It’s been one long season of anti-climax for Wolves so far and last night did not disappoint.
But if Dean Saunders didn’t get the result he wanted from his first game in charge, he certainly got the response.
Wolves were re-invigorated and Molineux was roused as a result. For only the second time this season, they saw their team come from behind to gain a point and, after the torpor of the Stale Solbakken experiment, that will do for now.
As we might have expected, the football was more Stoke than stylish, a bit of punk after Solbakken’s stodgy prog rock. Fast, furious, uncertain in construction and deliberately simplistic.
But it had a purpose and a capacity to disturb the opposition and that is what mattered as the new manager took his bow.
And after their own, morale-reviving three wins in a row, Blackburn Rovers were grateful for their point and that represented progress for Wolves following the hat-trick of sterile performances against Peterborough, Ipswich and Palace which sealed the previous manager’s fate.
As his successor openly declared, the football would be back-to-basics and the players would understand their roles. It was no-nonsense and relentlessly energetic and as a result stirred the home fans as they hadn’t been during Solbakken’s attempts to change the nature of the team.
Wolves at times played it so early it was premature, with either the giver or the receiver wrong-footed or out of position. The serious doubts about the quality of the players with whom Saunders must fashion a way forward were certainly not banished.
After the dirge of that FA Cup defeat to Luton, though, anything had to be an improvement.
Saunders was bold in his selection, bringing Ronald Zubar’s ‘Crazy Horse’ game in from the cold to rampage down the right while entrusting young Jake Cassidy with the task of sniffing out chances at the top of the team.
The 19-year-old, having caught Saunders’ eye in League One action on loan at Tranmere, never got a clear opportunity to mark his Championship debut with a goal but played his part fully in re-introducing Wolves to a public which had lost all recognition of its team. He will surely get further opportunities.
The game itself may have lacked quality, but it had a splendid feistiness which had the South Bank booming, mostly triggered by the contentious Blackburn goal which separated the teams at the interval.
This had followed a dominant opening from Wolves. The closest they came to a breakthrough, however, was from Kevin Foley’s 20th-minute effort defied by Blackburn keeper Jake Kean and some of the old uncertainties in defence returned to haunt Wolves moments later.
A series of missed clearances pressured them into conceding a free-kick which led to Ruben Rochina cutting into the area and drawing an attempted challenge from a wrong-footed Bakary Sako.
Sako made contact but Rochina was looking for it in the way forwards will – and referee Dean Whitestone’s assistant raised the flag for a penalty which enraged fans but didn’t prevent Jordan Rhodes beating Carl Ikeme.
What Wolves lacked in cohesion and composure after the break they more than made up for with effort. A Sako corner was headed off the line while a similar effort from Zubar looped on to the top of the net.
Saunders, having preferred the energy of a David Davis-Karl Henry axis for central midfield, turned to Jamie O’Hara in the 73rd minute and his first touch of the ball – was decisive.
He angled a long, diagonal cross towards the far post which was met on the run by Roger Johnson and a well-directed header flew by Kean to give Saunders his foothold and first point as a Wolves manager.
Many more are needed. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
By Martin Swain