Winning under Kenny Jackett has become a bit of a habit recently, up until yesterday the side in second spot had only lost twice. Once to Walsall way back when and our most recent result saw Wolves lose to Peterborough.
So it was a bit of a shock come 5pm to see that Wolves had lost two games on the bounce for the first time in eight months, thanks to a neat finish from Patrick Bamford and a wonder strike from Ben Reeves. MK Dons arrived at the Molineux off the back of three straight league defeats and were looking to return to winning ways and make a push for the play-offs. Wolves themselves were looking to return to winning form after they were unable to see off Peterborough two weeks ago.
The game began in windy conditions, Wolves began brightly but it was MK Dons who produced the first chance. The on-loan Chelsea forward, Patrick Bamford, forced his way through the Wolves defence and force Carl Ikeme to make a good save from a tight angle. The Dons were playing well, Karl Robinson had clearly got his side well drilled in passing the ball out from the back and creating chances through the final third of the field.
Wolves first half chance came through Leigh Griffiths, who has scored just two in his last seven matches, hit a stinging drive from thirty yards which was not too far out but failed to test Martin, the MK Dons ‘keeper. Soon after James Henry screwed a shot wide, Wolves’ best chance so far, it began with a goal kick from Carl Ikeme, Leigh Griffiths controlled the high ball well, he laid it off the on-loan winger but Henry failed to test the ‘keeper. Sako then cut inside, jinked his way left and right and dispatched a shot which was saved well by the MK Dons shot stopper.
The home side were putting their stamp on their game, Wolves were carving out chances, but nothing of huge substance, nothing that really tested the ‘keeper. MK Dons then carved out a good chance from a set piece, the captain Dean Lewington, getting the end of Darren Potter’s free kick, thankfully, Ikeme saved well.
Despite Wolves’ good chances it was the away sides possession based football that paid off. Samir Carruthers threaded a lovely through ball, splitting the Wolves defence wide open, the pass was met by Patrick Bamford who slotted home from a tight angle. Carl Ikeme should have done better from such a close angle, furthermore, the Wolves defence should have done much better to stop the pass from source Carruthers was given far too much time on the ball, he had the time and skill to look up and pick out the intelligent run of Bamford who slotted home.
With fifteen minutes to go till the first half was over Wolves had their best chance, astonishment was the main feeling that emanated from the crowd after Leigh Griffiths missed from six yards out after failing to connect with Bakary Sako’s whipped cross. Half time came and Wolves looked second best throughout it. The five man midfield of Carruthers, Gleeson, Potter, Jennings and Reeves were taking apart the home side’s midfield of McDonald and Edwards.
Wolves seem to set up in a diamond formation with Mc Donald at the base, Henry and Sako on the wings and Edwards playing further forward. The formation didn’t work for the home side, the shape of the diamond kept collapsing due to the interchanging of Sako and Henry. This meant that the likes of Gleeson and Potter had a lot of time on the ball to decide what they wanted to do. They were dictating the tempo of the game and Wolves couldn’t get anywhere near them.
Jackett took a gamble at half time and made some bold changes, off came Sako and Griffiths, two of Wolves’ best players, for the recently recalled Liam McAlinden and on-loan winger, Michael Jacobs. Cue a lot of furrowed brows from supporters confused at what Jackett was doing. It made perfect sense, especially in the case of Leigh Griffiths, having scored just two in his last seven matches, you would think that the Scotsman would be raring to prove his worth, in fact what happened was quite the contrary. Griffiths looked blunt and disinterested in the game, his movement off the ball was nothing short of appalling, his fellow professional, Patrick Bamford, was showing Griffiths how it was done. Bamford, unlike Griffiths, was everywhere, picking balls up from deep, making angled runs in behind the Wolves defence, all things expected of today’s modern strikers.
Sako was less obvious but as Jackett put it in his post match interview, the Malian lacked hunger and appetite, a trait of last season’s Sako, which was odd and not welcomed. It was, despite the changes, still going to be a struggle for the home side to worm their way back into this tie, especially due to the ability that MK Dons have of keeping the ball. A note on Griffiths and Sako being removed, yes it looked odd but surely if the players aren’t putting their one hundred percent into every single game, then they should not play, simple as. Wolves are in this very situation because of players like that, who gave up, and who didn’t care. By doing what Jackett did on Saturday, he sends a message out to every single player at the club, senior or U-21, if you don’t put the effort in, no matter how good you supposedly are, you won’t play.
Fans still had pies and Bovril in hand and were walking back to their seats when Ben Reeves hit a dipping shot, giving Ikeme absolutely no chance in the Wolves net. Two-nil. Astonishment from the Wolves fans, unable to fathom that their high flying club were two down with essentially forty minutes to go. It was unfortunate and made the rest of the game so much harder, one-nil down going into the second half, at Molineux, is not a terrible result, the crowd will always get behind the players and we all felt Wolves could nick a goal. Then Reeves hits that delightful shot and there’s a dreaded feeling of ‘game over’.
After the restart MK Dons found themselves in their oppositions half, the impressive Patrick Bamford hitting a stinging low shot which Ikeme saved well. Liam McAlinden his first sight on goal after being played in by Doyle, the young Irishman’s shot went wide. Soon after, Henry delivered a ball in which found Dave Edwards who’s shot from six yards out was far too tame and was caught by the MK Dons ‘keeper. Another chance squandered.
McAlinden then had another golden opportunity to bring Wolves back into the game. His fellow ‘Mc’, McDonald, lofted a high ball across the Dons defence, onto the feet of Liam McAlinden. He dropped the shoulder and hit a low shot that grazed the Dons post. Despite him not scoring, McAlinden showed in that passage of play more sharpness, speed, movement and confidence that Leigh Griffiths did in the whole of the first half. McAlinden looked like a player who relishing his opportunity in the first team, he was unfortunate not to score.
The game was petering out, Wolves never looked like getting back in it, and they were simply second best, the introduction of Baldock, Galloway and Smith over the course of the remaining twenty minutes shored it up for the away side and were never really troubled, apart from a half chance from James Henry who shot over after getting into a good position.
The final whistle finally came and MK Dons were rightly applauded off by their away fans, they played some excellent football, they proved worthy opponents against an abject Wolves side. Two losses on the bounce are not good obviously, but it is important to remember that it’s one game, our season won’t be defined by this game, it was frustrating definitely, but if you would have given Wolves fans forty-three points and second spot after twenty games, I think the overwhelming majority would have taken that. Furthermore, what we have in Jackett though is a manager, who, like the fans, will want an immediate response. I don’t get worried about losses now Jackett is in charge, I know we will get back to winning ways because come hell or high water, Jackett will make them win.