Kenny Jackett says Wolves must again be ready for the high motivation levels of the opposition as they welcome Black Country neighbours Walsall to Molineux this evening (7.45pm).
With Wolves seen as among the Sky Bet League One favourites this season, teams have relished the opportunity of heading to Molineux, with recent home league games against Crawley and Swindon ending in narrow wins and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie with tonight’s opponents Walsall decided by penalties.
Jackett knows tonight’s game is not the biggest local derby in the minds of supporters, but is well aware of the bragging rights at stake and how the Saddlers will be fired up to try and end Wolves’ unbeaten run.
“It’s not necessarily the big one – it’s not Albion is it?” he says.
“But it is what it is and maybe the emphasis changes for Wolves – would Wolves be an underdog against Villa?
“So to some degree anyway, with Wolves’ recent history in the Premier League, it sets Wolves up as the big club and Walsall and Shrewsbury as the smaller ones, the underdog.
“They want to knock us off our perch, as has been said.
“It does change the dynamic because we have to be ready for that and be aware and we’ve been aware of that all season.
“We know the motivation level of the opposition is very high and it’s something we accept and we do talk about it to a degree, but only to a degree, then we have to get our own performances right.”
Jackett is also well aware of the quality of Walsall’s football under Dean Smith, not only from his knowledge of the division but also that JPT tie a fortnight ago, which was played amid a lively atmosphere.
“It wasn’t a normal JPT game was it?” he says.
“The fact there were over 13,000 there for a first round tie was unbelievable and there were a high number of away supporters which you don’t see in that competition before the semi-final.
“There was a competitive edge to that game and an atmosphere and again it was a very good game.
“There will be a high level of motivation from the opposition, a cracking atmosphere in the fact in that it’s the start of two local derbies this week.
“The players probably know quite a bit about each other because we’ve played them recently.
“I’m looking forward to the game and certainly we never under-estimate any opposition, and after that, we’re looking to continue our good run.
“We can’t look at it as anything else than a good opportunity for us to carry on an excellent start so far.”
Jackett says Wolves were never going to get their own way at home this season, but have managed to maintain a 100 per cent record at Molineux thus far.
And he says how the team must continue to be flexible for different formations in order to ensure they can both break teams down and keep things solid at the back.
“The way we played on Saturday gives us more forward players but sometimes then in the wide areas you can get caught out,” says Jackett.
“But I think it’s a situation where we have to be flexible in our formation sometimes changing – as it did at Port Vale.
“Going from one to the other can make the difference between winning and losing.
“We have to work hard in training at perhaps two formations and be flexible enough to move from one to the other.
“Whether that be to get back into a game or hold onto a lead or where there’s a bit of a stalemate to move away and get in between the opposition’s formation.
“We did score three goals on Saturday which is a big plus – whenever you score three it gives you a great chance of picking up points and of winning games.
“My goalkeeper also had a terrific day, and, if you’re going to be successful, you need a good goalkeeper and one that can win you games and it was a very positive performance from Carl on Saturday.
“In between those two areas – and generally if you get those two areas right, stop them at one end and score them at the other, you can be successful – there’s a process to both, and we need some more control in the middle.
“That was lacking on Saturday and that’s something we need to improve on.
“Both our closing down and our passing weren’t as good as it can be.
“That said, you’re never going to have things your own way and you need to find different types of ways of winning.
“But we’ve won six games on the trot and that’s a very good achievement.
“You have to look at it all. I’ve looked at it from the big picture to the small picture which is that we gave Swindon too much room and too much space on Saturday.
“And we don’t want that to be repeated – that’s the smaller picture.
“There have been quite a number of close games this season which suggests we’re going to need to be at our maximum all of the time and that even if we drop by five per cent, that can make all the difference between a win and a draw or a draw and a loss.”
1. * Kevin Doyle is 5/1 first goal scorer v Walsall - see www.betbright.com/wolves