WOLVES AT THE BACK DOOR
Mickey Blue Eyes
This 3-0 away win was adequate compensation for the fractious early season draw at Goodison when the Black Country team and their manager Mick McCarthy made it clear they were going to be the last man standing, if nothing else. And they didn't have much else, as virtually everybody in the game pointed out at the time and since. This match demonstrated it too because they were again little more than a frenetic bunch of hustlers despite an intense opening ten minutes. For that period we scarcely got out of our penalty area. A goal then and who knows what would have happened? But that's life......shape up or ship out. In the end we shaped up and they shipped out. If they don't buck up they might ship out all the way to the Football League. Tough, but I don't recall any sympathy from anybody when we were in a similar position pre-Moyesy. C'est la vie: never complain, never explain, which might well be David Moyes' admirable personal mantra.
There should be special mention of our makeshift midfield, particularly Leon Osman who has been stalwart since his return, and Phil Neville who was inspirational. With Fellaini-Mikky-Rodwell-Cahill all missing the midfield ended up as Bily-Heitinga-Leon-Nev-Maggie and our hopes apparently hanging by a thread. Seemingly the enemy were desperate and we were, well, sauntering. Which is more or less how it looked in the beginning. Wolves piled forward, gained a series of corners, had a few shots - one of which only narrowly missed Tim's left post - and generally were first to every ball and tackle. If pressure and area occupation counted for anything they were a street ahead for the first ten minutes......but when things didn't work out you could see them start to get erratic and then splutter. For all their physicality they really weren't very bright or talented. Their main outlet seemed to be their hurry-up winger, Jarvis, though in the end Tony Hibbert had played him quite brilliantly and snuffed him completely. Apart from that, Wolves were slipshod in midfield and even worse in defence. After the initial flurry they were never in it. Our defence was as solid as a brick wall, though occasionally they rode their luck; Buzz and Jags were outstanding when they were needed most, which was constantly at first and for a brief period in the second half.
After twenty minutes we made our first attack and scored an outstanding opportunist goal. Football life can be so cruel. The goal came after we sprung from deep defence, it was headed back to the edge of the centre circle and John Heitinga got Leon clear wide right midway between the goal line and edge of the box and knocked over a millimetre-perfect cross to the near post and Becks got there first at the corner of the goal area and brushed it in with his forehead, no chance for their young 'keeper. You could almost see Wolves deflate, and though they didn't capitulate immediately you could see that look, "Uh oh, here we go again," the sort of feeling we know all too well. After that, they deteriorated slowly until they almost completely disintegrated. By the end of the half we were doing to them what they did to us in the opening phase. It was highly satisfactory. But there was still another twenty five minutes left in the half and at that stage you felt anything could happen. Wolves still kept going, more in desperate hope than intelligent footy.
Gradually Our Boys imposed themselves on the game. Maggie broke through right side penalty area within a minute, one-on-one, and should have buried it, but their 'keeper clawed it by his finger nails beyond his left post. The game was finally put to bed in the five minutes before half time with two storming goals from Phil Neville (!) and Bily.
Nev's score came after a typically outstanding free kick from Bainsey tight on the left goal line nearly caused a headed oggy, but their 'keeper made a magnificent left handed save. Becks nipped in on the loose ball and laid it back to right of the D and Nev smashed it first time through four players and high into the left side of the goal. The 'keeper couldn't have seen it until it appeared whizzing past the last player's head. It was just reward for Nev. Then Bily's goal was typical of what he can do when he is on top of his hugely talented if laconic game. He picked it up in midfield just beyond the centre circle left side when Wolves midfield left it to their defence and their defence left it to their midfield. There was enough space to drive a bus through, never mind a motivated brilliant Russki in the right frame of mind. He took it on four metres or so before loosing a tremendous left foot drive from fully twenty five metres into the same spot hit by Nev earlier. No 'keeper on planet Earth would have saved it.
The second half was mostly a careful holding operation but even then we could have had two more when substitute Vic Anichebe and Bily missed straightforward opportunities within minutes of each other. And Tim had to make two excellent saves to keep a precious clean sheet. Apart from that the remainder of the match was more or less an encouraging routine canter in the sun. All three substitutions were made, Vic for Maggie, Velios for Becks and Adam Forshaw for Bily. None of them let the side down. Even Vic managed to avoid the spittle of the disgusting numbskulls who have decided to target him as a replacement victim for Tony Hibbert. Oddly, Becks threw a wobbler when Moyesy hooked him off. I can't imagine why - the manager has been really patient with him and given him every opportunity this season; it has worked for the two of them despite some fraught times, and Becks would do well to remember that Moyesy quite rightly doesn't take kindly to breaches of discipline. There can be only one manager.
All in all, another encouraging performance in difficult circumstances. I expected a much more difficult game, something along the lines of the first quarter. Fortunately the senior players really stepped up and performed impeccably. But this was a day they could all be proud of. The Spring sunshine made it even better. If only Our Boys could have won just four more matches..........