Steve Davis’ Wolves side just about held on for a crucial second win of the season against 20th-place Nottingham Forest, thanks to a penalty from returning captain Ruben Neves. Despite dominating possession for much of the 90 minutes, the home side once again struggled to create significant chances. However, the three points and particularly Jose Sa’s huge penalty save will hopefully provide the side with a major morale boost. With a new managerial appointment surely not far away, fans will be hoping the team can take some momentum from this result and push themselves away from the relegation zone in the coming weeks.
Apologies to the rest of the game, but Sa’s rating here is based almost entirely on one instance. His save against Brennan Johnson’s penalty felt like a mightily important moment for Wolves’ season. It will also give Sa a big confidence boost after his form has not quite matched what he showed in 21/22, and with the keeper recently revealed to have been playing with a fractured wrist fans will be heartened to see last season’s breakout star make such a crucial stop.
The young Frenchman certainly showed off more of his undisputed talent than we have seen for much of this season with a dangerous attacking display. Despite wasting a couple of decent goal-scoring opportunities, Ait-Nouri was arguably Wolves’ most consistent attacking threat for most of the game, while being solid defensively when called upon.
Gomes’ second successive start was an extremely mixed bag. Although he made a few important defensive players and was able to physically dominate Forest’s diminutive front three, his on-the-ball quality left a lot to be desired. On multiple occasions his wayward passing gave the ball away in dangerous situations, and he often looked panicked in possession. At times it felt like Forest’s best chance of scoring would come through being handed the ball in the attacking third.
Wolves’ defensive stalwart has looked more uncomfortable without Nathan Collins next to him, and once again did not turn in his most standout display in the black and gold. However, while he wasn’t spectacular he was still solid and made no notable errors.
The decision to start Jonny over Nelson Semedo was questioned by many when the line-up was released, and the pre-game concerns proved to be valid. The Spaniard was uncomfortable in possession, giving the ball away in dangerous positions on several occasions, and offered very little going forward. As long as Semedo is fit, he must surely hold the starting right-back spot from now on.
It was not the club captain’s most vintage Wolves’ performance on his return from suspension, but Neves stepped up when it mattered most – burying his penalty with precision, power and composure to give his team the lead. And it is very much his team right now. Even when not at his best Neves’ presence alone gives a huge boost whenever he’s on the pitch, lifting the team like no one else can. It is impossible to overstate his importance to the club, his teammates and the fans during a period of such turmoil. Plus, he gets bonus points for his outstanding Instagram post after the match.
His influence is clearly waning, but Moutinho is still a smooth operator on the ball. Unfortunately, his tidiness in possession does not make up for a lack of real creativity or defensive presence, and the veteran at times felt like a passenger in the game.
Wolves’ record signing did not produce his most eye-catching display, but not for lack of trying. Nunes is constantly looking to move the ball forward, whether through his exceptional dribbling ability or by passing it – it was the latter which let him down against Forest. Far too wasteful in possession, Matheus tried a lot but not much came off this time round. Considering what he’s already shown this season however, one below-standard performance is not much to complain about.
A similar performance to Moutinho in many ways from the diminutive winger. Podence was tidy on the ball but offered little real incisiveness or creativity and failed to have a major impact on the game.
Simultaneously the most exciting and most frustrating player on the pitch, Adama turned it a thoroughly familiar performance. He had much joy on the right-hand side and took advantage on a couple of occasions – most notably with an inch-perfect cross to Max Kilman, who hit the post with a header. However, far too often his crosses ended up in the stands behind the goal and his one major scoring chance was blazed over the bar. On a positive note, his constant threat stretched Forest’s backline to no end, and it was his shot which hit Harry Toffolo’s arm and earned Wolves’ game-winning penalty.
To no-one’s shock, Costa’s off-ball antics have made him an immediate fan favourite at the Molineux. What has proven to be more of a pleasant surprise is that he’s actually still pretty good on the ball too. His movement in the box caused a multitude of problems for the Forest defence, and his link-up play was outstanding. Looks like the old dog’s still got a few tricks.
All coming on after the 80th minute, none of Boubacar Traore, Hwang Hee-chan, Nelson Semedo, Joe Hodge or Hugo Bueno had enough time to make a real impression. Traore showed flashes of his dribbling ability but also put Wolves in a couple of awkward positions with some wayward passing. Academy starlet Hodge earned the approval of the Molineux crowd with a take-one-for-the-team foul late on to stop a Forest counterattack.