Aaron Phillips’ late volley cancelled out Leigh Griffiths’ goal and gave Coventry a point in a damp, drab game at the Molineux.
The international break can either be a help or hindrance to teams, for the Molineux men it is probably a bit annoying. Doyle, Doherty, Evans, Griffiths, Ricketts and Forde all in action at their respective levels, it has meant that Wolves have not been able to fulfil certain fixtures due to the sheer amount of internationals in the team. Yet another sign of how far Wolves have fallen over the past two years.
With Wolves winning their last three matches 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0, the international break came as a bit of a hindrance, as it sucked all the momentum out of the team. They would have to motivate themselves for the visit of the Sky Blues. With Peterborough and Leyton Orient setting a new standard in League One, Wolves are going to have to win home games, despite Coventry’s false League position.
The first half was a non-event, with neither team being able to exert any sort of dominance or create any clear cut chances, this being bore out with the ‘shots on target’ stat, both sides mustering just two shots on target all game. Despite this, the game began with a high tempo Wolves started with purpose, power and hunger, new signing James Henry feeding Leigh Griffiths who squandered an excellent opportunity to give Wolves an early lead.
Some short, snappy passes down the Wolves right hand side put Doherty clear to deliver a low ball into the Coventry ‘mixer’, unfortunately, the Irish under-21 international’s cross was cleared with consummate ease. Soon after, Sako, who was reinstated into the first team after ‘Sako gate’, tried to stamp his mark onto the team by cutting inside and driving at the Coventry defence, 15 yards out side the penalty area, looking right, he picked out Leigh Griffiths, played a beautiful pass to Leigh Griffiths who was one-on-one with Murphy, despite Griffiths’ calm finish, it counted for nothing as that pesky offside flag was raised.
The team news saw just one change for the home team, Richard Stearman was once again dropped and replaced with Bakary Sako, reintroduced after last week’s controversy with Nottingham Forest and their attempt to sign him. This meant Scott Golbourne was dropped back into a more generic left back position. Kevin Doyle and Leigh Griffiths continued their prolific partnership up front, Jack Price and Kevin McDonald completed the midfield two. Doherty, Ricketts, Batth and Golbourne started at the back, a back four which has just conceded just 6 goals all season. Sako and Henry were to be the wingmen.
Steven Pressley named unchanged team after they saw off Sheffield United last week, 3-2. Clarke and Wilson continued their prolific strike partnership up front which has seen them notch up 18 goals between them. ‘Keeper Murphy’s back four Willis, Webster, Clarke and Adams, in front of them were Baker, Thomas, Fleck and Moussa.
After Wolves’ initial good work the game soon died down, neither team looking they wanted it and both were lacking that final pass or that final clear-cut chance. Henry, looking effective down the right hand side produced a cross, despite being surrounded by Coventry players, his lovely looping cross was claimed, fans were getting more and more frustrated at the lack of clear chances.
Jackett was forced into a change just after the half hour mark, Jack Price was replaced by David Davis, it was unclear why, the general consensus being that he had suffered an eye injury and could not continue. It was unfortunate for the academy starlet, who has looked adept at this level along side Kevin McDonald and looked to be forming a strong partnership in the middle.
The best chance came at the end of the first half, Henry whipped a brilliant ball into the Coventry box, and Doyle met his cross, unmarked but flashed his header wide. Fans around me could not help but feel that he could have/should have done better, a striker of that quality and experience should have buried that header.
Half time came around and the dark clouds began to gather over the Molineux, an utterly strange and dull first half. With the only highlight being the strange injury to Jack Price, both teams failed to lack guile or purpose, despite the quality on show. A front six of Price, McDonald, Henry, Doyle, Sako and Griffiths should really be scoring goals, the communication was not there, it was frustrating. With a dozen or so games gone you would think that team would have gelled a bit more and would be clicking into place, reflecting Jackett’s wants from a team.
The second half began, as did the rain. James Henry’s turn and shot in the box stung the Coventry keeper’s gloves, after Doherty did well to cut inside and supply the on loan winger. Wolves looked to be slowly improving and grew into the game, a succession of corners saw Leigh Griffiths connect with a James Henry cross, the Scot hung in the air and nodded just wide, again, he should be doing better than that.
