Goals from Griffiths and Henry put Wolves within touching distance of the top despite horrendous conditions.
After an ultimately drab 1-1 draw not two days ago against a stubborn Coventry side, Wolves were looking to ramp up the pressure on their League rivals, Orient and Peterborough.
Chances in the first half were few and far between for both sides in the opening exchanges, both Wolves and Oldham looked tentative, not wanting to give too much away in front of the lowest League attendance at Molineux in over six years. Ironic, considering Wolves had the second highest attendance in the whole of the Football League on Saturday. Bakary Sako had the first chance of the game, his rather ambitious shot drifted just left of the goal and failed to trouble the Latics ‘keeper.
Kenny Jackett made just the one change but more importantly, the boss changed the formation around. Kevin Doyle was dropped for Lee Evans as Jackett switched the formation from a conventional 4-4-2, with Doyle dropping deep. Instead the home side switched to a 4-3-3, with Evans, McDonald and Price making up the trio in midfield. The back five remained the same, with Sako, Griffiths and Henry making up the dynamic front three. It was so pleasing to see Wolves playing with three proper centre midfielders, rather than Doyle dropping deep. It was a bit harsh for the Irishman, his form recently has been outstanding, putting in some real shifts next to Leigh Griffiths. Letting the Scot grab the headlines whilst he ploughs away up and down the pitch. What was evident on reflection after the game was how solid and cohesive Wolves were in the midfield, Price, McDonald and Evans communicating well throughout, all three offering something a little different, all having that ability, however, to give the ball and receive in tight spaces and look up to pick out a pass.
The Latics boss, Lee Johnson, made two changes to his side who sat 18th in League One, Christian Montano and Carl Winchester came in for Charlie MacDonald and the former Blue, Adam Rooney. Oldham were coming into the game off the back of a 1-0 home win against Carlisle, the last ten games have seen the Latics pick up just eight points. It seemed that Oldham had lined up with a 4-6-0 with Philliskirk playing as the ‘false 9’, if you like. With that bit of Barcelona-esque tactics being used (I am being sarcastic, before you start commenting) Oldham began with Oxley in goal; Mills Tarkowski Grounds and Kusunga at the back; Winchester Wesolowski Montano Smith and Dayton made up the midfield five; Philliskirk was sent out as the ‘false 9’, intending to drop deeper and test Ricketts and Batth.
With twenty minutes gone, Oldham had their first effort on goal, the impressive Colombian, Christian Montano, failed to connect properly with a header from Carl Winchester. With twenty minutes gone, the chances were sparse but the weather soon wasn’t. A torrential, biblical, rain shower completely changed the first half, the rain bouncing off the roofs of all four stands. The pitch and the players soon felt the affects of the down pour, water skidding off the boots of the players as they attempted to pass it around. The rain really did put a dampener on events in the first half, if you will pardon the pun, neither team could carve out any sort of clear cut opportunity.
James Henry began to put his mark on the game, shooting from way out after smart play from McDonald who switched the play and picked out the Millwall man. Soon after, Henry turned on a sixpence and hit a smart drive that brought out the best from Mark Oxley. Danny Batth’s header from the resulting corner went wide, probably Wolves’ best spell in a rain drenched first half.
There was some worry for Wolves, Matt Doherty, probably the most consistent player at the club, limped off and was replaced by Richard Stearman. To see Doherty come off was a real shame for everyone, not least the young Irishman. His stability and consistency at right back has been a real highlight for Wolves, despite his young age, the Irish under 21 international has shown a high level of professionalism and diligence in his short time at the club.
Half time came and went as the rain finally curtailed its appearance. The pitch drained as the players returned for the second half. Wolves looked the better side, another Batth header went wide after Scott Golbourne produced an impressive ball in. The reinstated Lee Evans looks rather frustrated that his fellow team mate had not laid the ball off for him.
The breakthrough came five minutes after the restart, it was as unkempt as the weather. Sako’s barnstorming cross deflected rather fortunately for James Henry. The ball hit his shin and trickled in. Henry looked delighted, if a little surprised at the goal, one that was fully deserved for the team and the individual. It was Henry’s best game in his short time at Wolves, he offered the team something different, a player who can genuinely beat a man and cross the ball with sniper-like accuracy but can also cut inside and shoot. Having him and Sako on either wing, dovetailing, is a mouth watering prospect
Oldham soon tried to hit back, Jonson Clarke-Harris was clean through on the left hand side, fortunately, Danny Batth was there to snuff out any sort of opportunity. Wolves eventually killed the game off fifteen minutes later, Bakary Sako was once again providing the pass for Griffiths to slot home, after Jonathan Grounds slipped on the damp surface. Hearts were in mouths as fans thought the ball would stop just short of going in, luck was on Wolves’ side though and the ball nestled in the bottom corner.
Calm came across the Molineux, it rare that Wolves go into a two nil lead so relatively late on in a game, it was encouraging to see. Wolves looked comfortable, they were dominating teams, rather than them dominating us. It was the first time that Wolves had three in the middle, this correlated with a strong midfield performance from Evans and co. Coincidence? I think not.
Wolves ended on a high, underlining their second half dominance, again, another encouraging side of a team that look to be clicking. Henry yet again saw a wicked shot palmed away, Danny Batth then slid in from a corner, his effort was cleared off the line and Wolves were denied the cherry on top of the cake.
With minutes to go, Carl Ikeme nearly provided the assist for Wolves’ third and Griffiths’ second. His long ball found the feet of Griffiths, whose first touch, as expected, was absolutely perfect. His shot fired wide as Oxley breathed a sigh of relief.
So, Wolves return to winning ways and more importantly have not been beaten in the League since that miserable evening at home to Molineux. With Orient getting beat and Borough only drawing it was a perfect evening for the men in Gold. Bradford will provide a stern test for Wolves but after that Wolves should be looking for at least seven points against Stevenage, Carlisle and Notts County.
Another game gone, another three points collected. Twelve gone, thirty four to go.