For all the impressive play Wolverhampton have put forth against Big Six sides and climbing to seventh in the Premier League table after promotion, it has been their play against the bottom-feeders that has prevented them from potentially accomplishing so much more.
After a maddening last-minute loss, Wolverhampton look to regroup at Molineux on Saturday when they host relegation-threatened Cardiff City.
Wolverhampton (11-7-10) are all but mathematically assured of a second season in the top flight, having reached the 40-point mark that usually provides safety from the drop. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team also have performed admirably against the Big Six sides following their advancement from the Championship with nine points in eight matches (2-3-3), but where it has gone sideways is against the bottom five.
The Wolves are 1-1-4 against teams currently in the bottom five of the table following a 1-0 defeat at last-place Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. Wolverhampton conceded in the 91st minute, capping a dour performance that saw them place no shots on target for the second time this season and allowing the Terriers to do an unlikely double that has accounted for two of their three victories.
“We are very cautious that what happened tonight cannot happen again, we have to improve. There are many reasons and our job is to look for solutions for the next one,” Nuno said to Wolves’ official website. “Consistency in football is very difficult. We have to try to the end. We came from a good run, tonight was not the best performance that we can have, but we have to bounce back Saturday.
“Every day is a challenge and a chance to improve. This is our spirit and our identity, tomorrow we recover and prepare for the next game. Competing well is the most important thing and we have to react. Nothing changes, we have a tough game at Molineux now.”
After a five-match burst in which they bagged 15 goals in all competitions, Wolverhampton’s offence have dried up to a large degree and totaled just three in their last four contests. Three of those four contests were on the road, and centre back Connor Coady thinks returning to Molineux is the jump start his side needs as they look to avenge a 2-1 loss to the Bluebirds in Wales.
“It was a disappointment, but we knew how tough it was going to be going there. We’ve learnt from that, because we were on a bad little run, but we listened to the manager and at the time we came out of it,” Coady said when looking back at the first match between the teams. “We adapted a few things in term of formation and how we wanted to play, and we’ve come out of it by listening to the manager as much as we possibly could. We’ll look at that game from when we played them earlier in the season, but it’s different now, we’ve adapted a few things and we can’t wait for it.
“It’s a huge game for us now off the back of what was a disappointing night on Tuesday, so we need to make sure we’re ready.”
Cardiff City (7-4-17) had been playing better of late but back-to-back losses have stalled their movement out of the relegation spots. The Bluebirds are 18th on 25 points with 10 matches remaining, and while they are only two points behind both Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton, they will need to finish with more points than those sides because of their minus-30 goal difference.
Neil Warnock’s team is in desperate need to salvage something from these three matches over eight days after the hangover of their 5-1 hiding at home by Watford continued with a 3-0 defeat at home to Everton on Tuesday. Cardiff failed to place any of their six shots on target, but it was an abject defence that conceded a brace to Gylfi Sigurdsson that drew Warnock’s ire.
“We will probably be in the bottom three when we go to Wolves 1/8on Saturday 3/8 and people will be writing us off,” Warnock told The Times. “I know my team for the Wolves game and I want people who will be in the trenches because I was let down by one or two tonight. I’m not going to throw the towel in and I’ll make sure we are ready.
“I didn’t think it was a bad game but it was just small individual errors and somebody who cost £50 million punished us. If you make mistakes, you get punished. I don’t want to name names, but you have got to track your men and they didn’t do that for the first goal. One or two were very poor and they looked like they could have done with a rest.”
The 70-year-old Warnock is fighting to keep Cardiff from being like his other previous seven promoted sides that could not survive at the next level the following term. This group, however, possibly means more than those other seven to Warnock considering he took over a Cardiff side in 2016 that was in danger of being relegated out of the Championship, and a club still dealing with the tragic death of Emiliano Sala, the Nantes striker who had signed in the January window and died in a plane crash en route to Wales before his debut.
Cardiff also dealt Wolves one of the four losses they have absorbed to bottom-five sides, winning the reverse fixture 2-1. Matt Doherty staked Wolves to a lead on 18 minutes, poaching from close range on a corner, but the Bluebirds pulled level on Aron Gunnarsson’s equaliser in the 65th minute.
Having gotten their tails up, Cardiff took a deserved three points through David Junior Hoillett’s curling bar-down screamer from outside the box on 77 minutes. The Bluebirds have won five of the last seven meetings between the teams in all competitions (5-0-2) and did the double in the Championship in 2015-16.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Wolverhampton 1, Cardiff City 1.