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The Academy: Wolves 5 – 2 MUFC

The less said about today’s result the better. I’m not suggesting we should be dismayed or in any way embarrassed – far from it, Wolves looked a competent side with some talented lads. What I mean is, the 5-2 scoreline masks what was actually a closely contested game played at a high tempo and in the right spirit. Unfortunately for United they were missing key players and their defence continues to make individual mistakes and then struggle to rectify them as a unit.

United took the lead after 10 minutes through Joe Rothwell. Possibly inspired by his effort against Blackburn making it into MUTV’s ‘Goal of the Month’ competition, Joe found himself just enough space on the edge of the box to float a delightful effort curling into the top left hand corner. There was very little backlift and very little space to work with but the second it left his boot you could see it was destined for the back of the net.

The goal capped a positive start for United after Paul McGuiness was forced to drastically alter his plans with the loss of three key players to injuries. Luke McCullough’s eye injury sustained in the Derby last week hadn’t healed sufficiently enough to start and Tom Lawrence was again unavailable this time with a groin strain. I haven’t a clue what’s happened to Gyliano van Velzen but hopefully none of the injuries will keep them out for too long.

Wolves were content to let United have the ball but press them into mistakes, each time they regained possession they were keen run at United’s defence and get crosses in.

The equaliser came on 27 minutes after a few minutes of sustained pressure from Wolves had United’s defence in chaos. United had the chance to clear a freekick but, like weeks gone by, they failed to properly clear their lines and were slow to move out. A shot from outside the box was drilled in low only to be parried by Joe Coll. It looked like a certain goal when the Wolves striker bared down on the rebound but he blasted it against the bar and the following rebound was hit wide by another Wolves player. Somehow United were still ahead, but only just.

Seconds later, United escaped again when some more slack marking led to Wolves hitting the post (sorry for the lack of players names for Wolves btw but they didn’t provide any teamsheets). The writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before United were undone.

True enough, the goal came seconds later in much the same fashion as the previous chances had been carved out. Wolves were allowed to get a cross in from their left and two players were left in the centre of the box on the 6 yard line seemingly unmarked. Both players had a touch and Joe Coll was beaten. To be honest, from where I was it looked like a suspicion of offside, it looked impossible not to be, but without highlights to refer to it’s hard to know for sure. No flag was raised and the goal stood.

United were under heavy pressure now but still Wolves were happy to concede possession to United and let them make mistakes, sadly, predictably, that’s exactly what they did.

1-1 at half-time was a fair reflection on the game so I took a mooch into the Academy for a drink and a bite to eat…….BIG MISTAKE! They were serving tea, coffee and soup. I chose the soup and I’m still regretting it now, 10 hours later! If you’ve ever tasted cattle shite you’re probably somewhere near knowing what it was like ….. I imagine!

Anyway, the second half began quietly with United again trying to play their football and creating the odd half chance with some neat play from Pearson, Rothwell and debutant Adnan Januzaj, the latter looking a very decent prospect with the ability to pick a pass and slide passes in behind defences. He’s not the only one with that ability. Tom Lawrence, Joe Rothwell and Ben Pearson all can and like to pick these passes. Jack Barmby showed today that he can also pick the clever pass and split a defence. Put those five players in the same team and the intricate passing we’re trying to achieve would stand every chance of succeeding, that makes the obvious need for a more positionally aware striker all the more evident.

I think it’s unfair for me to suggest Sam Byrne isn’t a good player, to be honest I just haven’t seen anything from him yet. Yes he puts the effort in but he’s there to score goals and by my reckoning he had one shot today (off target) and I can’t recall too many he’s had in other games. Can we blame the service? I’m not sure, there were many occasions today when United got in behind with a chance to pull the ball back from the byline for a simple tap-in, but each time the one man who I think should be there screaming for it is the striker and he was nowhere to be seen. That’s why I simply suggest it’s his positioning that’s lacking because I don’t have the evidence to assess his technique. If he was in the right place I’m sure he’d get the service from the gifted lads he’s got behind him.

