Wolves Fans' Verdict v Preston: Relief at scrappy win

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Our fans are relieved after Wolves survive a Preston fightback to claim another three points.

Clockwise from top left; Russ Cockburn, Russ Evers, Adam Virgo, Heather Large, Chris Hughes, Natalie Wood, Clive Smith and Rob Cartwright

Rob Cartwright

What's your verdict on the match? It’s all well and good performing in the recent mild weather, but can they do it in the rain and the wind of storm Brian? Well now we know...

Very amusing watching the national press and TV pundits slowly changing their opinions, one by one.

I was expecting an ‘after the Lord Mayor's Show’ type of game following the euphoria of last weekend. To an extent, that’s what we got for the first half hour. Preston set out like Cardiff pretenders - organised, determined and downright dirty. They came to do a job on Jota and stifle the midfield and that worked initially.

A strong referee will stamp this out during the initial sparing. Step forward Steve Martin. His third visit to Molineux this season and it’s fair to say he peaked at the Leicester pre-season friendly!

We weathered Preston’s own initial storm, Jota kept getting back up and going again. A measure of improvement since Cardiff, the whole team faced up to the battle. The pendulum swung in our favour for last 15 minutes of the first half and though fortunate to go in at 1-0 no one could deny that we kept trying to get the passing going and ultimately this brought us success.

The second half was a fantastic game of football. Goals, entertainment, drama, cards, a few scuffles and a ref who had completely lost control; even to the extent where a player walks off the pitch only to be called back so he could be shown the red card! Another first for me this season!

Wolves looked very comfortable at 3-0 and had a chance to bring some subs on for game time. Not quite so comfortable at 3-2, but it kept us on the edge of our seats.


A great result – much needed when the other results were confirmed.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? Batth and Coady were the pick of our defence. Doherty was excellent once more.

I thought Cavaleiro had a poor first half, to the extent I thought he would be replaced at half time (he duly scored within a minute of that thought).

Neves, Saiss, Jota and Bonatini were all up for the fight. Cavaleiro had an improved second half too. My man of the match is a close call between Neves and Bonatini. Bonatini edges it for his two goals, though his contribution goes far beyond the scoresheet.


Looking forward now to our ‘free hit’ at Manchester City. I trust Nuno to select a team to do us justice.

Heather Large

What's your verdict on the match? From 3-0 up to a nail-biting six minutes of injury time with us all fearful of a last-gasp equaliser from the visitors – it was far from the most comfortable of wins.

But it was a valuable three points and another example of how far Nuno's men have come this season, as well a good boost ahead of Tuesday night.

Wolves were definitely slow to get going in the first half, everyone's timing seemed a little off with many passes never quite meeting their intended targets.

Unlike against Villa last Saturday, we let Preston control the game from the start and then we struggled to build any momentum with the visitors continued to win the ball back in Wolves' half.

But I thought we were much better after the break, our passing improved with some exceptional work from Ruben Neves and Romain Saiss in particular, although at times we still gave the ball away far too much.

I thought we coped better with a more physical game than we did against Cardiff earlier in the season and we were not prepared to be bullied, especially Neves who fought back at Preston's attempts to kick him back to Portugal.

This was a feisty game, there is no doubting the passion amongst this Wolves side and in the end our determination won us the match.

And we're still top of the league.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? For me our star players were Neves, Saiss and Leo Bonatini.

I thought Neves and Saiss were excellent and coped better than others with finding a way to break free from the heavy marking from Preston.

As I said after the Villa game, Bonatini is looking better every time I see him play and it makes me wonder if we haven't seen everything he has to offer yet.

Chris Hughes

What's your verdict on the match? Two of the best defences in the division go head to head. It had goals written all over it, didn’t it?

Preston’s “10 grand” squad arrived at Molineux having conceded only eight goals in 12 games and you could see why.

For around 20 minutes they defended with a solid shape and restricted us mainly to ball-watching as they used the ball well and kept possession, with their Manchester United academy graduate Ben Pearson dictating play from the centre of the park. At this point I was a little worried about our chances of coming away from the game with anything.

Then, in a decision more questionable than a Bright SnapChat, Preston decided to turn into Cardiff and began trying to kick us off the park. This is where all of those pundits who actually get paid to share their thoughts on football (rather than freely giving them to the local paper) would no doubt have been preparing their “these foreign players just don’t have the stomach for a fight” statements ready to cut us down quicker than a PNE slide tackle.

Not yesterday though. Our fancy foreigners rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. That they had to do this was down to some very questionable refereeing, not for the first time at Molineux this season, from Steve Martin (not the actor - the ‘Villa fan’ from Penkridge).

Had he produced a card or two for some poor challenges not long after Preston’s change of tact then he may have retained some element of control of the game. As it was, the game eventually ended in a flurry of cards as Martin completely lost control of the game.

