Wolverhampton Wanderers. . .1
WITH centre-backs thicker under foot than a bedroom Axminster, it was no surprise that they played a decisive role in a Staffordshire derby made combative for being played out in bottomless mud. What was surprising was that the opposing number fives should have their names on the scoresheet.
Paul Blades, who scored his first goal of the season in helping Wolves into the FA Cup fifth round across town at Port Vale last week, casually claimed another, with the burly Vince Overson cancelling that out with a hooked volley.
It meant both sides preserved unbeaten records in 1994, Wolves having lost once since the end of September. But they are beginning to crack. They conceded their first goal of the year - 10 hours, three minutes since Oxford punctured their defence in December. They looked mortified.
Not as mortified as the biggest league crowd of the season at the Victoria Ground, disgusted at voices from Wolves' 7,000-strong following which scarred the minute's silence before the game in memory of the former Stoke manager Tony Waddington. In his 17 seasons Stoke spent only three out of the top flight but Joe Jordan finds himself the eighth manager since Waddington trying to recapture those glory days.
Wolves, another club straining to live up to an even more glittering legacy, looked the likelier to return to the top flight on this evidence. Even without Steve Bull, who is expected to be out for up to nine weeks, they looked the better bet for victory.
When the opening goal arrived for them it came from an unlikely source. There had been few clear openings when the long-striding Blades launched himself from half-way, exchanging a one-two with Kevin Keen before nonchalantly chipping over the advancing Mark Prudhoe.
Stoke were at their most dangerous from set-pieces, the Wolves full-back Mark Rankine having to clear Dave Regis's header from a corner off the line before the equaliser arrived from a similar route.
This time Mark Venus cleared from the back post only as far as the loitering Overson who athletically guided the ball over the keeper and in off the far post.Reuse content