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Today is an opportunity to get closer to the top 6 and indeed West Ham in 7th place. On reading the team sheet, the line up didn’t fill me with confidence and for the first time this season I felt deflated. On reflection during the warm up I thought perhaps there is a Plan B, as Gary O’Neil is quite a clever coach and analyses his team and tactics a lot, so hopefully he proves me wrong in my initial reaction…

The first few minutes were confirmation that he had made some tactical calls that would surprise us all, Ait Nouri on the right, Doherty on the left and Lemina back in his more stable role at the heart of the midfield. There was also the sight of Tommy Doyle supporting Doc on the left, it was interesting to see how this panned out. Our first foray on the Hammers goal was through Rayan Ait Nouri, who drifted inside after side stepping the dangling defensive legs and curled a left foot shot just over. He would prove the pivotal player in this game in more ways than one, he looks more comfortable and dangerous as an attacking midfielder/forward with each game. It was nearly a goal for West Ham on 12 minutes, some excellent defensive work by Semedo was undone by hesitation in our own area, Bowen pounced and squared it to Soucek who couldn’t sort his feet out and the danger was cleared.

We were having plenty of possession in the first quarter of the game but seemed to lack that final killer ball, I felt West Ham were there for the taking at this point and hoped they suffered one of their off days. Wolves have two great opportunities to get a shot at the goal, the first on 20 mins is a great ball over the top of the defence to Semedo, he runs forwards and crosses from the goal-line to a sprinting Sarabia who just can’t get enough of a touch to divert it past Fabianski, who is grateful that rebounds of his legs just in front of him. Sarabia, in my opinion takes too long to get into a game, the first 15 minutes he couldn’t get anything right, this was a turning point for him. On 22 mins, a West Ham attack is thwarted and we break away, Toti clears to Rayan, we have a 5 v 3 situation and he drives forward, there are two chances to pass but keeps driving on and his shot is diverted for a corner. It comes to nothing but soon we play some lovely football in midfield and Doyle gets played in on the left, his shot is blocked and cleared. We drive again on 25 minutes, it’s starting to take its toll on the Hammers defence, superb play again but once again we can’t finish it off.

Finally on 29 minutes we get the breakthrough, Lemina plays a great ball out to wide left, Sarabia cushions beautifully into the path of Tommy Doyle, he slots it into Ait Nouri, who knocks it past the defender who clumsily brings him down. PENALTY we all cry!!! Then the dreaded pause in play for VAR……..its given after a minute or two of a delay. Sarabia steps up to take it, left footed to the keepers left……THUD!!! It hits the post and goes back across the goal-line into the net and the place erupts, PHEW…… 1-0 Wolves…. We are very much on top now and a second goal would kill the game in this first half, Ait Nouri goes on one of his mazy, scintillating and skilful runs, taking people on or fun and is then brought down 23 yards out, if he had got past that last man, he would have been one on one with the keeper. The resulting freekick from Sarabia is arching into the right side of the goal but Fabianski is well behind it and saves with ease. The first half ends and we are definitely on top, more of the same and some clinical finishing would see this game out but we are Wolves and that never happens too often. 

Half Time  Wolves 1 – 0 West Ham

West Ham come out for the second half and make two changes, Antonio and Cresswell come on and immediately the former gets in behind our defence and gets a tame shot away, there’s a warning. We have started slow again, it’s one of the few criticisms I have with this team, we take too long to start after half time on some occasions. Poor passing choices and last ditch tackles are causing us all to get nervy, we have to start quicker.

On 54 minutes we make a change, it’s on with Cunha but our current danger man, Ait Nouri has to go off, lets hope its not too serious. West Ham now start  to have more of the play, Cresswell and Antonio are making a difference for them and causing us some issues. A free kick on 57 minutes by Ward-Prowse is well blocked by the wall, giving any free kicks away outside the box is dangerous as we all know what he can do. We dodge a bullet on 62 minutes, a West Ham cross is clipped to the back post and headed in but there was a push on our defender and that was disallowed, we had been warned. Then we self implode on 70 minutes, instead of clearing the danger, we mess about with tip tappy passing, Doherty the guilty party. It allows Kudus to get the ball and clip a cross towards the area, it hits Kilman on the arm, this ain’t being overturned….it’s a penalty, which is dispatched into the corner for the equaliser, 1 – 1.

There’s intense pressure from West Ham now and a save from Sa on 79 minutes shows this game isn’t over. Gary O’Neil makes some changes, he brings on Chiwome and Traore, Traore gets a shot away on 82 minutes but its wide. Its time to dig in boys, this point is crucial. Oh no……on 84 minutes West Ham get a corner, easy to defend and let’s get it away. No one was expecting Ward-Prowse to bend it directly in from the corner, was it the wind or was it terrible positioning from Sa?…..We’ve thrown this away. Times running out and 10 minutes of injury time can’t save us now, too many wasted passes and poor choices are going to cost us.

Wait a minute, we have a corner, 99 minutes gone…….Gomes clips it in and Kilman rises highest to plant a bullet header into the corner, Molineux goes apoplectic with delight……’s the hope that kills you……and it did!!! The goal was subject to a VAR check for offside….when you  watch it back, you will be furious, we all were and so were the players and O’Neil….No goal!!! Full-time and yet again we have been robbed, I’m sure Match of the Day will say it, Gary O’Neil said it, even David Moyes and Fabianski said it…it wasn’t an offside by Chirewa, he wasn’t when the header was played and not even before……DONE AGAIN BY VAR!!!

Full-time Wolves 1 – 2 West Ham

 “Only those with basic knowledge of football would say it was offside” (a quote from Gary O’Neil), O’Neil was furious, the players were and I think Cunha got booked for his protest after the final whistle. I can’t help commenting on this again but VAR is killing the game, we all expect a borderline decision in year before VAR, it happened but this is ruining our game. We would be in the top 6 before this game if the right calls were made this season. These are professional officials who are paid more money than the average working person and still can’t get it right with technology or using a degree of common sense. We are sick of talking about them and not about the football…..a serious review needs to happen and quickly. I watch non-league football when Wolves are away or not playing and it’s so refreshing to see decisions made without technology, good or bad.

On a football note, the Board really need to hear what Gary O’Neil is saying about the depth of the squad and a lack of a striker. We need to invest in this team and GON, he is a quality manager and if we don’t build, we will always be saying what could have been…..

Craig Hickey


A 53 year old season ticket holder in the Steve Bull stand. Go along with my two young lads who love the Wolves and so far, the positive times. Long may it continue.

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