In my preview I suggested removing Byrne and playing without a striker, after watching Januzaj I’m more convinced it’s the way forward with the personnel at the managers disposal.

Predictably it was defensive lapses that led to Wolves taking the lead on 56 minutes when they were allowed the freedom to run with the ball straight into the heart of the defence and, clearly through on goal, Charni Ekangamene, stand-in leftback for the day, had little choice but to make a last ditch tackle just 10 yards out. The tackle was rash but he had no choice, clearly a foul the penalty was awarded and emphatically put away by (I think) Zeli Ismail.

Barmby had a great chance to level the game at two-a-piece a few minutes later when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper from a tight angle on the left but he skewed his shot wide of the far post. Had he known he had more time to set up for a shot on his right foot I think he would’ve opted to do that, the chance was begging to be bent in the far corner.

Barmy came alive in the second half. The first half he’d been quiet, not seen much of the ball and when he did he was often showing too much of it to the defender who took it away from him, a problem he needs to address because it’s an all too familiar habit. But, to his credit he persisted with running at the defenders and got some rewards, hopefully he’ll build on that.

Two goals in the space of a few minutes around the 70 minute mark killed United off and the game as a contest was gone.

Both goals similar in origin, an attack down our right side, Luke Hendrie unable to prevent the cross and Wolves getting on the end of it to find the net. They were that simple, enough said. Credit to the scorer of the third goal though, a remarkable header to turn a brilliant cross to the far post in.

Barmby drilled a penalty in to pull a goal back with 5 minutes to go after Januzaj was brought down in the box. Unlike Wolves’ penalty this one had a hint of ‘was it / wasn’t it?’ about it. I think Adnan had been fouled a couple of times on his was to goal and could’ve ‘earned’ a penalty but when the final tackle came in I think it was a good one but the referee balanced it out and pointed to the spot.

The match was summed up for me in the final moments of the match. Tyler Blackett, who was again playing out of position at centre back due to the absence of McCullough, won the ball brilliantly and ran the ball into Wolves’ half. He continued his run and the ball came for Ben Pearson in the centre circle who came under pressure and, to the managers disgust (he put his shaking head in his hands), he played a simple ball to Declan Dalley but gave it straight to Wolves. United managed to fend off the subsequent attack while Blackett was trying to get back but seconds later, before United could regain their shape, Wolves struck again to make the score 5-2 and that’s how it ended.

That last goal is a perfect example of what’s happening at the minute, simple, needless errors are putting this side under unnecessary pressure and players playing out of position doesn’t help matters but it is providing them with experience. Charni had a fairly decent game at leftback I thought. Tyler gets attracted to the ball too often and causes the defence to get completely out of shape. Hendrie’s getting better at rightback but he had a mare in the second half, maybe the manager will explore other options there but who knows.

Anyway, I’ve reserved the last few words for a man who thought the day was all about him and not the football……the referee.

In the very first minute I heard him threaten to send Joe Rothwell off for saying something out of turn, it’s a bit unusual that early in a game… was a sign of things to come. He barked his orders at players for pinching inches on throw-ins, he booked 4 players for Wolves and Ben Pearson for United but unfathomably shrugged his shoulders at the two worst tackles of the game, he even stopped play after a United freekick just to allow a substitution. Bizarrely, he restarted the game with a drop ball which Wolves gave back to United. The bloke was making his own rules up by now! Even the normally quiet Paul McGuiness was irritated enough to signal his displeasure at the referee’s oddball manner “let the f**king game play man!”. Hopefully that’s the last we see of him this season.

That and the soup aside, the game had some positives and just reaffirmed the defensive frailties that need to be improved upon. We move on to Liverpool away next Friday in a midday kickoff. Regular tweets as usual from @Rimmerstweets or @Ian_Red_Rants on Twitter.

As usual your thoughts, opinions and feedback good or bad are more than welcome.


Team: Coll / Ekangamene, Blackett, Dalley, Hendrie / Rothwell, Daehli, Pearson, Januzaj, Barmby / Byrne
Subs: (None Used) Jacob, Gorre, McNair, Love, Rudge.