At the time, it seemed no more than a minor blip. Barely 100 seconds had elapsed at Maine Road yesterday when Steve Lomas missed what was to prove the most glaring opening of an eventful Nationwide First Division match.
With Manchester City piling forward at every opportunity, it appeared only a matter of minutes before they would compensate for their young midfielder's aberration. But it was not to be. For, as City found to their cost as so many others have done, you can never afford an instant's lack of concentration when Steve Bull is lurking.
The lone forward in an unashamedly rearguard action, Bull extended Wolves' impressive away record, taking them up to fourth in the table, with a moment of typically deadly opportunism. His team-mates had soaked up all the pressure, gaining only three corners to City's 16. It would be generous to say they created half chances on the few occasions they broke away. They were more like quarter chances until Bull crashed in a volley that flew uncomfortably close to Andy Dibble's crossbar.
The warning went unheeded. Moments later in the 76th minute Robbie Dennison won the ball from Nicky Summerbee on the left touchline and, from Dennis Pearce's raking crossfield pass, Bull pounced. A yard out of position, Kit Symons slipped in going for his clearance, giving Bull the fraction of space he required. Before Symons had caught him, Bull's ninth goal of the season had been hammered low past Dibble.
"Once he had got into that situation, it was odds on where the ball would end up," Steve Copple, City's manager, said ruefully. It was tough on City, especially Lomas, who never for a moment allowed his early failure to affect him. After he had sliced his early effort wide from Uwe Rosler's pass, the Sky Blues created all manner of close things. Mike Stowell, having saved well from Paul Dickov, was hardly back in his goal when the 17-year-old full back Jeff Whitley shook the woodwork with a pile-driver.
The danger was obviously Georgi Kinkladze but the on-loan Robin Van der Laan stuck to the Georgian well, forever forcing him into cul-de-sacs. Once, when the Dutchman was not in attendance, Jamie Smith intervened, but, for all the ferocity of City's penalty claims for a dubious challenge, they were rebuffed.
Wolves, according to their manager, Mark McGhee, had been forced to adopt negative tactics by the fact that three players - Neil Emblen, Dean Richards and Dennison - were all returning from injury. "We knew what it would be like," he said. "The question was, would the players be up to it?"
Ultimately they were. If only Wolves could win their home games, McGhee's promotion claims could be taken seriously.
Goal: Bull (76) 0-1.
Manchester City (3-4-1-2): Dibble; Summerbee, Wassall, Symons; Whitley (Kavelashvili, 88), Lomas, Clough, Frontzeck (Ingram, 82); Kinkladze; Dickov, Rosler. Substitute not used: Crooks.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Stowell; Smith, Richards, Venus, Pearce; Van der Laan; Dowe (Goodman, 60), Emblen, Atkins, Dennison; Bull. Substitutes not used: Corica, Foley.
Booking: Wolves: Van Der Laan
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).
Man of the match: Bull.
Attendance: 27,296.Reuse content