Wounded Wolves bite Blues
Under-strength Wolves overcame their injury problems to beat Birmingham City 1-0 at Molineux on Sunday.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 12/12/10 5:25pm
Under-strength Wolverhampton Wanderers overcame the adversity of their injury problems to beat Birmingham City 1-0 at Molineux on Sunday.
Mick McCarthy entered the derby fixture with one of the most severe injury crisis situations he has had to contend with in almost two decades of management, with enough players sidelined to make a starting XI.
But Stephen Hunt's 50th league goal gave Wolves the precious three points after latching onto Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's wicked cross on the brink of half-time.
Second-bottom Wanderers had lost five of their last six but McCarthy's side gave their survival hopes a shot in the arm with their fourth win of the season and their first clean sheet of the campaign as they moved within a point from safety.
Birmingham, who have now failed to win in their last 14 top-flight away matches, remain just two points above the drop-zone in 16th place following defeat to one of their local rivals.
McCarthy was forced to make four changes from the side who went down 3-0 at Blackburn last weekend - Kevin Doyle (dead leg), Matt Jarvis, Michael Mancienne (both knee) and Steven Mouyokolo (back) making way for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Hunt, David Edwards and Richard Stearman.
Birmingham counterpart Alex McLeish also made three changes, handing starts to Serbia striker Nikola Zigic, Sebastian Larsson and David Murphy.
The opening stages were played at a typical bustling derby tempo, setting the trend for the afternoon.
Ben Foster, who put in a sublime performance to keep the hosts at bay for long periods, made his first save of the encounter with 10 minutes on the clock, diving to his right to pluck Edwards' goalbound header out of the air.
The former Manchester United shot-stopper was at it again less than 60 seconds later, denying Hunt with a great point-blank block after the ball broke six yards out.
Blues were losing possession far too easily in the final third, meaning they were struggling to create a worthwhile chance.
Foster was made to work again just before the half-hour mark, getting down low to save Ebanks-Blake's shot on the turn from the edge of the area.
Wolves, despite their injury crisis, were definitely looking the most likely to break the deadlock.
Stephen Ward lobbed a speculative effort over the crossbar before Ebanks-Blake was again left cursing the form of Foster as he parried his drilled effort at the near post.
Ward did find the net just before the interval but he was rightfully flagged offside.
Yet there was nothing wrong with Hunt's 45th-minute breakthrough as he got in between Roger Johnson and Stephen Carr to connect with Ebanks-Blake's low cross, leaving Foster with no chance.
The lively Edwards should have doubled Wolves' advantage within minutes of the restart, somehow planting his unmarked header inches wide from Ward's right-wing cross.
The momentum from the first half had failed to shift and Foster was again called into action, getting his body behind Nenad Milijas' free-kick before collecting Ronald Zubar's tame shot.
Christophe Berra headed over from Hunt's corner as McCarthy's side looked for a killer second.
Birmingham were in desperate need of some fresh impetus and McLeish turned to Craig Gardner and Jean Beausejour from the bench.
But it was Foster who continued to be the visitors' key performer as he produced his umpteenth save of the match to tip Milijas' header over the bar.
Berra collided with a post as he tried to head home, but Wolves were unable to build on their one-goal advantage with 20 minutes remaining.
Ward's dangerous cross was well held by Foster before McLeish threw his last roll of the dice, bringing on former West Bromwich Albion man Kevin Phillips to boos from the Molineux faithful.
Despite the home side's dominance they nearly threw the points away as the game entered the final 15 minutes but Cameron Jerome was unable to connect with Beausejour's left-wing cross when, if he had, he surely would have scored.Phillips, who has a wonderful record in derbies and has 10 goals in 15 appearances against Wolves, had an even better chance in the 89th minute but got his angles all wrong and headed off target, much to the relief of the majority of the 25,150 present.
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||Team Statistics||Birmingham City|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||0|
|7||Shots off Target||3|