James Henry soon skied a volley after the cross-missed its intended target, Leigh Griffiths. Henry missed the opportunity to score a great goal, he did not get his head over the ball and was leaning back way too much and smashed the volley into row Z.
Coventry hit Wolves on the break Clarke dropped a shoulder, just outside the penalty area, he was lining up his shot and looked ready to smash Coventry into the lead until from nowhere, Danny Batth executed a magnificent sliding tackle to deny the hot shot striker, who looked utterly bewildered. Coventry persisted to pepper the Wolves goal, the pint-sized John Fleck hit a low shot that went just wide.
The atmosphere was red hot as both teams applied pressure to each other, the 22, 939 supporters making their presence felt. It was a great place to be, as a neutral, it was getting very entertaining. The game was on a knife-edge, it could have gone either way, all it needed was one bit of quality and either team could go in front.
Fortunately, it was Wolves who got this opportunity. Sako had a free kick on the Wolves right hand side, he delivered it in his usual juggernaut style, low and hard, hoping to nick a deflection off a player, the ball was cleared to the opposite flank and Scott Golbourne delivered a whipped cross in, the clearing header by Coventry was far from convincing, the ball remained in the air. When it eventually returned Danny Batth out muscled Clarke, his flick on found Leigh Griffiths who, from two yards out was not going to miss. The Molineux was ballistic, a thoroughly deserved goal after an hour of hard graft, trying to break down a stern Coventry defence. The 20,000 or so home fans cheered and applauded a real poachers finish, pure instinct, Griffiths did not even have to think about it, a clear sign of a top class striker who bagged his eighth in the League this year.
Five minutes later, the goal scorer was substituted, to a standing ovation from the South Bank and co. It is clear that Griffiths is turning into a mature striker, with ice in his veins. One who may not do much throughout the game, but give him a chance in and around the penalty area and he will put it away and give you the lead.
His replacement, Sigurdarson, was to be used as a lightening rod, bringing everything down and brought in for his power and industry. With ten minutes to go Pressley made a change, Moussa was replaced by Manset. In addition, Willis came off for the teenager Aaron Phillips.
Henry had a great chance to put the game to bed, his excellent low cross was delivered into the six-yard box, ‘the corridor of uncertainty’ for you football cliché fans. Frustratingly, neither Doyle nor Sigurdarson could get a foot onto it, which would have surely seen Wolves take and unassailable 2-0 lead.
With four minutes of normal time left, Coventry were not giving up, piling on the pressure, John Fleck played an incisive ball into Wilson, who turned well, his dinked ball evaded everyone, bounced once and there was the substitute, Aaron Phillips, to screw a first time volley into the bottom corner or Ikeme’s goal. Yet again, Wolves have dropped points from a winning position, no matter what manager Wolves have had, losing or drawing in the final minutes is something that still haunts the team. Frustrating as it was, Coventry probably deserved the point, the away fans went wild, full credit to the sold out away crowd, the most seen at the Molineux this season. Despite all their troubles off the pitch this season, it is heartening to see so many Coventry fans turning out to support their team.
The game ended eight minutes later after no real, last gasp chances. Four shots on target in the whole game from both teams, it was not the best game Wolves have, or will watch this season, but it was another solid defensive performance from a back four that have not been given the credit they deserve for such stern defensive performance. It is only a matter of time before the midfield and the forwards click, once this has happened, Wolves will be looking to catch up on Orient and Peterborough, promotions, titles and cups are won on a strong defensive foundation, without that, teams will drop away no matter how many goals they score.
It is hard to get too disappointed at a loss and too overjoyed when Wolves win, a quarter of the season has gone, there is still a lot of games left to play and fans need to know this. Football is a long-term thing that does not happen every weekend and in the grand scheme of this season, and next season, a point at home against a team who are effectively 5th (if you add the ten points they were deducted they would be up there) is not an awful result.
Oldham on Tuesday at home is another great opportunity for Wolves to get all three points once again. Four points from those two games will be an acceptable level of return, especially with winnable games against Stevenage and Carlisle. If Wolves keep plugging away, soon enough, The O’s and The Posh will be looking over the shoulder to see a Wanderers side nipping at their coat tails.