Dean Saunders and Michael Appleton shared a point apiece as they began new managerial reigns on Friday evening.
The new bosses at Wolves and Blackburn, watched as Roger Johnson’s second-half header snatched a point for the hosts after Jordan Rhodes’s first-half penalty had put Rovers ahead.
Here, The FA’s Peter Glynn looks at the prospects of the two squads and the fruitful link-play between Rovers’ Danny Murphy and Ruben Rochina.
Managerial change is a regular occurrence at many football clubs. However, there was still novelty to be found in two new managers witnessing their clubs' first game on Friday night at Molineux.
Although Rovers' new manager watched the game unfold from home - his agreement to join the Ewood Park club only tied up hours before kick-off - this Championship tie gave both managers the first chance to assess their new charges in a competitive arena.
It is often proposed that leadership change can have a transformative effect on playing staff. And although a speculative theory, there were signs of vigour in Wolves’ initial approach.
Wolves’ main attacking source was located on their left-flank. The accurate deliveries of full-back Stephen Ward and wide-man Bakary Sako, particularly from set-pieces, was a defining feature of the hosts’ attacking play.
On regaining possession, the ball was regularly recycled to Wolves’ Irish full-back who attempted to hit long diagonal balls from deep positions in search of the frame of striker Kevin Doyle.
Although Ward’s deliveries were largely accurate, this type of approach play often puts the ball at risk. Rovers central defensive duo of Scott Dann and Grant Hanley proving equal to many of the balls slung at them by winning the majority of aerial duels.
Wolves did, however, enjoy aerial success when it mattered most. Johnson was first to meet substitute Jamie O’Hara’s precise diagonal- ball, heading a powerful second-half equaliser to ensure Wolves left with a share of the points.
Saunders had spoken ahead of the game of installing military-styled discipline as a cornerstone for what he wishes to build at Molineux.
And for the large parts of this game a battle ensued. Only rare moments of subtlety and craft decorated the tie, with many passages of play dictated by a midfield scrap for second balls.
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Anticipating the destination of second-balls was demonstrated with wily knowhow by Rovers’ seasoned campaigner Murphy. The former Fulham midfielder regularly fulfilled the role of front-sweeper, tidying up the play ahead of Rovers back-four.
Resultantly, Murphy was the source of much that was progressive in Rovers' play. The midfielder proving particularly influential when linking with the game’s most dangerous attacking threat: Rochina.
Drifting infield from his original stationing on the left, the Spaniard continually adopted central positions in the pockets of space between Wolves’ midfield and defensive lines. And in Murphy, Rovers had the pivot with the vision and technique in which to reward the 21-year-old’s elusive movement with accurate threaded passes.
With Wolves’ right-sided partnership of Ronald Zubar and Kevin Foley unwilling to be dragged into unfamiliar territory, Rochina found space to scheme.
On receiving, the slippery attacker moved swiftly with the ball at his feet. Not only did these attributes help him individually eliminate close markers, but it also gave Rovers an outlet on the break enabling them to stretch the play on occasions where they had endured concerted pressure.
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Having the close control and technique to manoeuvre the ball as defenders lunged, allowed Rochina to draw numerous fouls. It is no surprise to learn the Spaniard’s skilful attributes were schooled in Barcelona’s academy system. The attacker has also appeared for Spain at U17 and U19 levels.
And it was Rochina’s nimbleness in restricted areas that lead to the opening goal. From a short free-kick Rochina danced into the box. After his slalom was brought to an end by Sako, Rhodes unnervingly dispatched the resultant spot-kick.
Rovers had barely threatened to this point. Yet, Rochina’s inroad underlined the game-changing ability of individual technique. The attacker also demonstrated a willingness to enter the box and trouble defenders at every opportunity.
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All teams must possess the character to stand-up to concerted direct play. However, this tie also proved that within any team design individual talent must be given the opportunity to flourish. After all, it is those who possess something different that can craftily unlock the most obdurate of defences.
Advice for grassroots coaches
- Encourage and develop the individual creative player. Young players should be developed in environments where they feel emboldened to develop individual skills and become unique to those around them
- Design practices which help young players with their awareness and positioning. Those who can recognise the cues and triggers of developing patterns of play are often the first on the scene to collect second balls. Danny Murphy demonstrated this with great expertise.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for five years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column takes a weekly look at the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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