By Asher Peters
What am I up to, moaning when we are top?
Maybe expectations are too high, certainly nicking a point at Wolves would have been a great result a couple of years ago. But I have been thinking that too much lately and it is a touch depressing that our fleeting moments of fluency are enough to get us by, along with an uncharacteristic amount of luck, in what is a characteristically poor First Division.
The great underachievers were at us well early on, Sinton still effectively dirty and Branch massively skilful and effective, if embarrassingly slight. Bazeley has continued his rate of improvement without ironing out his inconsistency and tendency for embarrassing mistakes. Ah, Bazeley. Why is leaving Watford for a club lower in the league such a cardinal sin now? Connolly earnt our derision, Hessenthaler perhaps a rebuke, but even the man who worked his way up from a predictable lower division utility man to an endearing and effective wingback who would have kept his place in the Premiership with ease got only sporadic applause with the boos.
Overall, this was not an afternoon to be proud of being a Watford supporter. Granted, Wanderers encourage silence by their ground's aesthetics: away supporters now surrounded and spread out in the lower tier of a side stand not an end, open corners whistling the wind around the stadium. Even so, we would have made ourselves proud (and warm) taking a beating last year in less favourable circumstances. When, eventually, the team raised themselves to attack a Wolves defensive shell looking significantly easier to penetrate than the one on my overcooked pre-match pie, two goals were still not enough to inspire sustained singing. Cox floated in a delicate lob and Mooney crashed a brutal second, but these were minor disturbances in a first half of genuine calmness amongst the assembled.
So it was a surprise on returning to the tunnel-like catering area to find an atmosphere of almost Middlesbrough-style support. Hot damn, we actually were unbeaten, top of the league and about to stretch our lead. This was, of course too good to be true.
A dubious-looking penalty was just the can-opener Wolves needed to return to contention. If it had been saved, just a minute into the second half, I decided we would win. With it confidently despatched, the dirty orange (sorry, gold) shirts were clearly going to force a fairer distribution of the points. Among one of the better attacking groups I have seen Wolves field were two yet unmentioned players most involved in a brilliant recovery, in Ketsbaia and Dinning. The former's ceaseless running and the latter's class were the defining elements of most of the game, and without ever having a surfeit of easy chances, Wolves eased back to parity.
At least the Gillingham experience allows me to say without embarrassment that our ability to take chances means we do just about deserve our position - now we have suffered by that cliche, it is morally acceptable to profit from it, I reckon. Luckily, only an exceptional volley by Dinning was yet to come. The Wolves fans' aggressive attempts to start a rivalry (in today's globalised society, it's not where you come from, it's what your initial is that counts) made it easy to inwardly reflect on what the season has given us rather than watch what was admittedly still a fast-paced game in terrible conditions. Someone is going to give us a beating soon unless a combination of forwards can be found to maintain the quality we occasionally show up front, and add to our much improved defence and midfield, especially if injuries start to bite deep into those areas (ouch!). I feel guilty moaning after such a storming start but we'd be midtable-y obscure if the Watford Observer's "deserved results" were what counted, and our Oliver is generally fair in his judgements. Fantastic players, very committed but only intermittently effective.
Look, I'm not saying that I don't love being top of the league, but if only results counted I'd support Man United like everyone else. I'm not complaining, just trying to be cautious and acknowledge our fortune thus far. Oh yes, and we can't just sing when we're shit, surely?