Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Where We Are

The drama of last Sunday’s heart-attack of a match against Sheffield United has finally died down. The realisation has dawned that for the third time this season Coventry have won two games on the bounce and are presented with a chance on Saturday to win 3 in a row, something that Coventry haven’t managed since Chris Coleman was in charge. The opposition that stand in the way of the Sky Blues completing this milestone are none other than Wolverhampton Wanderers, the biggest and richest club in the division and who currently sit comfortable in 3rd.

Sunday’s game saw the return of Carl Baker to the starting line-up and his performances appears to have asserted his starting position, particularly with Billy Daniels in need of surgery on his hernia. Aside from the continued absence of arguably our best player, Cyrus Christie, the main selection dilmena is in that right-back position. On the one hand Jordan Willis looked solid defensively, supported the attack adequately and has a decent amount of experience as a first-team footballer. On the other hand Aaron Phillips’s cameo against Sheffield United was impressive, not only did he make a series of great tackles, seconds after coming on, but he also showed himself to be strong bringing the ball forward and causing his opposing winger some problems. I anticipate that Jordan Willis will continue at right-back due to Phillips’s lack of experience ahead of such a big game.

Aside from that there’s little else to mention except that Leon Clarke is facing the club which gave him his first shot at professional football, which will be nice for him.

Last Time We Met

The last time we played Wolves in the 2008/09 season with Wolves destined for the Premier League whilst we were destined for another underwhelming finish under Chris Coleman. Surprisingly Coventry won that encounter with Michael Doyle scoring a rare goal for Coventry as well as Leon McKenzie. The key event of that encounter was Keiren Westwood saving a penalty in injury time from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. At the time it struck a blow for then-Wolves manager Mick McCarthy as he looked to finally steer the side into the Premier League, but ultimately it made no difference.

How Are They Doing

As mentioned earlier, they lie third in the table but Kenny Jackett’s Wolves have a game in hand over second place Peterborough. Their season started slowly but has picked up momentum and they’ve won 5 out of the last 6 games in the league. Wolves fans though are slightly underwhelmed by the manner of their team’s performances so far, given the calibre of players at their disposal and Wolves came unstuck against a well-organised Walsall side in the league not long ago. Although their reputation is fearsome, this is not an infallible side and could perhaps be beaten by someone willing to be pro-active and take chances against them.

That being said, Wolves are now used to sides defending deeply against them and may be relieved to see a team play more openly and offer space to their attackers.

Their squad is both deep and very strong in most areas. Their defence is perhaps their weakest area and they’ve yet to really settle on a first choice back-four. Sam Ricketts and Matt Doherty, an in-form right-back, are expected to be fit for Saturday’s encounter and would solidify a shakey back 4.

Their midfield at the moment is also so good that they can afford to leave out Jamie O’Hara, although some fans are calling for his inclusion. Their main options are Kevin McDonald who is seemingly an indisputable option for them at the moment, he’ll either be partnered by the young Welsh midfielder Jack Price, who is enjoying a breakthrough season, or David Davis who has played in the Premier League for Wolves and is a more robust, physical option.

Out wide they have Bakary Sako available for selection, although he is someone who chooses his moments in games and has been accused of being disinterested in playing in League One. A danger man in midfield for them is James Henry, the ex-Millwall winger who has looked extremely good in the Championship and brought in due to Wolves’s financial might. Whenever I see him play he’s looked dangerous, skillfull and able to put in high quality crosses, his particular strengths should expose our defensive weaknesses.

Finally they have a number of strong options in attack. Their leading goalscorer is Leigh Griffiths, who won Scottish Player of the Year last season and is your traditional goal-poacher who only comes alive in the final third. They have Kevin Doyle who is almost the exact opposite kind of player to Griffiths. Also they have Bjorn Sigurdarson who has an underwhelming goal-scoring record but is someone who Wolves paid £2.4m for last year. Finally they could also turn to Jake Cassidy, who has been fairly poor in a Wolves shirt but was the key reason behind Tranmere’s strong form early last year and their collapse later on due to his departure, this could be the day where he comes to life.

Prediction

I believe that our chances of extending our winning streak to 3 are remote, remaining unbeaten will be a stretch. With Leyton Orient and Walsall next week, we’re entering our toughest run of fixtures so far this season. We’ve yet to beat a side in the top half of the division and away from home I don’t see that changing. We always seem to give team’s a good match, well Brentford excluded, but I worry that our defensive fragility will be cruelly exposed in this fixture.

I predict a score of 3-1 to Wolves.

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