Wolves hand Latics a football lesson
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 29 January 2014
Athletic 0, Wolves 3
THE MAGNITUDE of the visitors’ win should not detract completely from the impressive level of effort Athletic threw into this contest.
But when it came to the final analysis, Kenny Jackett’s promotion-chasers were just too good for the home side, winning with second-half strikes by game-star Kevin McDonald, Michael Jacobs and substitute James Henry.
Athletic tested Wolves ‘keeper Aaron McCarey on occasions - and their efforts in defeat were roundly appreciated by home supporters, few of whom could reasonably have expected a repeat of the weekend’s rare goal-scoring frenzy.
Jackett’s side - two points behind second-placed Leyton Orient - won what was a deceptively-tight contest in three main areas.
Wolves were too strong defensively: Athletic, for all their possession in promising areas, only put three shots on target.
Wolves were too quick on the break: the pace and running of Michael Jacobs, Bakary Sako and Nouha Dicko caused plenty of problems.
Wolves were too deadly in the finishing touches: McDonald’s lovely conversion of his only scoring chance stood in sharp contrast to the main Oldham chance - from which Korey Smith failed to shoot at all, in an excellent position.
Jacobs’ late finish was also clinical and while Henry benefited from a rare error from the otherwise-outstanding Mark Oxley, his anticipation of the chance effectively got him his tap-in deep in added time.
It always helps when you can call on vast resources, of course. While Athletic are running the rule over trialists from non-league ranks to boost the squad, Wolves, still benefiting from Premier League parachute payments, are keeping £40,000-a-week Kevin Doyle on the bench and going out to sign men like Dicko.
Athletic started positively. McDonald was robbed of possession, Jonson Clarke-Harris took the ball on and James Dayton ended up warming the palms of Jittery McCarey early on.
Dicko thought he had netted when Sako’s searing pace got him to the touchline to pull the ball back invitingly. The former Wigan striker, signed two weeks ago for around £300,000, couldn’t believe it when Oxley blocked his effort from six yards.
Two minutes later, Athletic’s keeper palmed away a shot from Sako’s weaker right foot, before at the other end in an entertaining clash Clarke-Harris made room for a low skidding shot, pushed out by McCarey.
Two-goal star of the famous Peterborough win, Gary Harkins, started to become more involved as the half progressed. As his influence grew so did Athletic’s, and a neat move from left to right ended with Dayton slashing wide of the near post. The real story there was that his captain Korey Smith – now 97 games without a league goal – opted not to shoot when in plenty of space just inside the box.
Dicko’s quickfire turn at the other end saw him hammer a shot which cannoned off the crossbar with Oxley well beaten.
Charlie MacDonald is finding things aren’t quite falling for him at present and so it was that the ball got away from his run shortly before the hour after a neat Harkins pass. On the stretch, he sliced wide with his left foot.
James Tarkowski couldn’t quite grow enough to get on the end of Dayton’s floated delivery to the far post, glancing a header wide, while Danny Batth nearly made it 2-0 with his own headed opportunity which passed wide of the far post off a Jacobs corner.
Johnson made changes to stimulate a comeback, but Wolves doubled their lead after Tarkowski fluffed a clearance. Play was moved quickly to the right, McDonald slipped in overlapping full-back Sam Ricketts and Jacobs’ emphatic finish did the rest.
Wolves were home and dry and added a third for good measure. Dicko benefited from some lax defending on the left, cut inside and saw his weak shot parried by Oxley straight into Henry’s path.
Athletic simply couldn’t live with such quality, the product of high-class players at a club operating on a different financial plane.
Clearly, though, they could do with a new and experienced striker to add to the mix. With Adam Rooney gone, front two Clarke-Harris and MacDonald are without a goal in 2014, as is fellow forward Danny Philliskirk. Food for thought, with the transfer window closing on Friday.
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