Wednesday, 20 September 2017

19/09/17 Review: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Bristol Rovers

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Bristol Rovers [After Extra Time] (Carabao Cup Third Round)

With the year slowly closing in on us, last night would see me edge one step closer to my drunken New Year's Resolution of achieving 100 grounds before the end of 2017 as I stepped into the 30,000 stadium that houses Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers. For a fifth time I would be tempted to join Tom (aka Partizan Bristle) for a Rovers match and after seeing them draw thrice and lose once so far, I wondered if yesterday's Carabao Cup encounter may be the first time that I see the Gas win a game. Knowing that another top pal, Mikey, is a Wolves fan I was aware that any potential cup upset would give Tom weeks of dining out on the occasion and so with that in mind I purchased tickets for the Steve Bull Away Stand for myself, my Stafford-based Rovers pal Ian and his son Isaac. A bargain at just a tenner a pop!

Can't remember the last time I had to purchase a ticket for a game
With a busy day at work over and done with, I headed round to Ian's for some pre-match grub and a good chinwag about all things footy. After discussing everything from the Billericay Town circus to the great League One grounds, we jumped in Ian's little blue motor and drove the 16 mile journey down the A449 towards the promised land of Molineux. Having arrived just after 7:15pm, we had half an hour to grab a beer and take in the surroundings on this Gas away day. As mentioned before I'd seen Rovers four times prior to this and after bore draws with Grimsby and my beloved Macc, I saw them gather a point last season away at Vale Park before losing their last game of the season at the Mem during a 7-goal thriller with Millwall, and with transfer-hefty Wolves flying high in the Championship this season I expected Rovers would struggle on this outing- predicting 3-1 to the hosts beforehand.

A wee bit bigger than what I'm used to
Everyone has seen the Wanderers ground on the tele, so I won't bore you with the very generic details of Molineux. It is large, orange and filled with seats- not much in the way of quirks aside from the barely-humanised bar staff whom seem to lack understanding of what a beer or a hot dog is. Tom did take the time to tell me about how there is a mixture of real turf and astro-turf inside the ground, but for the full enthralling story of that you'll have to check out his entry from a couple of years back as he visited to see Charlton with a mutual pal of ours. With the best part of a couple of thousand away fans singing out to Irene, Tom, Ian, Isaac and I headed out just in time for kick-off and before we knew it we were underway and ready to see how the game would settle. The likes of Danny Batth, Ben Marshall and former Anfield starlet Conor Coady all started for the hosts, meanwhile Gunners loanee Marc Bola lined-up alongside Tom Lockyer and the other Gasheads in a strong starting eleven for Rovers. The first-half remained a 50/50 affair and as Rovers looked fairly assertive going forward, to one side I had Tom looking glad to have survived minute after minute without conceding, whilst to my right Ian kept telling me how long left until penalties. Safe to say that despite a positive start, Gas fans were feeling nervy about their defence when Wolves went forward and with the home side being the fourth highest-scoring side in the Championship so far as they sat joint-top of the table, Rovers owned a less enviable record of being the team to have conceded the equal-most goals in League One. These stats meant nothing tonight though and with one Championship scalp already claimed in the form of Fulham in the Carabao Cup, Rovers went into the break level and arguably in control of their own destiny thanks to a solid display and a particularly impressive start from Danny Leadbitter. New lad Liam Sercombe had made the best moment of the game so far after turning a Wolves player before hitting a solid effort at Will Norris's goal.

Nothing much for the Wolves lot to shout about at HT, 0-0
Tom and I rushed over to the quiet beer hatch and whilst queuing for an ale we discussed the inconsistencies of drinking as an away fan. At Moss Rose and Valley Parade Tom had noted there was no away beers flowing and I'd seen the same at Chester last month, yet when at Vale Park there was plenty of opportunity to intoxicate yourself as was the case when I went to the KC a few years ago- it must be down to personal preference rather than FA rules. Either way, we were chuffed to snatch an overpriced beer from the hands of the Molineux away end tonight and it passed half-time by very nicely indeed.

Back to the action
Up until now both sides had struggled to carve more than half-chances so the second-half really did bring the game to life as the Rovers away support continued to roar Darrell Clarke's barmy army through the game. Just before the hour-mark everyone thought Wolves would open the scoring after a cross from the right was well met by teenager Bright Enobakhare, however Sam Slocombe produced one of the best reaction saves I've seen to tip the Nigerian winger's shot over the bar. At the other end the tenacious Ellis Harrison won possession for the Gas before Sercombe hit a ball out to Bola, who drove forward before powering a mighty drive on-target that had to be palmed on to the Wolves post. The game produced end-to-end action in the last 30 minutes and with time getting on Wolves decided to throw on a Portugal international, as you do, to try and see the hosts take the game before extra-time. Alas, the lively former Benfica and Monaco attacker couldn't make the difference and even though Wolves did hit the crossbar in the 90th minute, we were destined to see another half an hour.

"Up the Gas", as they say
Just before the end of normal time, Dom Telford and Rory Gaffney were introduced and the fresh legs for the Rovers XI gave them different options attack-wise. Appearing to play out on the left as a wide target man, Gaffney looked a real breath of fresh air and this new dimension to the side seemed to be giving the away support a case of the dreaded "false hope". Both sides continued to register their intent to grab the winner and in the 8th minute of extra time the inevitable goal came. Rovers were sliced open by a fine pass from the midfield and when the ball was eventually cut back to Enobakhare he found space, took a touch before hitting home a fine strike inside the box. Wolves 1-0 Rovers. This seem to wake up the Wolves fans around the ground and they finally got into the spirit of things, singing out such classics as "you're just a shit Bristol City" and other tunes they'd obviously acquired from 'the book of obvious chants'. This didn't deter the Gasheads though who continued to sing loud and proud as Rovers got the game back underway. Soon after the goal, Telford rattled the bar for the visitors and Gaffney hit a narrow-angled strike on-target, forcing another corner. During the second-half of extra time Rovers went forward again and as they did so, Wolves started to pounce on the counter and seemed just as likely to kill the game off. Former Rovers youth player Donovan Wilson came on and his main contribution was a forceful attacking run on the break that caused Tom Lockyer to pull his opponent to the ground and as the last man he had to go- red card and a suspension was the result and this put the final nail in the Rovers coffin. The whistle soon blew and although a spirited and proud performance was given by the visitors, they were knocked out of the cup for another season, following Southampton in falling to a good Wolverhampton Wanderers side. Next up for me will be a trip to Bristol and the surrounding area as I take part in the annual Western League Groundhop event- 7 games in 3 days, with 5 new grounds to add towards my 100 will mean many a Blog to follow in the upcoming weeks!
Thanks for the memories, Molineux

No comments:

Post a Comment