Stale Solbakken has already proved he is a shrewd cookie. And the new Wolves manager was at it again at St Mary’s on Saturday. By leaving with five minutes to go, he was spared any more punishment as a dull friendly limped to a conclusion with Saints securing a 2-0 victory.
Stale Solbakken has already proved he is a shrewd cookie.
And the new Wolves manager was at it again at St Mary’s on Saturday. By leaving with five minutes to go, he was spared any more punishment as a dull friendly limped to a conclusion with Saints securing a 2-0 victory.
The Norwegian, who a week earlier at Walsall left to catch a flight to watch a game, had plenty to ponder on the plane, not least how to replace Stoke-bound Michael Kightly.
With the start of the Championship 12 days away, Wolves now face their most uncertain build-up to a season since the mess of Glenn Hoddle’s untimely exit six years ago.
Back in 2006, Mick McCarthy was left with just 11 professionals. Solbakken’s problem is how he is going to replace the quality he’s going to lose.
Kightly’s departure leaves a huge gap. Based on this performance, it’s a void that desperately needs filling.
Because if there was one thing missing from this lacklustre display besides the defensive reliability they’re still striving for, it was the sort of excitement and penetration Kightly, Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis provide.
On the plus side, Bjorn Sigurdarson and six others got their first 90 minutes of pre-season and the £2.4m signing has the power and mobility to test Championship defences, if not the keeper on this occasion.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake missed a golden chance to give Wolves a ninth-minute lead when Jack Stephens and Jos Vooiveld made a hash of Stephen Ward’s pass to leave the striker clean through, but he could only fire weakly at keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
One-time Wolves target Nathaniel Clyne had Carl Ikeme tipping over a speculative angled effort on 17 before Southampton took the lead five minutes later.
And it was Wolves’ old Achilles heel of poor defending which let another former Wolves target, Billy Sharp, steal in unmarked to turn and drill past Ikeme from six yards after Clyne was allowed to run at the visitors’ rearguard before switching play for the impressive Guly Do Prado to cross.
Do Prado poked wide of Ikeme and the target in a one-on-one after Saints split Wolves’ defence just before half-time. After the break former Albion midfielder Richard Chaplow headed over from Adam Lallana’s centre.
Wolves’ only other chance came in the 62nd minute when David Davis fired wide at the far post from close range from Ebanks-Blake’s left-wing cross.
Seven minutes later, it was 2-0 when Jason Puncheon lashed home a low left-foot shot from the edge of the area from Do Prado’s pass as Wolves backed off.
Steve De Ridder also hit the outside of the bar after Sharp’s run.
Assistant boss Terry Connor admitted the players are still coming to terms with Solbakken’s methods.
“Of course they are. The quicker we can sort out things that Stale wants, the better we’ll be,” he said.
“You can’t just wave a wand – it takes time and a bit of patience. But we’ll get there.”
Saints (4-1-2-2-1): Gazzaniga; Clyne (Richardson 59), Stephens (Fonte 69), Hooiveld (Seaborne 81), Fox; Hammond (Chambers 81); Chaplow (S Davis 70), Lallana (Ward-Prowse 71); Puncheon (Rodriguez 70), Do Prado (De Ridder 75); Sharp. Sub not used: K Davis (gk).
Wolves (4-4-2): Ikeme; Zubar (Doherty 82), Johnson, Stearman (Berra 68), Ward; D Davis (Foley 68), Doumbia, Henry, Forde; Sigurdarson, Ebanks-Blake (Jonsson 82). Sub not used: McCarey (gk).
Referee: A Davies.