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05/06: Reports:

League Cup Second Round, 20/09/05, 7.45pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Ooooh, Wolves!
By Mike Peter

"...even if Notts County had got the biggest club in the draw, I imagine exclamations of 'Ooooh, Wolves!' would sound fairly hollow."
- Notts County preview


Sorry, this is my fault. Clearly, the gods of fate have a fairly cruel sense of humour and thus, for the second season running, we face Division Two opposition in the Second Round of the League Cup. Wolves too, a team so tediously uninteresting yet hugely over-confident that they are probably most people's choice of "team you wouldn't want to watch three times in a season".

Wolves have had an excellent start to the season. They currently lie eighth, which is only one position off their optimum finishing place. Perhaps significant for Watford is the fact that they are yet to win away yet this season, mostly drawing away from Molineux. They made the second round with a 5-1 thumping of Chester.

In goal, Michael Oakes has been unchallenged in goal for a while now. His former sparring partner, Matt Murray, has been sidelined by a series of injuries, the most recent being a broken foot suffered in January - lucky for Oakes, as Murray is preferred by both Hoddle and the Wolves fans. To cover Murray's absence, Stefan Postma has been brought in on loan from Aston Villa; Postma was unable to displace Peter Enckelman from Villa's goal, so Oakes has nothing to fear on that account. Paul Jones, meanwhile, is bench warming at Millwall.

At right-back, Jackie McNamara has been drawn south from his captaincy of Celtic by the lure of a two-year deal. McNamara likes to go forward and has been deployed in midfield by both Celtic and Scotland in the past. Mark Clyde is his deputy. Lee Naylor is the only left-back at the club: as with most long-serving players, opinion is divided as to whether he's any good or not.

In the centre, Jolean Lescott is perhaps unfortunate not to find himself in the Premiership by now - indeed, he probably would have been if it hadn't been for a knee injury that kept him out of all of Wolves' top flight campaign. Alongside him is Rob Edwards, converted to centre-half from right-back due to the ineptitude of Jody Craddock. The wonderfully named Gabor Gyepes is another option, but was dropped after his first League start, the 1-0 defeat to lowly Millwall.

On the left, Mark Kennedy is the only firm fixture, with the rest of the midfield playing a game of midfield merry-go-round. Talented academy product Leon Clarke should fit in somewhere, probably starting on the right, although Korean Ki-Hyeon Seol is another possible choice - both are normally strikers.

In the centre, a pairing of Colin Cameron and Seyi Olofinjana seems most likely. Cameron is less of a threat than he was when he arrived in this division whilst Olifinjana is built like a wardrobe but is more of a creative player than a battler. Rohan Ricketts, signed from Spurs in the summer, has featured both in the centre and on the right, whilst seventeen-year-old Mark Davies has been making cameo appearances. Paul Ince has been out since picking up a thigh-strain in August, whereas Darren Anderton was clearly terrified at the amount of games he'd played for Wolves - five - and got himself injured against Millwall last Tuesday.

Up front, Carl Cort is beginning to regain the form that made him such an impressive player at Wimbledon. Cort has scored six league goals so far and resides, along with a certain Marlon King, at the top of the division's goalscoring charts. George Ndah partnered Cort against Leicester; the one time Watford target is now back after two years out injured, however he is yet to score and may well be replaced by the aforementioned Clarke or Seol or want-away Kenny Miller, should he return from a hip injury. Romanian Ionel Ganea is very much sixth choice, although he will probably find himself on the bench.

Obviously a win here - particularly a high scoring, impressive win - would be a good way to get the team back on their feet after Sheffield United and prevent any possible slide that those sort of irritating defeats can lead to. Unfortunately, the League Cup doesn't work like that, and with Mahon, King, Mackay and possibly Henderson out, this could be tight.