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Wolverhampton Wanderers Preview

Filed: Friday, 8th January 2010
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy took time out from lobbing snowballs at passers-by to take a quick look at Sunday's match against Wolves

Next up we are, weather permitting, visited by Wolverhampton Wanderers this Sunday for a 1.30 kick-off that will be live on Sky.

Wolves were our first opponents of the season up at Molineux where we emerged 2-0 victors in a match that turned out to be a lot more comfortable than one might have expected against a newly-promoted team. They currently lie two places and one point above us in 15th place having played, like ourselves, 20 games. Current league form has seen them glean 9 points from their last six league matches, those points coming by virtue of home wins against Bolton, the notoriously travel-sick Burnley, and, amusingly, away at Spurs. The other three matches ended up with a 3-0 home defeat by Man City, a 2-0 away defeat at Anfield and, controversially, another 3-0 reverse at Old Trafford, where boss Mick McCarthy sent out a virtual second string.

Their last outing was in the FA Cup where a late-ish winner from Jarvis was enough to get them past Tranmere Rovers for a home tie against Crystal Palace. As is the modern practice, current second-choice ‘keeper Wayne Hennessy started the Cup match on Merseyside. Welsh international Hennessy started the season as first pick as custodian but lost his place to summer signing Marcus Hahnemann at the end of November, having let in four goals in successive matches at home to Arsenal and away at Chelsea. McCarthy decided that Hennessy could do with a “mental break”, something that McCarthy also did last season. Expect Hahnemann to start on Sunday.

Missing from the defence last week was Christophe Berra. Despite the French name – his middle name is Didier for good measure – the 24 year-old stopper was born in Edinburgh and is a full Scottish cap. Berra landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge from Craig Bellamy in the City defeat and ended up with mild concussion. Apparently he was convinced he was French, which was enough to persuade the medics that he wasn’t right in the head. Although he was probably fit for the Tranmere game, his claim that he was actually Scottish after all gave the medics similar cause for concern until a birth certificate was produced. He is expected to resume his normal place in the defence at the expense of loanee Michael Mancienne.

Another player likely to return will be Irishman Kevin Doyle. Doyle missed the trip to the Wirral last week through “illness” but is expected to have recovered enough, possibly to take the place of another unusually-monikered Scot, Chris Iwelumo. Iwelumo is best remembered for that awful miss in a World Cup qualifier on his full international debut for the Sweaties at Hampden against Norway. Iwelumo has since gone on record as saying that he is “determined not to be remembered for that miss”. Hope he’s not reading this then.

One major disappointment for the Molineux faithful this season had been the form of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Blake hit 25 goals in his last two seasons in the Championship, winning the “Golden Boot” award on both occasions. However he has struggled in the top flight this time out and his only goal thus far this season has been the late spot-kick that earned Wolves a home draw against Villa back in late October. It will be a toss-up between him and Iwelumo for the right to partner Doyle.

As for us, well things appear to be looking up on the injury front. Two of the recent hamstring epidemic victims, Noble, and probably more importantly Parker, are both said to be available for selection. Collison and Spector, both of whom were given last weekend off will also be in the squad, as will General Franco whose week-off was of a more compulsory nature having picked up a suspension. On the down side there will be no appearance for Carlton Cole, though he is said to be not too far away from what will be a most welcome return.

Some heart can be taken from last week’s battling performance by what was a severely weakened team against an Arsenal side that required the introduction of about £20m of talent from the bench to overcome a side long on spirit if short on stamina. Although it will (hopefully) be a much-changed starting XI against Wolves, it is to be hoped that at least a little of the determination shown by the stand-ins will transmit its way through to the rest of the squad.

We have a good record at home against this lot over the years. My stats monkey tells me that you’d have to go back as far as March 1978 for a home defeat. Add to that the fact that they are the most goal-shy team in the Premiership (17 goals in their 20 matches so far) and you’ll forgive me if I come over all optimistic about this one. I shall therefore plump for a 2-0 win and a move in the right direction up the Premiership – which ought at least encourage any new owners that it’d be worth sticking a few bob into something called a transfer kitty (whatever one of those is).

Enjoy the game – and wrap up warm!

Last season: N/A

Danger Man: Kevin Doyle – has impressed the Wolves fans this season, though traditionally any player with a goalscoring record like that currently “enjoyed” by Ebanks-Blake can usually expect to end a dry spell against us.

Referee: Phil Dowd - last seen looking very rotund and unfit in the home 2-2 draw against Fulham. Let’s hope he laid off the mince pies over the holiday.

After a winning draw with Chelsea and a ridiculous loss to Arsenal punters are looking for any excuse to get with West Ham. Surely they are a team that fall into that “can do better” category and at 4/5 on extrabet to beat Wolves at home you’d have thought that was a weekend wallet warmer.

Three home wins may not suggest 4/5 is a strong enough to get your Christmas money down on but with so many near misses punters are piling into a team who would have been 1/2 last season to win this game.

On the spreads the Time First Goal at 36-39 minutes also looks hard to buy. West Ham will certainly try and kill off the opposition early and Wolves have let in a lively 21 goals away from home already this season.

“With only eight goals on the road for Wolves and hugely encouraging performances from West Ham of late, punters are only putting their cash one way,” say extrabet’s Chris Shillington.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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by Preview Percy
03:10PM 9th Jan 2010

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