Hughes out after three strikes as McCarthy takes point
WolveS' supporters had taken great delight in the sight of Mark Hughes being sent off following his fit of pique on the touchline, but there was no doubt who was happier come the final whistle. Andy Johnson's late equaliser, which he scored with his first touch after coming off the bench to replace Clint Dempsey, denied Wolves three crucial points that would have lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Results elsewhere mean the damage is not terminal for Mick McCarthy's side, but this was viewed as a must-win game. Fulham might have worried about their own league position had they departed without a point, but a draw was the least they deserved from a fractious contest that they controlled for long periods.
Hughes was watching from the stands when Johnson struck, having been dismissed from the dugout for a tantrum that made for comical viewing. The Fulham manager was furious with the referee, Michael Oliver, for booking Brede Hangeland and reacted by aiming a kick at the water bottle in his technical area. He needed three attempts before he made contact, prompting jeers from the crowd that got considerably louder when Oliver pointed him in the direction of the tunnel.
"I was disappointed because I felt Brede had won the ball and the referee interpreted it in a different way," said Hughes. "Probably the fourth official played a part in my dismissal and it was for missing the bottle I was aiming at three times -- that was poor play from my point of view!"
It was not the only flashpoint in a fixture that always had the potential to ignite because of Danny Murphy's comments in the wake of Karl Henry breaking Bobby Zamora's leg in September. The Fulham captain implied McCarthy was one of those managers who sent his teams out "so pumped up that there is inevitably going to be problems". No surprise, then, that Murphy and Henry were involved in a skirmish on the stroke of half-time here.
Steven Fletcher had put Wolves ahead by that point, the Wolves striker emphatically heading Henry's centre past Mark Schwarzer in the 22nd minute.
They could, however, have easily been a man down had Oliver not taken such a lenient view of Richard Stearman's reckless lunge on Eidur Gudjohnsen -- the Wolves defender escaped with a yellow card. The Wolves goal was also living a charmed life as Carlos Salcido, Demspey and Gudjohnsen all threatened.
Hughes called for the changes that led to Gael Kakuta, Bobby Zamora and Johnson coming on. A header from Christophe Berra dropped at Johnson's feet and the forward drilled home to leave the Wolves fans deflated.
"Everybody is predicting what it is or isn't going to take," said McCarthy. "I predict maybe one point or one goal better off than three others -- and we can still do it. Every point is hard to get -- Fulham are a good side. I think other teams could have gone on and got beaten in that game having conceded how we did and that late on.
"But we haven't, so we'll take the point, take the positives and keep going with five more games to play. There will be no defeatists here or negativity at all."
McCarthy played down suggestions he had set a target of nine more points from the run-in. "Three wins would be lovely, but I'm not so sure it will take that," he said. "You tell me all the teams out of the bottom three that are going to get those two or three wins, and where they are going to come from.
"I don't know, so I'm not going to put pressure on our lot by saying we need three wins. Observer
Sunday Indo Sport