Wolves are through to the fifth round of the FA cup after a solid but very unremarkable performance against National League North side Chorley FC.
Vitinha scored the only goal of the game with a spectacular 35-yard strike, with Wolves struggling to create much in the way of clear goal-scoring opportunities.
The second half was a nervy affair as John Ruddy had to produce a superb save to keep the score at 1-0. Despite the barrage of crosses Wolves dealt with the threat with relative ease and saw out the win.
The news and atmosphere surrounding Wolves has been like an ocean storm the past week. Fans were insulted by the horror show against West Brom and there was a real feeling of doom and gloom. The news of the almost imminent signing of Willian Jose has given a big lift, and a result here should have done that too.
We all knew the context of the Chorley game from the 80’s and this was a chance to put that history to bed and start what could be an important cup run. Wolves needed to be hard to beat, and that is what they were.
A return to five at the back was overall welcomed, if underwhelming, but Wolves were in desperate need for a clean sheet after the atrocious defending of recent weeks.
The game didn’t start of the way they would’ve liked with Chorley creating an attempt on goal within 40 seconds, they managed to carve open the defence, but Elliot Newby’s effort was collected well by John Ruddy.
After that the game was very much a tight contest, Wolves were approaching the final third at a much slower tempo than with the four at the back and struggling to break their opponents down. Chorley were putting in plenty of crosses, but the backline was eating them up comfortably.
12 minutes in the breakthrough and eventual game-winning goal came through the young Vitinha. Plenty of questions have been raised on his game time and he did himself no harm here with a wonderful strike from 35 yards. He collected the ball a drove forward before unleashing a swerving and dipping shot past the goalkeeper.
It was a sign of things to come from the Portuguese on loan from Porto, as he was the one bright spark that offered Wolves some urgency going forward, despite having 82% possession they were struggling to break Chorley down and looked vulnerable, at times, in defence.
Joao Moutinho had another off day as his passing from midfield was largely unimpressive, and his set piece delivery was equally as disappointing. Leander Dendoncker wasn’t able to make his bursting runs into the box and was rather static, whilst Fabio Silva and Patrick Cutrone were ineffective and missing any sort of credible service.
Things needed to change for the second half, however it was Chorley who burst out the blocks much quicker. Within 5 minutes of the second half they had overtaken Wolves on shots taken and evened out the possession. The lack of continuity between the midfield and forward line was worrying as there was no outlet for Wolves to break forward with.
Cutrone and Silva were both running off the ball rather than having one of them tuck in to collect possession from deep. The lack of threat allowed Chorley to build up momentum and they nearly got their deserved equaliser through a corner; Andy Halls peeled off at the back post and his header was superbly saved by John Ruddy (who was keeping them in the game).
It was more of the same for the majority of the second half as the aerial issues were forcing Wolves back inside their own box. The defending was solid but nervy and the fans could feel the nerves as they half went on, with a Chorley goal looking an almost certainty.
Nuno made changes by bringing on Pedro Neto, Ruben Neves and Adama Traore; with the idea that they would push them on to get a second and seal the win. Despite the attacking rotation the team could not create anything, to the point where Neto broke free only to be surrounded by six Chorley defenders with no one in support.
It was a tough watch for the final 15 minutes and Chorley threw everything at Wolves in the search for a goal. To their credit, Wolves stuck to their dull task of heading out the crosses and making sure they kept the clean sheet.
They saw the game out but despite going through, they know the performance was far below standard. A clean sheet and the goal were the only real positives to take from the game (aside going through of course).
Man of the Match – Willy Boly
On a day where no one really stood out, Willy Boly had a quietly impressive game, although against the opponents it would be expected. However, he was never bullied around and stuck to his job well. He was effective from crosses and rarely gave away possession, his composure and stature in defence was very much needed in this game. Vitinha and Max Kilman were also decent shouts for praise.
The performance won’t go down well with many fans due to the lack of any creative intent, it was a very defensive and uninspiring win that is unlikely to create too much in the way of positive momentum. However, getting through to the next round was the priority for this game, and with Willian Jose coming in soon things might be about to improve. There is no getting away from the fact this was a very poor performance, so improvements are certainly needed, but for now a win and a clean sheet makes a nice change.