Wolves v Crawley: Let Operation Championship Commense
SkyBet League One
Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton
Friday 23rd August 2013
Kickoff: 19:45 GMT (live on Sky Sports 1)
Referee: Simon Hooper
Friday night see’s SkyBet League One action return to Sky Sports One with Crawley Town making the trip north to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. The home side sit in third place in the table after an unbeaten start to their campaign in League One under manager Kenny Jackett, while Crawley Town boss Richie Barker has led his side to tenth place having taken four points from their opening three games. Friday nights clash between the sides will be the first time the teams have met in any competition.
Referee Simon Hooper takes control of the game having refereed just once in the Football League this season, issuing four yellow cards in the Championship match between Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday 17th August.
It has been a miserable two-year period for fans of Wolves as a succession of poor performances under a number of managers has seen the club plummet out of the Premier League, through the Championship and down into the depths of League One.
The financial implications of such a fall from grace have been dire and it has meant that many of the clubs top earners from their time in the top flight, such as midfielder Steven Hunt and defender Stephen Ward, have had to be let go in order to try and balance the budget.
This has left incumbent manager Kenny Jackett in somewhat an invidious position, forced to offload his big-earning stars, yet still expected to maintain a strong challenge for automatic promotion from League One this season under the expectant gaze of owner Steve Morgan and the many thousands of Wolves fans.
The team has been decimated over the close season with some familiar names such as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Nenad Milijas, Karl Henry, Adam Hammill, Dorus De Vries, Stephen Hunt and Christoph Berra all moving on. Kenny Jackett has moved to sign four players in their place including Wales international Sam Ricketts and Kevin McDonald from Sheffield United.
Despite a shock defeat to Morecambe in the Capital One Cup, Wolves have started the season well in League One, drawing their opening day fixture away at Preston before following that up with a thumping 4-0 win over Gillingham and an excellent 2-1 away win at Bristol City.
Probable Team (4-4-2): Carl Ikeme (GK), Matt Doherty (RB), Sam Ricketts (DL), Danny Batth (DC), Richard Stearman (DC), David Davis (MC), Bakary Sako (MR), Zele Ismail (ML), Lee Evans (MC), Kevion Doyle (CF), Bjorn Sigurdarson (CF)
Crawley Town Preview
After spending many years as a non-league side in the Southern League and Conference, Crawley gained promotion to the Football League in 2011 under manager Steve Evans as Champions of the Conference and then followed that with promotion to League One in their first season in the football league, by finishing a creditable third in League Two.
Last season, the club finished a respectable 10th in League One under new manager Richie Barker. During preseason, the club lost several players including Mustapha Dumbuya (to Notts County), Matt Sparrow (to Southend) and Luke Rooney (to Swindon) though the latter has since rejoined the club on loan for six months.
Manager Richie Barker has welcomed three new players in addition to the returning Rooney in midfield Andy Drury (from Ipswich Town), goalkeeper Jonny Maddison (from Sunderland) and James Hurst, a right back who came from Icelandic side Valur Reykjavik.
One player to watch is freescoring left back Joe Walsh who has netted three goals already this season, the Welshman has been particularly impressive so far this season and has already attracted some rave reviews with his performances.
Defensively, the Reds have not been at their best so far this season, conceding 11 goals in four games and last time out, they were disappointing in a 2-1 home defeat to Rotherham United. They have conceded goals from corners in each of their four games this season.
Probable Team (4-4-2): Paul Jones (GK), James Hurst (RB), Joe Walsh (LB), Mat Sadler (CB), Kyle McFadzean (CB), Josh Simpson (CM), Nicky Adams (RM), Andy Jones (CM), Billy Clarke (ML), Gary Alexander (CF), Jamie Proctor (CF)
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crawley Town Stats
3rd Aug 2013: League v Preston North End (A) D 0-0
6th Aug 2013: Cap One Cup v Morecambe (A) L 0-1
10th Aug 2013: League v Gillingham (H) W 4-0
17th Aug 2013: League v Bristol City (A) W 2-1
League Position: 3rd
3rd Aug 2013: League v Coventry City (H) W 3-2
6th Aug 2013: Cap One Cup v Cheltenham Town (A) L 3-4
10th Aug 2013: League v Tranmere Rovers (A) D 3-3
17th Aug 2013: League v Rotherham Utd (H) L 1-2
League Position: 10th
*This is the first time the two teams have ever met in competition so no head to head stats are available
Wolves v Crawley Predictions
With having no past head to head historic data on this fixture to peruse and given that the season is only a few games old, we can only really go on the teams respective records so far this season. It is clear that Wolves have an obvious edge in that respect.
Wolves have scored six goals, four less than Crawley’s ten, but they have also only conceded two goals in four games (three away from home), whereas Crawley have conceded 12 goals in total and seven on their travels.
Given these factors, and strong home advantage for Wolves and much better recent form, I am confident that Wolves will win the battle here and I’d take them for the win at a best available odds of 4/5.
As for a correct score prediction, Crawley do offer an attacking threat as their goals for column indicates, but Wolves look well set up to take advantage of a leaky Crawley defence and as such, I’d be tempted to take the 14/1 on offer on a 3-1 victory for Wolverhampton.
For more tips from David Lenton on this weekends football action check out the tips section at the Cheeky Punter website.