Bullish Wolves suffer

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The Independent Online
Norwich City 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

If this was the best option on a day without Premiership football, then Premiership football has obviously got little competition. Which is not to say that a diluted Norwich and a comparatively disorganised Wolves failed to come up with a spirited game only a few months after the spirit of Carrow Road seemed to have faded beyond clairvoyance.

But for some nit-picking refereeing and self-confessed tactical blunders by Wolves' manager, Mark McGhee, the outcome would probably have been the draw that had always looked likely. McGhee admitted that had he not insisted on continually reinforcing midfield defensively, Steve Bull would have had a better chance to continue the scoring form that gave him four goals in the team's first two matches.

Having lost a couple of regulars to Under-21 international duty (Mike Walker, the manager, made a strong but rejected case to have the game postponed), Norwich knew that this was going to be a dangerous game against McGhee's intimidating side. As a result they tended to leave Robert Fleck as their only serious goal-searcher and concentrated on winning midfield possession, which was exactly what Wolves had in mind. So it all got muddled and crotchety, though nothing like as ill-tempered as the referee seemed to believe. His continual taking of names for trivial offences was the cause rather than the effect of any pique.

In one respect Wolves could have no complaint about the 20th minute penalty given when a careless rather than crude challenge by Mark Venus brought down Andy Johnson. Norwich had to remember who took penalties - their last one was deep into last season - but Neil Adams quickly volunteered and stuck it in. Wolves grumbled, but 70 minutes was ample time to recover.

Two mighty saves and another debatable refereeing decision ensured that the time available was still not enough for Wolves. A menacing drive from Bull after 28 minutes was instinctively double-fisted clear by Bryan Gunn and in the second half Mike Stowell did equally well to deflect a 22-yard shot from Ian Crook that was rapidly homing in towards the top corner.

Bull kept charging to the end, but got nothing more than a caution from the referee for complaining too much about a refused penalty. He will have better days, but whether either side can improve enough for possible Premiership survival next season is already in doubt.

Goal: Adams (pen 20) 1-0.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Newman, Mills, Bradshaw, Polston; Johnson (Carey, h-t), Crook, Sutch (Forbes, 81), Adams; Fleck (Akinbiyi, 81), Milligan.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Smith, Richards, Venus, Froggatt; Corica, Thompson, Osborn, Atkins; Roberts, Bull. Substitutes not used: Ferguson, Crowe, Segers (gk).

Referee: R Harris (Risinghurst).

Bookings: Norwich: Bradshaw, Johnson, Mills. Wolves: Stowell, Thompson, Bull.

Man of the match: Polston.

Attendance: 14,456.