The show rumbles nicely on. Eight games have now passed without having to change the starting XI. The results get more positive with each passing week. There were the odd signs that this starting XI is beginning to wane a little, but they still pulled a result out of the bag.
Much is made of Selhurst Park. It’s not your typical Premier League ground. It’s a bit of a throwback, there’s pillars and low ceilings in the stands and it’s a all a bit congested out there on the field. It reminded me of Wolves’ trip to QPR last season, where we seemed to be playing in a stratijacket. We wheezed our way through the first half when in possession. There was a cough and a splutter about us and we just kept giving them the ball back. But not to worry. For all of the talk of Selhurst Park being some kind of fortress, Palace had failed to score there all season long and you could see why.
Wolves as a team are as consistent as they come. We may not always win but performance levels hover around at a pretty high standard. Even then you can’t expect a team to be at its best on demand. But the key thing to do when you’re not on it from an attacking perspective, is to stay in a game and ensure you’re not playing catch-up. Wolves are built for this. Whatever you try, we have a near impenetrable core, with the system and shape constantly cramping space inside and funnelling attacks wide.
We’ve quietly returned to the roots of our success. Everyone wants to applaud the way we attack, but realistically we’re still not firing on all cylinders. We’ve got to this position with both of our starting wide forwards goalless. What happens when they start firing? Instead, our wing backs have gone on the attack, none more so than Matt Doherty.
When it comes to football first impressions always count. People are quick to judge the first time they witness a performance and these impressions tend to stick. Especially negative ones. Doherty finds himself as the longest-serving member of the squad now which can make him ripe scapegoat-ery. If we hark back to the Leicester defeat we found out how quickly Wolves fans can turn on a player who matures with every passing season. This is the thing about footballers – they can improve. And Doc has done so in so many ways. At first he was a raw, boundless ball of energy from right back. He then began dominating aerial battles. Then he worked on his ability in the final third. Once more he ironed out his defensive issues. Even after that he started scoring screamers and playing on the wrong side. So much has he developed, he now dominates a wing on his own. The best compliment I could pay him is when I found his in front of Hennessey ready to strike at goal, I was sure that he would score.
The talk of Europe has started. I maintain that we have gears to get through, especially as an attacking force. But the defensive solidity that envelopes teams and keeps them at bay will always be our calling card. Bring on the big boys. We need sterner tests.