What a difference 3 days make. After the dismal and frankly pathetic performance by Wolves on Saturday, confidence was at a low ebb with fans and with 4 awkward games to go, there was only 1 word on the supporters mind, I’ll let you make your own mind up to what that word is. We started the evening with 48 points and were 2nd from bottom, with Bristol City all but relegated below us on 40 points. There was an odd, dare I say, relaxed atmosphere, a sense of inevitability that Wolves were not going to get anything against the team placed 2nd in the Championship. Maybe that helped the team who knows. I did find it funny that almost exactly a year ago Wolves had to play another team in sky blue to stay up, Man City came to the Molineux on the 22nd April 2012 and duly sent us packing to the Championship, with goals from Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri putting the club out of its long suffering misery. The situation was exactly the same last night, Hull came out, clad in aqua blue, needing a win to all but guarantee automatic promotion, they faced a Wolves team that could not lose otherwise we may find our selves, like Bristol City, cut a drift from the rest of the pack.
After the late win away against the Messiah’s (Mick McCarthy) Ipswich Town on Saturday afternoon, Steve Bruce made 2 changes, in came the former Albion man Robert Koren for Jonny Evans’ younger brother, Corry. Bruce’s second change was the rather amusingly named Ahmed Fathy for another former Albion man, Jay Simpson. With these changes in mind, Steve Bruce lined his team up in a cultural 3-5-1-1 formation, in goal was the Fulham loanee, David Stockdale. In front of him were a trio of centre backs, James Chester, Jack Hobbs and the man mountain Abdoulaye Faye. Bruce’s 5-man midfield consisted of 3 Irishmen, Robbie Brady on the wing, Stephen Quinn and David Meyler (no relation) were the operators in the centre of the park. The 2 Egyptians were Ahmed Elmohamady who operated as the other wingback and the aforementioned Ahmed Fathy partnered Quinn and Meyler. Robert Koren sat ‘in the hole’ behind the Peterborough loanee, and highly rated striker/attacking midfielder, George Boyd.
Wolves were largely unchanged, after O’Hara’s sending off on Saturday, Saunders was forced to bring in Tongo Doumbia for the aforementioned midfielder. With that, Wolves had the impressive Dorus De Vries between the posts. In front of him were Gorkss and Johnson with our young prodigies, Doherty and Robinson, occupying the full back positions. The midfield consisted of the revived Stephen Hunt on the right hand side, Doumbia and Henry were the two midfielders who were tasked with stopping Quinn and co, and Stephen Ward was given his second game at right midfield. Our front two was, the captain, Kevin Doyle and Bjorn Sigurdarson.
The game kicked off in beautiful sunshine, with a hint of breeze, Wolves had the better of the opening opportunities, a Stephen Hunt free kick was caught by Stockdale after Tongo Doumbia was brought down. It was clear to see Saunders set the team up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Stephen Hunt in behind Kevin Doyle, to solidify the midfield and match the 5 men of Hull. In addition to Hunt’s free kick, Bjorn Sigurdarson picked the ball up and drove at the midfield, something that he is becoming extremely good at, and fed the ball out to Jack Robinson, Hull applied pressure but the Liverpool man held it well and gave it inside to Tongo Doumbia. The Malian midfield general looked up and switched the ball to the other side to the oncoming Matt Doherty who, again, like Robinson, was pressured off the ball and Hull passed their way out of danger. With 15 minutes of the 90 gone, it was clear that Wolves, even with 5 in the middle, had no midfield, the ball was being lumped up to the Doyle or Hunt in the hope that they could perform some sort of miracle with it. Wolves had a surprisingly good passing rhythm they knocked it around nicely, we just seemed to lack any sort of intensity. Wolves’ best chance of the first 45 came when Tongo Doumbia’s presence and strength stole the ball off Quinn and his pass found Jack Robinson, who’s precise cross found our Icelandic striker, who’s header bounced out, Ward found the ball to cries of “shoot!” he duly obliged. The ball, sadly, bobbled out after Kevin Doyle came close from Ward’s deflected shot.
Hull were under the cosh, but, once again, Wolves could not capitalise on the early pressure. Hull got forward on 20 minutes through the Egyptian, and Sunderland loanee, Ahmed Elmohamady. He got the ball deep and displayed a fantastic burst of pace to run roughly 60 yards and deliver a pin point, low cross into the Wolves box, hearts were in mouths for a few seconds, but thankfully, Elmohamady’s cross found no one. Hull had another good chance when the other Egyptian, Fathy, smashed the ball from 30 yards only to see it whistle past the right hand side of Dorus’ goal. The 4th officials board went up for the first time on the half hour mark, Steve Bruce had decided Robert Koren’s evening was up, he was hooked and Jay Simpson replaced. Initially, the thinking was that Bruce wanted to match Wolves’ 4-man midfield by putting Boyd and Simpson up front together. However, Simpson was put out on the wing, an odd move from Bruce I thought.
