Wolves didn’t show us anything new as they took care of Oldham last night. But then they didn’t have to writes Martin Swain.
Athletic were dispatched with a performance of efficiency topped off by decisive contributions from this team’s familiar match-winners, all of which is proving a powerful combination in League One.
It didn’t thrill or flow but it was more than enough to take care of business. And on a night which saw faltering steps from those above, Wolves were counting the added bonus of narrowing the daylight which separates them from Leyton Orient and Peterborough.
All highly satisfying, then, for Kenny Jackett and his players after a couple of difficult Molineux outings. A first-half injury to Matt Doherty, probably the team’s outstanding player of the season so far, was his only irritation as James Henry and Leigh Griffiths scored the second-half goals that rewarded Wolves’ growing domination.
That’s nine goals for Griffiths now but, perhaps more significantly in the development of this new team, a first for Henry to accompany a second successive man-of-the-match display.
Jackett’s third recruit of his tenure is beginning to flourish and benefitted last night in the freedom of a more expansive role across the front of the forward line.
But as Oldham manned the stations of a choking 4-5-1 to present Wolves with another challenging case of midfield claustrophobia, you can probably guess who came up with the unexpected to unlock the visitors’ resistance.
Returning to the stage where three days earlier Bakary Sako had given one of those fitful, erratic and fringe performances, the French winger once again showed why all the frustrations that come with the package can be worth it.
One sudden cross of surprising ferocity did for keeper Mark Oxley to pave the way for Henry’s all-important opener; an equally out-of-the-blue push-and-go, followed by a through ball, took out two defenders, Genseric Kusunga and Korey Smith, for the second from Griffiths.
It often seems Sako himself does not quite know what’s coming next, which makes it difficult for his team-mates to read and nigh impossible for the opposition to prepare. But when it comes it is frequently the difference.
Griffiths, Sako, the growing influence of Henry; these and the strength of a back-line fortified by a performance of increasing influence from young Jack Price are the cornerstones of a promotion challenge sustained by nine wins from the first dozen games.
The whisper is growing in League One circles that when injuries, suspensions and dips in form begin to take their toll on smaller squads during the winter, it is Wolves who will have the strength and depth to power on. It must be said that, without getting ahead of ourselves, there is nothing so far to suggest the whispers are wrong.
Oldham were unable to carry the challenge to Wolves as some of Molineux’s other visitors have managed this season but they frustrated the heck out of Jackett’s side for much of the opening half. A Danny Batth header from a Sako corner and a Henry shot tipped away by Oxley as added time began were the visitors’ only real discomforts as Molineux headed for an uneasy interval. Yet as the game stretched on a surface saturated by freakish first-half rain storms, then so Wolves found the extra gears that had been eluding them.
Henry thoroughly deserved his goal and it was no surprise to see him turn up in a position far removed from his wide right berth to claim it after Sako centered.
Oxley could only palm the ball out and straight into the path of Henry and Wolves had the breakthrough on 50 minutes. Sako’s torment of the Oldham right-back continued, twice in three minutes after the hour, to clinch the game for Wolves. Having gone outside him to tee up a cross which saw Henry head just over, the Frenchman defeated Kusunga again in the 65th minute this time from inside his own half.
Flicking the ball one way and running the other, he was clear to arc a through ball that Griffiths scented and Smith missed, while Jonathan Grounds slipped as he tried to clear.
The Scot kept cool, drew Oxley and survived David Mellor’s challenge to net off the inside of the post.
We have launched our new commenting system. To learn more, click here.