Stoke heap more pressure on McCarthy as Wolves mauled
If ever there was an advertisement for the power of positive thought, this was it. True, Wolves were outplayed -- dispatched by goals from Kenwyne Jones, Ryan Shawcross and Jermaine Pennant -- but Mick McCarthy will have wryly noted that two of their strikes were indebted, one directly, to deflections. It never rains...
Tony Pulis' side are full of confidence, and they are being rewarded with the good luck that comes with it. The nervousness which seeped into Wolves's bloodstream after losing 4-1 away at Newcastle, meanwhile, has been spreading ever since. It has every appearance of being terminal.
Stoke will never be like Arsenal, but then they don't want to be. Instead, they wound themselves around Wolves like poison ivy, a potent mix of power, precision and positivity.
Their first goal perfectly encapsulated Stoke 2011. Shawcross hoofed it up, Jones held it up, Pennant supplied the cutest of crosses, and Jones hammered home with his head. A vulnerable Wolves didn't stand a chance.
Pennant's impudence clearly knows no bounds. His next ruse was to chip the ball over Stephen Ward to Andy Wilkinson, who had darted ahead of him in the area. The defender intercepted and carved out a shot from the tightest of angles, but Wayne Hennessey got his fingertips to it and nudged wide. Wolves were coming apart at the seams by the time Matthew Etherington pulled up with a hamstring injury on the half-hour.
It was now a matter of simply surviving to the break. Stoke had no intention of letting that happen, and Dean Whitehead emerged through for a one-on-one with Hennessey, only to be foiled by an outrageous save.
Michael Kightly fouled Marc Wilson, and Shawcross' header was tipped over -- again a splendid save. Pennant's subsequent corner went low to Glenn Whelan, whose shot took a ricochet off Karl Henry and was tapped in by Shawcross.
Stoke emerged for the second half frothing at the mouth. Soon they surged forward with Jones and Jonathan Walters, whose cross deflected up off Berra -- too long for Jones, but perfect for Pennant there at the far side of the area, controlling with his chest, and then driving the ball into the top corner off the unfortunate Richard Stearman. McCarthy winced.
A miserable night for Wolves, then, but this was a game in hand on those teams around them and they remain only one point inside the relegation zone. But they need to start harnessing the power of positive thought. (© Daily Telegraph, London)