All week official and unofficial sites have been assessing our chances of beating Sunderland today. On the one hand, pundits were pointing out that Sunderland were suffering an injury crisis and, anyway, were safe and would not be ‘up` for the game. However, MM was warning us against over-confidence, not that he has to remind me: I don`t do confidence as far as the Wolves are concerned.
In retrospect, with the knowledge of Blackpool`s 4-3 victory over Bolton, it`s clear that we had to win. On Gillette Soccer Saturday Matt le Tissier still thinks we will be relegated and, had we lost, all of Jeff Stelling`s chums would have marked us down for the drop.
I had trouble following the match today. I have not been able to access the Beacon Radio commentary for a number of weeks and the official blog suffered from technical problems. The freeview site kept on sticking or switching to a variety of adverts. To ease the pain it regularly showed me pictures of buxom Russian girls who were anxious to meet me. I spent the afternoon trying to restore the visual link and dashing into the living room to follow the progress of the Blackburn-MU game.
Bizarrely, I was almost pleased that I could not follow every second of the match because it reduced my tension. At 63 minutes, with the score at 2-1, I wrote in my notes that I could not stand the strain any more and was thinking of going out. Goodness knows what state I`ll be in by 22 May. And that afternoon I will be stuck in the BW Stand with thousands of equally anxious fans.
As for the match I still can`t believe we won the game 3-1. Sunderland were all over us in the first half and I thought that we would be lucky to gain a draw (think of any number of games this season). This was worrying, given the reports that were coming through of the Blackpool match. We scored against the run of play, though a five minute break in transmission meant that I did not see the goal live. Would that every technical hitch had the same outcome! Nice cross from Hunt, who continues to impress.
I was therefore not surprised when Sunderland equalized, though if our defenders had done their job properly, it would not have happened. Clearly influenced by the WBA school of defending, we gave Sessegnon acres of space in the box. More back-to-basics drills are needed at Compton I fear. The players in front of them also played poorly, with little service coming through from midfield to the front runners. The only moment of excitement was a dipping shot from O`Hara that hit the crossbar.
Everything therefore depended upon MM`s half-time pep talk and his strategic substitutions. Thankfully, he got both of them right. The players came out in a more positive frame of mind and the replacement of Guedioura by Jarvis won us the game. In the 54th. minute he dropped a pinpoint pass onto Fletcher`s head and he nodded it into the net. That made up for his 48th. minute miss from a position (and time) very similar to the one from which he scored last week. At the moment, however, I can forgive him anything. George made it certain in the 77th. minute. I could now relax a little and took the opportunity to pour myself a beer.
We played far better in the second half and managed to maintain a high line of defence. That is not to say that Sunderland did not have their chances: fortunately the referee turned down a penalty shout in the 67th. minute and several attempts went wide or were safely gathered by Hennessey. Had we obtained a penalty in the 42nd. minute as a result of a Mensah hand ball, we might have gone in for tea in the lead and in a more confident frame of mind. I`ll watch Football First this evening with interest.
It was good to see Doyle back on the pitch and that will boost our chances next week. He looked sharp and, given that our 4-4-2 formation did not operate as effectively as it did last week against WBA, MM will have a tricky decision to make next week. Of course, he could play Fletcher and Doyle up-front but I am not certain that this combination would work. It`s difficult to drop Fletcher, whose aerial power is becoming an essential element of our game.
I am not certain how I am travelling up to Molineux next week. Normally I drive, the effects of a couple of pints of Banks`s bitter disappearing by the end of the game. However, should we stay up, I want to party, as, I expect, will thousands of other fans. It could be a great night in the city on Sunday … but will the pubs be open?