with that Adama Traore would not be an issue and that he was a master of deception. That he would look good without contributing anything. Well if Boro didn’t have him they would have real problems regarding creativity. He was one of our biggest problems throughout the game; second only to Mr Attwell. Boro’s tactics were like that of a Sunday team full of hungover prima donnas that would give the ball to the best player and hope for the best. We dealt with him fairly successfully in the first half and even in the second half he probably topped the charts for ‘successful dribbles’ but didn’t create any clear cut chances till added time where he finally got his assist.
I’m convinced watching that game has taken a few years off my life and added a few grey hairs; however we emerged with all three points. This new found character has come to the fore many times this season. This was the biggest example yet and no doubt we will need the same resolve next Friday. This will definitely hold us in good stead for next season where there will be periods of backs to the wall defending. The pack is strong and we stuck together. The pictures of our captain Conor Coady at the end of the game resembling Gerard Butler from 300. It feels like they enter each game as a character from that movie too and they’ll give anything and everything for their brothers on the field.
We showed real tenacity and character in the face of adversity and Nuno has harnessed all these qualities and created the beauty we see week in week out. For the first time in a long time I’m not concerned with the selection dilemmas Nuno now faces for Tuesday. I just know he’ll do the right thing. So it was the perfect start to the weekend. Enjoy you’re bank holiday.