Halftime came and there was a sense of frustration amongst the fans that were sat in my earshot. I, like them, felt that Wolves lacked any sort of intensity to get a goal, we had some half decent chances and one very good chance we just lacked any sort of ability to take an opportunity if it came along, sound familiar? Hull on the other hand had a very odd first half, it looked as if Bruce had waited to catch Wolves on the break, seeing the way we started on Saturday, can you blame him for doing that? Saunders trumped him, he was happy to keep the ball and containing Hull’s rare bursts forwards, he deserves credit for that. That frustration and annoyance soon dissipated though when Wolverhampton Wanderers’ favourite rude boy, Adam Hammill, came on and gave the crowd, an American football style, half time show. His flicks and tricks dazzled the pie eating, tea-drinking supporters as the temperature took a sudden drop. It really was awesome to watch some with that much ability just ‘larking about’ with a football.
The teams arrived for the second half unchanged, to cheers and mutual applause from both sets of fans. After a rather dull first 10 minutes, fans cockles were warmed when Bjorn Sigurdarson ran down the right in typical, powerful, fashion cut inside with such confidence for a man of such a young age, he was unfairly pulled down and the attack was snuffed out by the diligent Hull defenders.
At around about the hour mark, came a moment, a moment that gave Wolves the slightest notion of a glimmer of safety. Doumbia, impressive all game, pounced on a dawdling Ahmed Fathy just inside Hull’s own half, the tackle wasn’t the best and the ball bounced forward to an eager Bjorn Sigurdarson, he, as he had done all evening, ran at Abdoulaye Faye and co. Sigurdarson spotted the run to his left, of the captain, and ever loyal, Kevin Doyle, who let the ball run across his body, into the 18 yard box, and first time, with his left foot, brushed the ball, Claude Monet-esque, past David Stockdale’s left hand side. Unlike the celebrations on Saturday, these cheers and smiles were not tinged with the nervousness like against Huddersfield, it was utter joy from every home fan there and it was spectacular.
Now the pressure was on, as every one took their seats, Wolves had half an hour to hang on or get another one and kill off The Tigers. The pressure started from the impressive Elmohamady who had another trademark burst down the wing and whipped a ball in, it was deflected out and the young Irishman, Robbie Brady, skied a long-range shot over Dorus’ goal. Another chance fell 8 minutes later when the goal scorer, Kevin Doyle, cleared the aforementioned Irish man’s cross. Hull’s pressure was there but Wolves, surprisingly, dealt with it diligently and professionally there was hardly any drama from Wolves’ defensive play, it was impressive. It was weird if I’m honest.
Wolves, with 30 minutes remaining, created a fantastic opportunity when Stephen Ward’s cross was headed out to Tongo Doumbia who took one touch on his chest and, to coin an Alan Partridge phrase “had a foot like a traction engine”, sadly the midfield general’s shot went inches wide, to many gasps from the Molineux faithful. It seemed that Hull’s main tactic was putting balls in the home team’s box, this was obsolete as Johnson and Gorkss were both rocks at the back and dealt with the deliveries of Elmohamady and Brady with consummate ease.
With 15 minutes left, Bruce brought on Matty Fryatt for Abdoulaye Faye and went for the equaliser. Hull nearly found it with about ten minutes to go, Brady ran at the Wolves backline, he dazzled Doumbia with a few step overs. Brady dropped a shoulder to the right and picked out Jay Simpson with a delightful, Xavi-esque, pass that split Wolves’ offside trap. Simpson, like Doyle, let the ball go in front of him, across his body, he placed it with his left passed De Vries. Time stood still for the South Bank and co as the ball glided past our Dutch goalkeeper. Thankfully the woodwork was on hand to save Wolves’, it was lucky that the ball did not go in, but it was luck we made ourselves.
Now, one highlight this season has been the introduction of youth into the squad. This was emphasized in a moment by a young man, Matt Doherty produced a match winning tackle on Jay Simpson, it had the timing and awareness of a player 7 or 8 years his senior, it got a standing ovation from every one clad in gold. It was one of those season defining moments, a highlight certainly. As the great golf commentator Peter Allis famously says, “Well done young man”. This tackle created one of the most crazy moments at the Molineux this season, from the resulting tackle Wolves hit Hull on the break with Hunt who scrambled possession from the Hull defenders and hit a tame shot straight at Stockdale who parried the ball to his left onto Sigurdarson, who took a second or two to get the ball from under his feet, his resulting strike hit the underside of the Englishmen’s goal, every single person in the ground had their hands on their heads, in utter disbelief that it was not the goal that sent Hull packing.
Another chance came 7 or so minutes later when Roger Johnson, ran from his own 18-yard box and hit a surprisingly accurate pass to Kevin Doyle, who flicked it to Ward, he delivered a decent ball to the oncoming freight train that was our former captain, sadly, like most British centre backs he was flagged for an offside. The substitutions of Ward and Sigurdarson for Batth and Foley, gave Wolves’ the solidity and stability it needed to see the result out, with relative ease. Hull offered little in the last 10 minutes or rather they did, it was just that Wolves matched the away teams attacks with their solid defensive work.
Andy Woolmer blew his whistle after a questionable 5 added minutes. Relief, pride and joy exuded out from the Wolves fans as the players stood and applauded each side of the ground. “Hi Ho Silver Lining” rang around the ground as the fans made their exits, each one with high fives, smiles and hugs for their fellow supporters. It was nights like that which make me so proud of my beloved club, after such a disaster of a season, which has seen two managers and some truly shocking results, Wolves fans stayed behind and sung their hearts out, till they were puce in the face. It is this sort of positive attitude that has given Wolves a lifeline, one that they simply have to grasp, otherwise we shall be joining The Robins in League 1 next year.