Few teams in the Championship are more enigmatic than Wolves, a product perhaps of having so many players in their early twenties. Of the 14 who featured in the 3-0 win over Huddersfield a fortnight ago, no fewer eight were 23 or under. That wasn’t an unusual line-up either. Kenny Jackett has 39 squad members available to him, 29 of whom fall into that age category.
So we should understand there’s a rollercoaster element to getting on board with the Black Country outfit. You never quite know what’s around the corner, save to say that confidence is a key factor. When the Old Gold get into their groove they can take some stopping, so let’s not undervalue the potential impact of back-to-back victories. At nearly 4/1, the visitors might be worth chancing.
On four separate occasions last season, Wanderers put runs of three or more successive wins together. It was a record bettered only by Watford and equalled only by Bournemouth, the two teams who ultimately occupied the automatic promotion spots. The inability to dig-in when the tide turned against them was the only thing that kept Wolves out of the top six.
And according to Jackett, this has been a season of fine margins so far. Goalkeeping errors were a worrying theme in the early weeks but those appear to have been ironed out and those six unanswered goals against Fulham and the Terriers are a measure of the damage Wolves can do whenever they get the crucial breakthrough and a tight encounter becomes stretched.
Derby know all about the importance of the first goal. They didn’t manage a breakthrough once in their opening six matches and were winless going into the September break but dealt with the issue by drawing first blood in four of their next five to collect 13 points from the next available 15.
Paul Clement deserves credit for the turnaround but it would be dangerous to bank on momentum from that recent sequence. Preston, MK Dons and Brentford are hardly formidable opposition while a slender win at Reading hinged entirely on Orlando Sa’s first-half red card, so the broader truth about Derby probably lies somewhere in between the two extremes.
Indeed, Clement himself has commented that performances in the second batch of games were probably inferior to those in the first but the Rams, hardened by two weeks stewing on the pain of a last-gasp defeat to Leeds, developed a few good results-driven habits. This time, though, the empty fortnight might have been a breeding ground for complacency.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.