That the handful of cards he did dish out didn’t include one for Pearson was unbelievable. All credit to our bunch though, when N’Diaye was crudely taken out on the half-way line and a melee broke out around Saiss, they all pitched in for the battle and backed each other up.

While it would have been nice to see them keep cooler heads and see the game out it was encouraging to see them ready to fight for each other. That team spirit will serve us well through the rest of the season.

Performance wise this was more fight than finesse. Where last week we cut Villa to ribbons this week there were sloppy passes. Last week’s breeze was replaced by a battle. But we came out of both games with three points which is the most important thing. As they say, the best teams don’t always win pretty, they just win.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? With Douglas putting in his worst display since signing, coupled with a below par performance from Jota, we struggled to get a lot going down our left side. Fortunately Doherty was absolutely outstanding down the right. He’s taken to the wing-back role in this system like a duck to water and, had we signed him for £10m from some foreign climes this summer, he’d be praised to the heavens by the media for his performances this season. How he doesn’t get into the Ireland team is a total mystery.

For all of the criticism I’ve given him in the past, Danny Batth has improved massively under the tutelage of Nuno. While he will be disappointed to have let Hugill have a free run on him for Preston’s first goal his overall performance was solid again. His distribution has improved remarkably and he even charged out of defence in the second half to beat three players on a mazy run to the halfway line. Danny BeckenBatth is developing his skills well!

Ultimately we won this game thanks to the control we eventually exerted in the centre of the park where the Neves-Saiss partnership continues to be a fruitful one. Neves kept us ticking over throughout with his metronomic passing and Saiss fought like a terrier to regain possession repeatedly, while trying to take some of the shine off his midfield partner with a sumptuous chip over the top to pick out Jota in the build up to the third goal.

And finally a word for Leo Bonatini. Arriving from Saudi as a virtual unknown to many fans, who instinctively took to social media bemoaning “another striker who will struggle for 5+ goals”, he has proven to be a key component in Nuno’s system and game plan. His link up play is excellent and he’s now been involved in 11 goals this season with his seven goals and four assists. This is despite him not looking close to match fitness until around late September!

Natalie Wood

What's your verdict on the match? The match was the definition of a Championship game! Preston came with a very clear game plan, they were physical and hard working. One thing I noticed for the first half hour or so was every time we broke we would be hacked down but the Preston players seemed to take turns doing it – therefore no bookings.

If the ref had worked this out a bit earlier and put a stop to it all it may have been a different game. I think it was inevitable there was going to be a red card in the match – I'm just glad it went Preston’s way.

In the first half we just never really got going, lots of lazy passes and a lack of creativity overall. Then after an hour or so we were in complete control of the game at 3-0 up and it was crazy and slightly concerning how quickly it turned into chaos. I dread to think what the average heart rate was around the ground during the last 10minutes...but it wouldn’t be a Wolves game without the stress!

Ultimately it was another three points. Not every game is going to be a walk in the park and there is no doubt Preston will be right up there at the end of the season. It wasn’t a great performance by any means but the work rate right up to the final whistle was fantastic and hopefully there's a chance to correct some issues before an easy trip to Man City on Tuesday...

Who played well – and who didn't impress? Bonatini was again a key player for us. The way he coolly slotted home his penalty showed his confidence. Neves was also excellent. The man amazes me at times – even in the middle of a storm he still managed to compete 20 yard passes to perfection.

Our left side was our clear weakness, both Douglas and Miranda were awful. The way Barkhuizen slipped past them for their second goal was awful.

Russ Cockburn

What's your verdict on the match? After the highs of beating Villa last week, yesterday was always going to be a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’, like having a session of Lemon Dream or Bathams and then walking into the next boozer to be met with Carlsberg and Fosters.

Preston were in form, defensively sound and you knew they would be well marshalled by the underrated Alex Neil. They also came with a high intensity pressing game plan that worked perfectly to stifle a lot of our early play, with their midfield combo of Predator and Bilbo Baggins pulling the strings.

We were complacent and sloppy, with Miranda looking like he was still riding the cable car at Dudley Zoo and Douglas having his worst game in the gold and black shirt.

Like all teams laced with quality in the attacking third, we managed to put together one really good move near the end of the first half, which led to Cav eventually getting the ball over the line. Relief all around Molineux.

Nuno used the half time interval to do what Nuno does best...gauge what was happening in the game and to come up with the answer.

On this occasion, it was to play fire with fire and Wolves started to match Preston’s pressing game and this led to a brilliant first 20 twenty minutes.

Our passing was sharper, the ball was sticking up top and Jota was coming into the game more. Neves and Doherty were creating their own ‘Far Right’ party, with the Portuguese maestro sweeping some delightful passes to our swash-buckling right-back (more on him later).

