Brendan King reports from a dispirited Molineux.
Once again Wolves flattered to deceive. What does Mick McCarthy say to his players at half-time? Once again a team of decent footballers clad in gold and black, put on a competent performance to hold a top team of expensive footballers to 0-0. Wolves created two great chances they should have slotted in whilst Hennessey made two fine saves to keep the score evens at half-time.
Okay, so Liverpool were the better team and had most possession in that very average first half. But the Wolves players had matched the Reds and acquitted themselves well. Frimpong was looking lively in the middle and Kightly was running past defenders, providing good crosses from the right as in the previous first half against the Villa.
But as in that previous home match (and many others before) Wolves came out in the second half as a different, falling apart, team, thanks to the uninspirational dressing room invective from ‘Magic Mick.’
I had a non-Wolves companion with me on this fine, cold, Tuesday winter evening (just made for great floodlight football) and he pointed out how obviously disunited were the Wolves back-line. It takes a fresh eye to notice these things. He was right, our captain Roger Johnstone was being admonished by his team mates (Hennessey and Berra in particular) for any mistake and not given any encouragement for saving tackles.
The truth is, that Hennesey was as guilty as his backline for the three soft goals we gifted Liverpool in that disastrous second half. Hennessey, who’s received plaudits this season for outstanding saves, revealed his true strengths and weaknesses in the half. He’s a big tall feller, great at tipping high balls over and stopping shots at mid-height. But he can’t get down to low shots at near corners of the net where the three easy goals from Liverpool were scored. But the Shropshire lad (he’s not Welsh as the TV commentators keep saying, although he plays for Wales – he’s from Shrewsbury) had reason to complain at Johnstone and co for letting top class attackers such as Bellamy and Carrol run through the defence without a single challenge. There’s backing off (legitimate) and there’s standing aside, abjectly letting the opponents run all over you. This is what happened to Wolves in that horrible second half.
Wolves’ useless defensive strategy of dropping deep and backing off, together with a midfield that only passes sideways and backwards, cannot just be down to the team. They do (as my neutral friend pointed out) demonstrate flashes of top-class football, but they just flatter to deceive and the negative, defensive style has to be blamed on the coaching staff – all of whom need to be got rid of in the close season if not before. McCarthy’s era has well and truly come to an end after his four years at Wolves following these recent prolonged woeful, winless, performances. Enough’s enough is the concensus cry from virtually all fed-up Wolves fans.
My neutral friend eulogised that, after all, Liverpool are a hugely more expensive (bigger) team than Wolves and, “objectively” we weren’t expected to do anything but lose to them. I had to point out to him that he was about the only one in Molineux that evening able to be objective. Wolves fans were far from objective – they were bitterly disappointed as it’s now obvious that we are for the drop and an era has ended at the Molineux.
Our only ‘objective’ now is to endure the final throws of this woeful season and prepare for the second division with a new management and coaching team – and a new squad of players as our best leave us for pastures greener.