Wolves lost their way last night – and somehow found themselves top of League One.
It will surely be only a temporary stay but head coach Kenny Jackett will want to find a permanent solution to the problems which inflicted his evolving team against Crawley, writes Martin Swain.
The match was given a rousing and dramatic conclusion by two goals in the final four minutes of added time as Crawley equalised – and thoroughly deserved to – another early Molineux goal from the home side, this time by Bjorn Sigurdarson.
But with the clock ticking down, new-boy Kevin McDonald produced the cross which drew a hand ball from Kyle McFadzean and a penalty winner dispatched with purpose and poise by Leigh Griffiths.
Understandably, Crawley were distraught at their fate having done so much to earn their parity in an open game that also reminded Molineux that this League One isn’t going to be a breeze.
But their protests did not stand up to the forensic replays of the incident.
McFadzean’s arm movement was clear and the visitors should have saved their curses for their own squandered chances more than the officials.
It was maybe a surprise for Wolves fans to see Griffiths starting on the bench after his show-stopping performance in the Gillingham match, but a week dominated by his court appearance in Scotland opened the door for Sigurdarson.
The players changed but the outcome was the same.
Wolves swept forward to claim a seventh-minute lead. The Iceland forward many fans are eager to see lead the attack had already forced keeper Paul Jones into a fingertip save from a fine Lee Evans service but an even better set-up by Kevin Doyle gave Sigurdarson a second bite of the cherry.
A well-placed sideways header did the trick and once again Molineux sat back to enjoy a bravura performance. Unfortunately, so did the team.
Although there would be further opportunities, largely serviced by Doyle’s clever deliveries from a similar position, Wolves too eagerly began to take liberties and add unnecessary extravagance to their game.
That will be a big lesson because Crawley seized on their sloppiness and by the time the interval arrived had done more than enough to warrant an equaliser.
They should have had one from three opportunities, the clearest of which fell to Joe Walsh who stabbed an effort wide from close range and with virtually all the goal to aim at.
Wolves would lead that kind of charmed existence all the way to the last seconds of scheduled time, while failing themselves to kill the game with a second goal from any number of counter-attacking opportunities. The best perhaps fell to Sigurdarson, who at full stretch again could not quite get enough purchase on a cross from the lively Zeli Ismail while the finale’s trigger point came after Bakary Sako – who gave one of those erratic performances which sometimes blight his game – had driven narrowly wide from another back-post opening.
Crawley came back for one last salvo and fashioned a fine phase of cohesive play with Jamie Proctor pulling back a pass that enabled Billy Clarke to beat Carl Ikeme’s outstretched fingers.
And that seemed that, with no-one denying Crawley the merit of their point. But by then McDonald and Griffiths had replaced Evans and Sigurdarson and they would have the last word.
Certainly, the quality of new signing McDonald’s ‘give and go,’ which took him surging behind Crawley’s lines, will have whet the appetite of both player and supporters for more in the future.
Referee Simon Hooper was initially reluctant to respond to the huge appeal from Wolves fans who saw McFadzean’s outstretched elbow block the cross.
But the wave of a linesman’s flag gave Griffiths the chance to clinch the game. His temper may have got him into trouble – but there’s nothing wrong with a temperament that finished the night so decisively.