Wolves took an almighty step towards getting their season back on track today with a crucial late win against in form Sunderland.
Steve Bruce’s side arrived at Molineux on the back of a four match unbeaten run which had included their stunning 3-0 win at Chelsea.
Molineux bore witness to a scintillating encounter today,
With the Gold & Black army finally allowed home with some hope in place of bewilderment.
Wolves have squandered leads and/or conceded late goals on countless occasions already this season, but today, it was their turn to dole out the medicine.
Sunderland had started reasonably well in the first ten minutes, but Wolves soon took the game by the scruff of the neck and found themselves dominating possession for most of the first half and looked like the only side with a will to attack as Bruce would later concede.
Richard Stearman had the ball in the back of the net for Wolves, but was wrongly adjudged to have converted his close range effort from an offside position.
The officials were already on the receiving end of the home fans fury following a string of bad decisions that were at times, little short of bizarre and absurd.
Mick McCarthy will always insist that decisions balance themselves out over the course of a season, but the officials would not keep everyone waiting so long, ‘balancing’ themselves out by failing to spot Stearman actually in an offside position in the run up to what would prove our second goal and equalizer. By the games end they had managed to upset both sides with a terrible collective performance.
Whilst the game will be remembered for the second half, which would deliver the five goal flurry that would settle this game, Wolves will look back and wonder how they had not broken the deadlock in the first half.
As well as Stearman’s disallowed goal, Kevin Doyle blazed over with the goal at his mercy and the look on his face described the bewilderment of us all. Elsewhere, the exceptional Matt Jarvis delivered a stream of crosses although Wolves were failing to get enough bodies into the box and Doyle, by was continuously outnumbered leading the line by himself. David Jones did find himself in the box towards the end of the first half but his effort was tame.
Whilst some may have feared Wolves endeavors may have been left wasted- it took them just five second half minutes to break the deadlock. Matt Jarvis cut back and pulled off a right footed shot that Gordon, following a very shaky start the game, could only parry. With the ball rebounding out at pace, Kevin Foley showed magnificent composure to meet it on his angled run into the box to fire a shot with his left foot back across the goal and into the corner, this time giving Gordon no chance at all.
Having taken the lead, Wolves suddenly appeared to drop far too deep, and Sunderland needed no invitation to try and force their way back into this game.
Wolves had waited some time for a lead, and whilst it was of course perfectly reasonable for them to step back hold Sunderland at a distance for a while, they suddenly found themselves under the cosh, and were being forced into stray passes and errors across the park.
Sunderland were enjoying a purple patch and sure enough leveled the scores on 67 minutes- Asamoah Gyan had been causing problems since his arrival from the bench in the 55th minute, and sure enough his flick on put Darren Bent through, and the England international made no mistake with a clinical finish past Hennessey.
With all the recent heartbreak fresh in the memory, the late goals conceded, the leads surrendered, Wolves fans could only fear the worst when on loan Manchester United starlet Danny Wellbeck nodded home his fourth goal in three games having met Bardsley’s cross with only thirteen minutes left on the clock.
The game had taken on an all too familiar predicament but for those resigned to the continuation of our recent pattern, Wolves would prove ready to turn this game on it’s head once more with a stunning finale.
With nine minutes left on the clock there was a case a football ping pong in the Sunderland box and from Milijias’ resulted cross, Elokobi rose to head the ball back across goal where Hunt bundled the ball in from close range. Wolves were back on level terms and whilst some would have taken a point at this stage, the team cranked it up another notch and continued to press. It really had proven a game that either side could have ended up winning, but continued resilience at the back from Wolves, and their constant threat going forward finally earned their efforts just reward.
With a minute left of time, Kevin Doyle coolly eased a pass from the left flank into Sylvan Ebanks Blake, on the pitch for just nine minutes, who twisted himself into position and thumped the ball past a helpless Gordon to send the home fans into raptures.
The scenes on the touchline showed how much this meant to the club today. This one will be remembered in similar fashion to the Leicester win all those years ago. Wolves desperately needed a result today. We ended Sunderland’s run. Let’s hope this is the start of ours.
It’s been emotional.
New York City Wolf.
Wayne Hennessey (8)
His inclusion did not surprise considering Marcus Hahnemann has gone off the boil a bit of late. Only fair for Hennessey to be given a chance after spending so long out of the side. Did more than enough to keep his place at Blackburn next week- looks more reassured on crosses and pulled off some excellent finger tip saves.
Ronald Zubar (8)
What a difference Zubar makes to our side. After a lengthy lay off you would never have thought this was his first game back. Reads the game brilliantly and was on the ball throughout. Linked up well with Foley- looked after defensive duties and proved a threat as always over lapping. To last the full game deserves further recognition.
Stephen Ward (7)
Wasn’t really put through his paces today so the fact you didn’t notice he was playing half the time is testament to the fact Sunderland were doing their best to keep the ball away from our left hand side and the outstanding Jarvis.
George Elokobi (8)
First ever Premiership performance in the middle and Big George did not let anyone down today with a very good performance. I must admit I was a bit worried about their pace but George met the task. Brilliant header back across goal for the second goal (Hunt) and may have crept in.
Richard Stearman (7)
Getting a bit annoyed with this player receiving stick. He is one of those players who’s mistakes get picked up more than others but I thought he had a very good game today. Mancienne put him under pressure with the back pass and there was not much he could have done with it. Aside from this I think he defended very well and continues to prove a threat from set pieces. Should have had a goal.
Michael Mancienne (8)
Made one mistake all day in my book (see above) but aside from that……! Great pace and anticipation- how many times does he nick the ball and break down attacks? He makes it look easy sometimes and doesn’t always get the praise he deserves for it. Undertook the holding role extremely well, and needed it with the rest around him all of an attacking breed.
Nenad Milijias (8)
His legs had had it by the time the final whistle went but today another excellent performance- some sublime passes and fed Jarvis throughout the game with his vision and ability to put the ball where it is needed- really should have released Jarvis on one glaring occasion, but we shall let that one slide based on his all round performance which now includes closing, chasing and tackling. Delighted he has turned his Wolves career around- Jelle Van Damme take note.
David Jones (7)
Is composed on the ball and knocks it around well, but for me today he was not getting forward enough and we were repeatedly short of numbers in the box when Jarvis was flying them in one after another. Mick saw the need for a bit more energy, chasing and brought on Hunt to replace on 62 minutes.
Kevin Foley (8)
Superb goal and superb all round. Some commentators have actually sat up today and finally recognized ‘Mr. Consistency’ – not glamorous or flashy but the stability he brings to the side, and his versatility are worth a fortune. Any striker would have been proud of his finish for the opening goal.
Matt Jarvis (9)
See star player.
Kevin Doyle (8)
Tremendous- continues to run himself into the ground leading the line by himself, took several knocks today but never stopped. Blazing miss in the first half, but his calm and precise pass for the winner, after chasing a nothing down the left spoke of his never say die spirit and his constant threat from first til last.
Sylvan Ebanks Blake (9) 80 mins
Came on and scored with a thumping finish. What more could we have asked for?
Stephen Hunt (8) 62 mins
Was good to see how much the first goal for us meant to him. Made a difference when he came on- benefited from coming off the bench fresh after a good run in the team. Has admitted he is still not up to full speed so today will have done him the world of good. I would prefer him starting next week in place of Jones.