Tuesday 24 October 2017

McCarthy master plan silences the 'numpties'

WOLVES 3 SUNDERLAND 2

Russell Kempson

It is always difficult to tell what sort of mood Mick McCarthy is in, such is his all-year-round gruff manner, but the beleaguered Wolverhampton Wanderers manager at least wore the hint of smile -- just -- after his side had ended a run of four successive defeats here.

McCarthy had to endure a fraught week, with injuries continuing to ravage his squad and the "numpties" -- his words -- again calling for his head on radio call-ins and internet forums. And at 2-1 down, Wolves were heading for the bottom of the table. How the numpties would have had a field day.

But Wolves turned up the heat exactly when it was needed, with late goals from Stephen Hunt, his first for the club, and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake securing only their third league win of the season. Hunt and Ebanks-Blake proved to be inspired substitutions. "Great manager, eh?" McCarthy joked. "If the substitutions hadn't worked, I'd have been the numpty. It was a real conflict of emotions, though. The fans here, those out there, not the numpties, were absolutely brilliant for us. At 2-1 down, they could have had a right old go."

On the first-half evidence, Wolves were barely worth a win. But at least they avoided conceding a goal in the opening three minutes for a fourth consecutive match. They were thankful, too, when a Kieran Richardson free-kick struck a post, and grateful when Kevin Foley put them ahead.

At last, Sunderland awoke. "That kicked us into life," said manager Steve Bruce. Darren Bent rattled in his seventh league goal of the season and Danny Welbeck nodded in a Phil Bardsley cross. Their unbeaten run was about to be extended to five matches.

Not so. Sunderland's defence imploded, unable to cope without Michael Turner and Titus Bramble, their injured centre-backs. "If we defend like that, then it's going to be a tough winter for us again," Bruce said.

Hunt scampered on to tuck in the leveller from close range, after Craig Gordon had parried George Elokobi's header, and then Ebanks-Blake applied the gloss finish to another swift Wolves counter-attack.

McCarthy: grumpy waster or tactical genius? Perhaps the phone-in freaks and internet geeks will have been humbly eating their words last night.

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