Match Report: Wolves 2-0 Watford
By Kevin Affleck
How quickly times change.
We left Molineux in autumn last season with a real bounce and spring in our step after pulling off a stunning 2-0 win. Gone in 58 seconds, it was dubbed after two fine goals in quick succession. Now, after two unanswered goals at the other end in 61 minutes, the prevailing mood is very different and a job of a very different kind is on the agenda. The game against Sheffield United on Saturday just took on even more significance.
You couldn't say the team played terribly here. There were some promising moments, particularly at the start of each half, and Danny Welbeck was excellent on his first Premier League start for the club. Enjoying nearly two thirds of possession did not speak of a side being outplayed or outclassed. There just appears to be a general lack confidence, brought about by a winless start, and this looks like a team still very much getting to grips with what a new Head Coach is asking of them. A win of any sort in the league is badly needed to restore some belief, put some smiles on faces and kickstart this hitherto mis-firing campaign. The talent is certainly there.
A bit of luck wouldn't go amiss, although you make your own in this game and indeed life. A second-half fightback was very much on the cards, following the introduction of the bright Roberto Pereyra, but any hopes of a comeback went out of the window when Daryl Janmaat inadvertently headed a cross into his own net on 61 minutes. He didn't mean to – he was trying to avert the danger – but it was just a sign of the way things are going right now that he managed to beat his own ‘keeper when he didn't even mean to. It just about summed things up.
There was an early sign the Hornets might play on the front foot when Welbeck tried his luck from distance. The shot drifted well wide, but the intent was there. There was further cause for encouragement when Janmaat skipped down the right and floated over a cross that was just fractionally too high for Welbeck, arriving at pace into the box. But that bright start didn't act as a launchpad for anything sustained or rhythmical. It was all a bit stop-start and a bit bitty. Nothing really flowed like it did here last season. Even a cross-field howitzer from Étienne Capoue didn't quite reach Janmaat.
Wolves were not particularly cohesive either. Raúl Jiménez rattled one into the side-netting and Pedro Neto hared alarmingly clear on the counter from a Hornets’ corner, but there wasn't too much to be worried about. It was therefore a big shame the solid early defensive play, typified by Gerard Deulofeu doing some dirty work on fellow Barcelona graduate Adam Traoré in the left-back area, was undone on 18 minutes. What will be galling to Quique Sánchez Flores will be the ease with which the team was opened up down the left and how both Wolves full-backs were so heavily involved, Jonny supplying the pass for Neto to cross for Matt Doherty, up from right-back, at the far post. Ben Foster was furious at the concession of the goal.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Sánchez Flores made a tactical tweak and asked Ismaïla Sarr to play through the middle and Tom Cleverley to shift over to a more right-sided role. The Head Coach certainly couldn't complain about the retention of the ball – they enjoyed 59 per cent in the first period – but the fact it failed to result in a single shot on target told you plenty about where the possession took place and how well organised Wolves were at the back.
The nearest the visitors came was when Welbeck nipped round Connor Coady and forced Jonny to make a very good block just before the break. Seeking a route back into the game and possession of the ball higher up the pitch, Sánchez Flores was decisive at the break and brought on Roberto Pereyra, the best carrier of the ball in the squad.
The Argentine was immediately at it, winning a free-kick down the left-hand side, helping to win a first corner of the half and then standing up a cross that José Holebas nodded down at goal, forcing Rui Patricio to make his first save of the game. Cleverley and Patricio were then involved in a scramble for the rebound. This was more like it.
That flicker of hope, though, was extinguished when a header from Morgan Gibbs-White just past the hour was headed past Foster by Janmaat. It was a crushing blow and despite a fair bit of huffing and puffing, that was things pretty much done and dusted.
Welbeck kept going right to the end and tracked back superbly to dispossess Traoré. He deserved a goal and almost got it when Andre Gray teed him up with his first touch, but Patricio made a smart save low to his left. It was just one of those days when nothing was going to go in. The promising sign was that this defeat seemed to hurt like heck. Craig Cathcart stood with his hands on his hips at full-time, seemingly unable to fathom how the team finds itself in this position while José Holebas had to be helped to his feet at full-time by his Head Coach. Things, however slowly, will get better. Surely.
HORNETS: Foster; Janmaat, Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas, Capoue (C), Doucouré, Cleverley; Deulofeu (Pereyra h-t), Sarr (Gray 71), Welbeck.
Subs not used: Gomes, Quina, Kabasele, Femenía, Chalobah.