This really was a feast for the senses, if not for the soul. Everyone expected a tough game against Wolves, a team that have been in fine form for most of the season, full of quality players & led by one of the best managers outside the Premier League. And we absolutely blew them away. This was a victory comparable to the ones over Forest & Brighton (in the play offs) last season. And, as everone has been pointing out, it was a statement of intent to the rest of the Championship, make no mistake.
The minute’s silence before the game was immaculately observed, as you’d expect & the East Stand poppy display was a nice touch. It was also very satisfying to see the memorial unveiled to the six Rams players who died in the Great War.
The team was the same as against Huddersfield, aside from Dawkins coming in for Ibe (a sensible bit of rotation I think). Otherwise, it was nice to see Mascarell being given another chance to cement his place in midfield & Shotton a chance to redeem a poor defensive performance on Tuesday. A settled side, especially at centre half & in midfield, has got to be the way forward, surely? Maybe McClaren will reflect after this game that he’s has finally found his best 11.
There was something different about this performance, you could see that right from the start. Yes, we had the same quality going forward, the slick passing & the skill but we also had the old tempo back, the pressing, the harrying. Nowhere was this more obvious than with Mascarell, most people’s man of the match. Yes, he can pass but we weren’t really sure if he could break things up, like all players in that position have to be capable of. But, there he was, nipping at the much vaunted Wolves midfield to good effect all game. That 360 degree “Marseille turn” he did in the second half was pretty good too.
And his set pieces.. Wow. I said in my Fulham post that the free kick that led to the penalty was the best I’ve seen in two years. He stepped it another level entirely here, the free kick that led to Shotton’s goal, after 16th minutes, was fired in with so much pace & accuracy, no one in the Wolves’ defence could cope with it. His corners were of a similar quality & troubled Wolves all game, a far cry from our past ineptitude. They made a big difference & gave us another attacking option. Long may that continue.
Wolves missed an easy chance to equalise shortly after Shotton’s goal, after good work by supposed danger man Sako & Sam Ricketts resulted in Saville blazing over when he should have scored. That was it for them in the first half, they didn’t know how to cope with us, they were like rabbits caught in the headlights. That miss proved to be a pivotal moment as Jeff put us two up minutes later, whacking in a shot from outside the area, after a chested lay off from Dancer. A few minutes before half time & we were three nil up, after some frankly pathetic Wolves defending allowed Russell to run unchallenged into the area & scuff in a shot. That originated from Wolves’ difficulties in handling a Mascarell corner by the way..
3-0 at half time, would you believe it? This scoring in the first half business is becoming a habit. Would we let our foot off the gas in the second half? No. We carried on with the same tempo & added a fourth on 54 minutes from Hendrick. A sublime move, started off by that man Mascarell again winning the ball (a lá Eustace?) & then some neat interchanges between Hughes & Martin.
Two goals for Jeff then & good performance from him. He drove forward dangerously all game, much like he did at the end of last season & much like Bryson should have been doing this season (but hasn’t).
Russell nonchalantly knocked in the fifth, after a great cross by Fozzy (who had one his best games of the season, both defensively & when going forward). Russell’s somersault goal celebration was ecstatic. We didn’t quite manage any somersaults but there was plenty of fist pumping & man hugs in the South West Corner after that one. What a player Russell’s been recently. Fully deserving of his Scotland call up too.
It could have been six right near the end but Christie, who put in a good performance, demonstrated he needs to work on his shooting (as well as his crossing) blazing over from a good position.
Got to mention the crowd. 30,000+ for a early televised kick off is not a bad turnout. There was a fantastic atmosphere too, helped by the 2,000 Wolves fans who were in good voice (& humour throughout) & mostly stayed in the ground until the death.
So there you have it, the performance we’ve been waiting for all season. I’ve been a bit uncomfortable with other fans saying “We’re top & we haven’t even hit our best form yet”, as it never should have been assumed that we were going to eventually going to return to the Thorne inspired form of the end of last season. However, we’ve demonstrated what we’re capable of now. If we carry on playing like that, we have absolutely no one to fear in this division. Roll on Watford..