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Pictures and analysis of Sheffield Wed 0 Wolves 0

It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. But it was a point.



It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. But it was a point.

Manager Dean Saunders has said many things in the 14 days since his appointment. He declared he has stopped the rot and, after two draws in two games and only one goal conceded, we'll allow him that one.

He also said his team would entertain and he would have fans on the edge of their seats. The 1,600 or so Wolves fans at Hillsborough on Saturday may well feel otherwise.

One off-target shot in 93 minutes is more likely to see fans rushing for the exits. In fairness, it was another Saunders saying which more accurately summed up an encounter as drab and dreary as the winter skies.

'You can only do what the opposition let you,' he said, as a bruising Wednesday side the size of Tony Pulis's Stoke pummelled Wolves from pillar to post without delivering the killer blow they should have.

Saunders set his team up to play for a point and got it on a day when any prospects of flowing football were limited by a pudding of a pitch.

Wolves emerged with their first away draw of the season and first away clean sheet in 10 trips in another battling display from a game they probably would have lost a few weeks ago.

A first shut-out in eight matches was largely down to another highly-assured performance from Carl Ikeme in goal. Those are the positives.

But we are left to ponder that maybe Wolves are now a team happy to go to the fourth-bottom side in the Championship and play for a point, rather than attempt to win the game.

In the promotion years of 2003 and 2009, they went to Hillsborough and won 4-0 and 1-0 respectively.

The 2013 team may contain six of the side that romped to the Championship title four years ago, but they look a pale shadow of that hungry unit. Wolves are back to playing the Mick McCarthy way.

But a losing mentality that has seeped into their blood and bones over the last two years has robbed them of the power, pace, cutting edge and – who knows? – maybe even desire of that team.

There's no Kightly and Jarvis flying down the wings or an Iwelumo or Fletcher to hit in the middle. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is still there, but doesn't look the hungry goalscorer he was four years ago.

And so we are left with a team trying to recapture former glories by following familiar instructions, but one blunted by its own soft edges.

Wolves' sternest critics will claim the folly of McCarthy, Terry Connor and Stale Solbakken was never getting the defence sorted.

Here ,at least, if his first two games are anything to go by, is evidence of some progress under Saunders. Aided by two 'sitting' midfielders in Karl Henry and David Davis, they looked more solid.

Roger Johnson in particular won some towering headers and challenges, while more often than not was on hand to get a foot in alongside his less-certain defensive partner Christophe Berra.

There was also a solid contribution from full-back Stephen Ward. But the two main reasons why Wolves kept a clean sheet were yet another immaculate display from Ikeme and some wasteful finishing from Wednesday.

The 26-year-old proved his player of the year credentials by superbly smothering a shot from Michail Antonio, who gace Berra the slip too easily to leave himself with the keeper to beat from the corner of the six-yard box.

Ikeme also needed razor-sharp reactions and ice in his veins to prevent the ball going over the line in the 34th minute, when he held on to Reda Johnson's header, after Miguel Llera had nodded Jeremy Helan's cross back into the danger area when most of Hillsborough was howling for a goal.

Wolves and Ikeme breathed a sigh of relief when low shots from Antonio and Kieran Lee flew inches wide before half-time.

But, soon after the interval, it became clear the best Wolves fans could hope for was a point as Kevin Doyle dropped to right midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.

With Bakary Sako anonymous all afternoon, Saunders' side were creatively numb until the arrival of Jamie O'Hara on the hour.

Still unable to conjure anything going forwards, Wolves were forced to defend but Wednesday could not produce many clear-cut chances.

Just after the hour, Antonio ballooned one over the bar before the speedy Helan crashed a shot into the side-netting.

Doyle, who delayed shooting when clean through early on – a goal would have changed the course of the game – provided Wolves' one attempt on goal in the 86th minute, a rising shot that flew over.

Wolves got what they came for – but the home fans will expect much, much more.

By Tim Nash

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