Pictures and analysis of Luton 1 Wolves 0

Now it has to get better – because it really can’t be allowed to get any worse.

Now it has to get better – because it really can’t be allowed to get any worse.

Luton 2013 became a Chorley for a new generation of Wolves fans on Saturday.

Unfortunately, there was no Steve Bull sitting in the stands wondering what on earth he had done signing for such a shower but ready to inspire a spectacular recovery.

Only Steve Morgan, back from holiday and accompanied by his family wondering what on earth he had done in handing the keys to the dressing room to Stale Solbakken.

This would prove one lame and listless performance too far for Wolves’ owner  who once again finds himself gazing at the distance between legitimate intent and a successful outcome.

His plan to bring about a transformation, an upgrade in quality, of the Wolves squad was perfectly reasoned and entirely necessary after a two-year struggle to stem the tides of Premier League relegation lapping at the club’s ankles.

But the execution proved beyond Solbakken, an impressive, decent and clearly intelligent man but one who failed to deliver on the strategy.

After barely six months, Solbakken’s  floundering regime looked as ramshackle as Kenilworth Road but not half so endearing.

It was almost a relief when he was put out of his misery a few hours later, but there would have been no satisfaction at this latest act of blood-letting.

Wolves have now spent two-and-a-half years pedalling furiously to go backwards.

Morgan will have to accept his decision-making has been deeply flawed, but the inquests can come later – there is now an urgent responsibility on the players who always survive such culls to earn their corn and prove their worth.

They are better than this, they will argue. Now they need to show it. Invoking the memory of Chorley, the landmark Cup exit of more than a quarter- century ago which would prove the nadir of the 1980s, is a little unfair on Saturday’s winners.

Luton are a much better team and Wolves’ distress should not be allowed to blur the merit of their victory.

Indeed, despite their own hurt and the taunting of Luton’s choristers, Wolves fans stayed to applaud the home players off the pitch, an admirable gesture which should be remembered when they are next accused of being angrily impatient.

Luton brought discomfort to their Championship opponents all over the pitch and were physically a match for Wolves, adding to the theory that collective fitness has been among the many declines under Solbakken.

Take away running power from this group of players and you cut the team’s effectiveness in half. There is another theory that had Mick McCarthy lost that fateful Albion game 2-1 and not 5-1, he might have survived.

Equally, had Kevin Doyle put away an early chance after being played clear by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s flick, maybe this day might have turned out differently.

In both examples, though, Wolves would still only have been papering over the cracks.

Doyle shot wide and Anthony Forde, another to have lost his identity amid the anonymity of Solbakken’s reign, failed to take another opening but this was another tepid rendition of what a football team should be.

Luton needed only a brief, out-of-the-ordinary input to ensure their victory when goalkeeper Mark Tyler defied Doyle and, even more impressively, Bakary Sako in the closing minutes of the first half with a couple of stunning reflex saves.

But the sense of impending doom heightened when some chaotic defending gave Luton the chance which was rifled beyond the blameless Carl Ikeme at the start of the second half by Alex Lawless.

Wolves’ failure to make any discernible chance to rescue the tie would have been the last straw for Morgan.

Twice in the first half, Luton’s Wolverhampton-born recruit Andre Gray broke away from Roger Johnson and Kevin Foley to threaten a goal, Ikeme defying him on the first occasion, an errant finish spoiling the second.

But the sight of this same player still able to speed away from the £6m Johnson later in the game while carrying the ball provided one of many troubling snapshots of an uncomfortable day.

Thank goodness it’s over. Which possibly sums up how many feel about the last manager’s regime. Including, perhaps, Solbakken.

By Martin Swain