Wolves yesterday secured a vital three points, gaining a semblance of revenge for the abject 3-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers at Molineux earlier in the season. QPR took the lead through Bobby Zamora before strike partner Djibril Cissé was sent off. Wolves fought back in the second half, and goals from Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle completed the turnaround.
The big question about the starting lineup was who Sébastien Bassong would replace in defence. I speculated it would be Christophe Berra and this proved to be correct, with Bassong partnering Roger Johnson in defence. The surprise came with the exclusion of Michael Kightly, who I had not realised was injured. When I saw the starting 11, I assumed Kevin Foley would be playing in the center of the park, with David Edwards on the flank. Instead, Foley was wide right perhaps trying to reprise the system that successfully kept us up two years ago.
That formation didn't last long though - after another injury to Emmanuel Frimpong (he truly is an Arsenal player), Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was introduced and we moved to a straight forward 4-4-2. I had wondered whether we would start with this formation; it was pretty clear that both Cissé and Zamora would start for QPR, and so Mick McCarthy might have been tempted to go man for man in the middle. When this change happened, I wasn't 100% sure why Foley stayed on the wing with Edwards inside. This would have given both Edwards and Jamie O'Hara a little bit more freedom to get forward, in the knowledge Foley was sitting deep in the middle. As it was, it meant we had little creativity down the right, and so all QPR had to do was cut the supply to Matt Jarvis.
By this stage of course, we were already 1-0 down. It was a good goal, with promising link up between Cissé and Zamora. Saying that, I think Wayne Hennessey will be disappointed not have kept it out. His goalkeeping has improved dramatically over the last couple of years, but he can be very slow to get down to low shots in the corner. He has conceded quite a few goals in these circumstances this season, and is something that needs to be worked on if he is to realise his fantastic potential.
The third tactical change came after Cissé's possibly harsh red card. I'm not blaming Mark Clattenburg for sending him off, but another referee may well have just cautioned him. I do wonder what DJ Campbell's thoughts were at that time. I presume he was watching from somewhere, am he may well have been reminded of his own stupid reaction to a tackle for Blackpool at Molineux last season. Until the red card, QPR were easily the better team, firmly deserving their lead. I doubt we'd have been able to get back into the game I'm the way we did had it been 11 v 11.
Cissé's red allowed McCarthy to make a more attacking substitution at half time than he would have been able to do otherwise. Richard Stearman was withdrawn, with Doyle coming on, Foley dropping back to right back. I've wanted Doyle to be played on the flank for a while, and today Doyle gave a 45 minute cameo of what he can do. He didn't play strictly as a right winger, instead having a free role, playing for much of the half as an inside forward. Dave Edwards then played as a midfield shuttler, trying to play on both the right and the center. I was surprised Mark Hughes didn't try to take advantage of the large gaps in our midfield a little more, instead taking off Shaun Derry and spreading the midfield across then width of the park. Doyle was instrumental in both goals, firstly providing the cross from which Matt Jarvis equalised, then turning the ball past Paddy Kenny after the ball had broken to him in the penalty area.
At the end though, it was Wolves hanging on to the lead. For some reason, none of the forwards saw fit to drop back a little, and as a result, in the 82nd minute we were depending with three men on the halfway line. Saying that, we probably only really needed to watch one QPR forward - Adel Taraabt seemed to be on a one man mission to equalise and gave an electric performance in the last ten minutes. One long range effort was brilliantly tipped over by Hennessey, while an impudent lob landed on top of the goal. He was quiet for 80 minutes before exploding into life.
I will write more in-depth about the debutant Bassong later in the week, but I was generally very impressed with him today. He was extremely comfortable on the ball, and I will be very interested to see what his passing stats are for the game. Defensively, he didn't make any noticeable mistakes, and was able to use his pace and comfort on the ball to get him out of any tricky situations he found himself in.
I like to watch the players practicing their shooting before the kickoff, and today I realised that Ebanks-Blake doesn’t join in. I remember reading a quote from Gary Lineker saying he didn't practice his finishing prior to kick off in case it used up all of his good shots. Is this what Sylvan is worried about?
I also couldn't help noticing the varied music played by QPR's PA system. Before kickoff, I enjoyed listening to The Clash before being incredibly disappointed when that was followed up by Ollie 'bloody' Murs. They did make up for it when a bit of Led Zepplin was played later - does anyone know if Robert Plant was in the crowd yesterday?
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