Dances with Wolves… Badly – Match Report

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Latics 0-1 Wolves
Tuesday 18th August 2009

It’s hard to comment on a performance like this one without ending up sounding like a right old whinger “Oooh, they bullied us, but… But…”, “The referee was terrible”, “sob, we were tired”.  You’ve heard it all before, in fact I’ll guarantee that you’ve been there.

The short and the long of this game is that, like at Villa, Latics were slow out of the blocks.  Unlike at Villa, the other team scored and although they eventually grew into the game, Wolves’ goal allowed them to employ tactics that meant the dominance Latics enjoyed on Saturday never fully materialised.

Don’t think that I’m complaining about McCarthy’s game plan, this was a master class in playing against a team that are going to try to play ‘pretty’ football against you.  Work hard, keep in their faces, and break the flow of the game up.  It’s not always pretty watching, but hey, it works.

Especially when you’re helped along by a referee and assistants who were quite clearly not up to the job.  Every time they were asked to make a decision, they took the easy option; they stopped the game whenever they could and generally spoiled it for everyone. 

Within the first five minutes there was a chance to stamp his authority with a booking as Rodallega was deliberately pulled back from running onto a through ball.  But there could have been awkward questions about the colour of the card, so no, a free kick only, and the pattern of the game was set.

Even as early as it came, the goal looked inevitable Latics were struggling to make a pass and Wolves were tearing right through them.  To say that the defence looked shaky was an understatement.  They’d already had warning of the danger from set pieces but failed to heed it as horrible defending saw Keogh rise and put the ball out of Kirkland’s reach.

From that point the game became about whether Latics were able to break down a resolute and energetic away team.  the answer was a resounding ‘close but no cigar’ as Latics struggled to get any real fluency to their play and spent the majority of the game running down dark alleys and into brick walls.

In the end, Latics created enough to get something out of the game, but the bigger question is whether they deserved to.  I think that if we’d have snatched a draw late on we’d have been let off the hook, but an earlier equaliser would have changed things massively. 

The final word has to go to give Wolves credit; they came with a game plan and stuck to it.  They showed that they could mix it but also that they could play football when asked to.  Their energy and commitment reminded me of another promoted side from four years ago, and we’re still around so they’ve every chance.

Talking point
From fantastic to flops in four days, have the   wheels come off Roberto Martinez’s total football bandwagon already? 

In short, no, just as victory at Villa didn’t mean we would win the league, defeat in this one won’t see us relegated.  It does indicate that we might be in for a fair old roller coaster ride this winter.  There are clearly things that need to be worked on and areas that need strengthening.  The absence of Cattermole, as a leader if nothing else, was stark and if he didn’t already, I think that Bobby now knows where he needs to focus his efforts in the next 10 days.

It’s hard to give too much credit to anyone in a Latics shirt, Gomez, Rodallega, N’Zogbia and Thomas being the one’s escaping with least criticism.  The hero on the day has to be a Wolves player and probably Andy Keogh, not just for the goal, but for the trouble has caused all evening.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this before (yeah right) but I’ve never warmed to Paul Scharner and it’s increasingly getting to the stage where the day I see him in another team’s shirt will be a year too late.  On the night Scharner might not have been our worst player (I said might) but his performance was so typical of the man, full of bad position, terrible decisions and “look at me I’m Franz Beckenbauer” wondering offs, that it makes his comments earlier in the week even more laughable.

Stop Press
Hopefully, United’s defeat to Burnley on Wednesday put Latics’ game into a bit of perspective.  It also throws a great deal of focus on Saturday’s game between the two sides.  I guess we should be fearing their backlash more than they fear ours, but it will be interesting to see how a game between two sides clearly coming to terms with a new look and new personality, almost, pans out.

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