This led to the penalty and then – with Molineux bouncing – we delivered a third goal that should have seen us comfortably over the line. However, the party atmosphere in the stands transmitted itself to the players and we took our foot off the gas, which nearly cost us two points.

The last 10 minutes were as tense as I can remember and I don’t think the subs helped us. Bright is unpredictable and that’s great when you need to find a way back into the game or to unlock defences; however, it can also cause chaos when he continually makes the wrong decision or overruns the ball. If he had a brain he’d be dangerous.

Three points are three points and the sign of champions is when you can win when not playing well. PNE are no mugs and have only conceded eight goals before yesterday…to score three when not at our best should send shivers through the rest of the division.

Nuno, Nuno, Nuno, he’s taking us to the Premier…

Who played well – and who didn't impress? I continue to be amazed by Doherty. The guy is probably the best full-back in the Championship, with his unbelievable energy, strength in the tackle and his creativity going forward - crucial to the way we play.

He’s like the Gaelic version of Cafu and Carlos rolled into one…I might even be persuaded to ask Santa for a pair of black gloves with MD embroidered on them.

The old guard are certainly having a big say on our promotion prospects with Coady and Batth both impressing. The latter’s vegan diet is doing him the world of good. Who would have thought a falafel and some soya milk was all that was needed to stop him kicking the ball out of play?

Bonatini is fast becoming a cult hero. The Brazilian has been involved in 11 goals so far and his hold-up play is the perfect foil for Jota, Cav and Costa running off him. Without doubt the best thing to come out of Saudi since oil.

Finally, it would be hard to write a match report without mentioning our mate from Penkridge. Steve Martin – or Sted Head as Darb calls him – managed to outdo his earlier Molineux appearance with an even more calamitous display.

He failed to book Preston players early on, was inconsistent with most of his decisions and lost complete control near the end. Browne’s 'now you see me, now you don’t' routine capped off a performance that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Pink Panther, The Jerk and The Three Amigos!

Clive Smith

What's your verdict on the match? Well, I enjoyed that...the final whistle I mean. Most of the 98 minutes before that were sadly pretty ugly.

I thought there was a drum in the North Bank but realised it was my heart pounding in the last 15 minutes. We pulled through though, but what a contrast to a week ago. Everything we were so good at against Villa...we were not so good against PNE.

For the first20 minutes we were second best, losing headers, 50-50 balls and playing more poor passes than in any game this season. PNE did not help, nor did the ref. Jota and Doherty got hammered, a couple of tackles were led by an elbow, while a pull back on the neck were all deemed not worthy of a card by the ref.

Eight PNE fouls in the first half and nine in the second meant we rarely managed to get any passing momentum. Doherty was released three times early on but failed to find a man in the box. That aside we had little of the ball in their half. His possession did play a key role in the opening goal before the break and then winning the pen for the second.

We probably did not deserve to lead at half time and then 3-0 did flatter us, but to be fighting tooth and (chewed) nail at the end also felt harsh and should have not been necessary.

PNE were full of the dark arts. They were in the ref's ear the whole game, pulling and blocking us frequently and after 35 minutes when they looked to have briefly run out of steam had a man go down and gained two minute's rest. They closed us down effectively and forced us into making mistakes in a way we have done to many of our opponents.

In the air they were good and they passed the ball around, although more sideways and back to the keeper than we do. The keeper looked an accident waiting to happen, cocky on the ball and spending far to much time thinking he was an old fashioned sweeper.

Another win, this one ground out from an average performance against a team on form, which bodes well. It suggests we have learnt from the Cardiff game because we remained patient in our play and did not get riled by the physical side or the ref's interpretation of some challenges.

I must say our substitutions surprised me. It was 3-1 and the momentum had swung as PNE were forced to attack and we were on the back foot. Costa and Enobakhare were hardly going to get goal side and put a defensive foot in.

N'Diaye and Marshall would have been my choices. When N'Diaye did come on later it looked to be further forward than expected.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? Ruddy made one excellent save at 0-0 and could not be faulted on the goals.

Miranda lost the ball dangerously and we were lucky not to go 0-1 from it. Besides that he played well in a difficult game where he was exposed one on one too often. He cleared the ball calmly when needed.

Likewise Batth and Coady made an error or two but also threw themselves into challenges and blocked shots at the Alamo late on. Had Coady gone to the man with the ball he would not have be in the way of the cross for the OG.

Douglas made a telling contribution for the first goal but was well below par for most of the game. His passing and tackling was poor and he was not getting goal side as often as he should have.

Doherty seemed to be the go-to guy for most of our attacks. He IS going to shoot and score sometime this season, isn't he? He too was there at the Alamo when we needed to defend deeply. Man of the match.

Saiss and Neves had little time to dwell on the ball. They both put in a huge shift on and off the ball. Saiss in particular did well trying to retrieve the ball. Neves looked tired before the end.

