Leigh Sanders is a lifelong Cardiff City fan now living in the Black Country. He gives his take on Saturday’s crunch Championship clash
The past two seasons Wolves have faced us have been polar opposites.
Three years ago, Wolves were in freefall. Having just been relegated from the Premier League they were a big scalp to the rest of the Championship. And another dire season saw them drop straight into League One.
Cardiff, on the other hand, were putting the near misses of the era of ex-Wolves boss Dave Jones behind them, as well-loved Scot Malky Mackay took a solid if unspectacular side to the Championship title at a relative canter.
A Peter Whittingham hat-trick demolished Wolves in south Wales, while two Fraizer Campbell goals helped the Welshmen to a victory at Molineux.
Last time out, things were different. A resurgent Wolves under Kenny Jackett were on their way to being oh so close to the play-offs on their Championship return. Cardiff, on the other hand, were reeling from a Premier League relegation of their own, while the on-field circus of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial selections coupled with off-the-field unrest at owner Vincent Tan’s insistence on playing in red had them spiralling on this occasion.
A last-minute Mark Hudson own goal gave Wolves the points at the Mol. While Bakary Sako and Nouha Dicko inspired the away side to another one-goal victory in the Welsh capitol to complete the double.
What to expect this time? Well, other than Wolves’ impressive opening win at Blackburn it has been pretty unspectacular from both sides.
Cardiff are unbeaten, just, but look like they lack some real firepower at times. Wolves have the difficult task of SSS (second season syndrome) to contend with – as well as keeping hold of the squad that went so close last time.
But what will Wolves fans perhaps be worrying about on their venture across the border?
Three matches, three late goals to alter results. On opening day Cardiff salvaged a late home draw with Fulham thanks to a thunderbolt from Craig Noone, cutting in off the right wing.
Then, at QPR last weekend in front of the TV cameras, former Wolves man Scott Malone popped up in the last minute to volley in from 22 yards and help his side come back from 2-0 down to earn a draw.
At Blackburn on Tuesday, it was Cardiff’s turn to come undone as Grant Hanley’s late equaliser robbed them of the win.
Surely it can’t be the same again fourth time out? Can it?
While the centre of Cardiff’s midfield can look pedestrian at times, most of their threat comes from out wide.
Anthony Pilkington is a constant menace and has a good delivery as well as an eye for goal. Boss Russell Slade has fancied young midfielder Joe Ralls on the left so far this term, and he, too, likes to come inside and run at the area.
If they don’t work, then Noone and loan signing Sammy Ameobi are waiting to come off the bench. There is also young Kadeem Harris waiting in the wings too should he be required, and he has real pace to burn.
Even with both Bruno Manga and Ben Turner injured at the moment, Cardiff still possess a forest load of height at set pieces. Stand-in captain Sean Morrison has already netted this term, while Matt Connolly alongside him has also found the net for the Bluebirds.
Then, there are the front runners. Alex Revell may be an inconsistent scorer but is a lump to handle and, of course, there is the aerial threat of Kenwyne Jones – Cardff’s top scorer last term – to contend with.
Whittingham’s star and set-piece delivery may be beginning to wane, but Pilkington, Noone and Ralls are all perfectly capable of delivering a killer ball to run on to. Noone has already netted a free-kick this term too – against AFC Wimbledon in the League Cup.
Goalkeeper David Marshall has been a bit of a star for Cardiff in recent times. His heroics in the Premier League won him admirers up and down the land, and he has stuck with the club despite its disappointing time out last season.
He missed the first three games of the season through suspension, but returned for the midweek draw at Ewood Park.
He pulled off some fine saves too, and, perhaps ominously for Wolves fans, he still has time to impress the watching Tony Pulis and earn a move to their rivals West Bromwich Albion before the transfer window closes. He has been linked with them all summer.
And speaking of linked players, there are a few in the Welsh ranks that have been talked about as Wolves targets too.
Before Adam Le Fondre finally moved north on loan, both Noone and striker Joe Mason were heavily linked with the club.
Whether there was any truth in the rumours or not, it matters little. Betting aficionados have seen this scenario many times over. Who would bet against either finding the net to condemn the supposed failed moves?
By Leigh Sanders