Hahnemann edges Wolves towards safety
STOKE CITY 0
WOLVERHAMPTON survived a setpiece barrage by Stoke City to edge closer to Premier League survival, a point taking them level with their tally of 33 in the relegation season of 2003-04 with four games to play.
Some 25 throws-in by Rory Delap were speared into Wolves’ six-yard area as Stoke strove to exploit the narrowing of the Molineux pitch last summer.
But their American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, ably supported by Christophe Berra and Jody Craddock on his 500th League appearance, dealt with them resolutely to lift Mick McCarthy’s men six points clear of the drop zone.
Wolves have a superior goal difference to Hull City and Burnley, and since their remaining fixtures are against Fulham, Blackburn Rovers, Portsmouth and Sunderland, their fans understandably regarded it as a point gained rather than two dropped.
McCarthy was “delighted” with a draw, adding: “I’d like to finish top of that bottom pile. Someone is going to have to get seven points from their remaining games to finish above us now.”
Every Delap throw-in was greeted with chants of “Boring, boring” and the large Potteries contingent was subjected to the refrain of “How d’you watch this every week?” Tony Pulis defended the ploy: “It’s a great weapon,” the Stoke manager said.
“The more the opposition don’t like us using it, the more we’ll do it.” Pulis took encouragement from “a big improvement” in Stoke’s away form. This was their sixth successive game on the road without defeat, their best top-flight sequence in 30 years, and they share with Chelsea and Manchester United the Premier League’s best goals-against record.
With their defensive solidity and Wolves’ poor haul of goals – the division’s lowest scorers have struck once in eight home games – the outcome was unsurprising.
Stoke fashioned the better chances. Mamady Sidibe, who later suffered a groin injury, wasted the best, volleying wildly over after 54 minutes. Abdoulaye Faye was close with three first-half headers, while Dean Whitehead might have had a penalty after just 35 seconds when he fell under Matt Jarvis’s challenge.
Wolves rarely threatened until the final minute when Kevin Foley hooked a shot narrowly wide after a towering throw-in by George Elokobi, and a free-kick by substitute Nenad Milijas was gathered at the second attempt by Thomas Sorensen in stoppage time.
WolverhamptonWanderers (4-1-4-1): Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Elokobi; Mancienne; Foley, Edwards (Iwelumo, 59), Jones (Milijas, 78), Jarvis; Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Ebanks-Blake, Ward, Halford, Guedioura.
StokeCity (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Collins; Whitehead, Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Kitson (Tuncay, 67), Sidibe (Lawrence, 72). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Pugh, Wilkinson, Lund, Moult.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Craddock.