Jota always looked a threat on the ball but in the first half he saw very little of it. As against Villa, his blocked shot was neatly controlled (!) by Bonatini to create a goal.

Cavaliero didn't look as dangerous or as strong on the ball as usual. He kept their defence honest but was crowded out easily.

Bonatini made me nervous with his slow motion penalty but he again proved he could lead the line well. We certainly looked weaker after he was subbed. After Doherty he was our best player.

It was not a Costa sort of game but his fresh legs should have given us an outlet on the break. He didn't quite get up to the speed of the game and we needed him goalside.

Enobakhare continues to be the most frustrating Wolves player. Given 20 minutes as the game was open and stretched, he twice failed to pass the ball which could have provided the killer goal.

N'Diaye provided a long leg that provoked the red card but was playing too advanced for my liking.

Russ Evers (Hatherton Wolves)

What's your verdict on the match? Fair play to both teams for putting on such an exciting show despite the difficulties of a swirling wing for the full 90 minutes.

If anything this game showed how much we have grown up in just three months. Preston were similar to Cardiff and Sheffield United but this time we stood firm and refused to be bullied.

Preston were as good as we have played and Hugill showed why we coveted him in the summer. But despite not playing well we found ourselves three up with all three goals coming in a 20-minute spell either side of the break, coinciding with our best footballing spell of the game.

In the end we needed to stand firm to gain the all important win.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? Douglas had a bit of a nightmare in complete contrast to Doherty who defended well and always seemed to be involved in our best attacking moves.

Adam Virgo

What's your verdict on the match? Wolves always find a way to make everything harder than it should be but I’m very pleased with the three points, as usual. We were a bit lucky to be 3-0 up but in that position you can’t relax or switch off, which we did a little bit. Preston made it difficult for us but we coped a far lot better than we did when Cardiff did something similar.

The ref lost control of the game very quickly in the first half and by half time Preston had made eight fouls. None of them were deemed bad enough to warrant a yellow card according to Steve Martin. I think he must have been as salty as Steve Bruce was after last week. He allowed Preston to pull us down on the counter, snap at our players and just constantly giving a free kick without a booking for those type of fouls is “getting away with it” as they say.

It was no surprise that the players were going at each other in the end because the ref had no control whatsoever. It was a shame N’Diaye didn’t grab the ref by his throat as well as Ben Pearson at the end, because they both deserved it. According to fans of other clubs though, foreigners don’t care or have any passion.

I thought first half we weren’t great, Preston should have scored but Daniel Johnson aka Snoop Dogg must have had his hair in his eyes when he took the shot. Our goal was a bit scrappy but it was a great pick out from Douglas considering he didn’t have much time to react and great to see Cavaleiro back on the scoresheet again.

Second half up until we went 3-0 up we were better, probably didn’t warrant the three goal lead but we took our chances, something we haven’t always done in the past few seasons. The last 15 minutes of the game were very nervy, we sat back and accepted pressure which doesn’t always work. We got away with it a little yesterday and I feel as though taking off Jota for N’Diaye just accepted even more pressure but we won the game and we move onto the next one.

Who played well – and who didn't impress? Leo Bonatini was superb once again. His hold up play, first touch and knowledge of who’s around him is unreal at times. Seven goals for him already with four assists too, he suits our system to the tee. Granted his first yesterday was a penalty and his second just hit his chest and went in, but you still have to score the penalty and he was in the right place at the right time for his second, something we haven’t had with a striker for a while.

Doherty had a very good game. Going forward he caused Preston a lot of problems by bursting into the box or down the wing. He won the penalty for the second goal and Douglas got the assist for our first goal so it shows that our wing backs play an essential part in our formation. It helps having Neves and Saiss in midfield too who can both pass the ball successfully from any distance so they’re able to find the wing backs a lot of the time.

I wouldn’t necessarily say we were bad defensively, I know we conceded two but the first was a very good cross and header. The second was a bit unlucky on Coady’s behalf but we should have dealt with the ball over the top a bit better and quicker, it seemed like we reacted to it a bit late. We stayed strong at the end with some great last ditch blocks and headers away. I thought Ruddy did a great job. He claimed a lot of balls that went into the box, he also made a smart save in the first half, the goals he conceded he couldn’t exactly do much about.

Jota didn’t have his best game but it goes to show how good we are as a team when he doesn’t play near his best and we still score three goals. He can’t play out of his skin every week and when he or someone else has an off day then other people in the team have to step up which they did.

Roll on Man City away on Tuesday. Both teams top of their respective leagues, both sides will want to play good football so it’s destined for a scrappy 0-0 with extra time and penalties. In all seriousness it should be a great game to watch and it’ll be a great test for us to see how we compare to them as a footballing side. I think we’ll be a tougher test than some Premier League sides they’ll face this season.


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