Football: Fates shine on Wolves

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The Independent Online
YOU WILL likely have read this before at the start of several recent seasons but... Could this be the year of Wolverhampton Wanderers? Admittedly, these are days so early as to be barely in sunlight but Mark McGhee's side is one of only three First Division clubs with a 100 per cent record after the first two games. Steve Bull and Simon Osborn were on target for the Midlanders as they won 2-0 at Oxford United.

But it took two controversial decisions by the referee, Mike Messias, which led to both goals. On the stroke of half-time he allowed Bull's goal to stand after the striker appeared to foul Phil Whitehead in the Oxford goal. "It was the sort of goal that gets disallowed sometimes," McGhee allowed, "but I think Bull had his arms well down."

Messias then awarded a penalty when Robbie Keane fell under a challenge from Steve Davis. "I don't know what Oxford were complaining about for the second goal - Davis's arms were on top of Keane's shoulders," McGhee added. Whitehead saved Keith Curle's kick but Osborn scrambled the ball in. Messias booked a clutch of Oxford's disgruntled players and added seven minutes of extra time.

Malcolm Shotton, the home side's manager, saw the game somewhat differently to McGhee, of course. "I am very disappointed and the referee had something to do with that," he said. "I will get myself into trouble if I say more. I dispute the fact that we were physical - we competed with them but the first goal changed the face of the game."

Graham Taylor's Second Division champions Watford are also in good form, Michael Ngonge's 63rd-minute goal giving them a home win over Bradford City and a six-point start.

Norwich City made the third two-win start with a 2-0 victory at Stockport County. Bruce Rioch's side triumphed thanks to a fine effort by Craig Bellamy, 18, who calmly tucked away Keith O'Neill's defence- splitting pass, and an own goal from Colin Woodthorpe.

Of the two northern sides relegated from the Premiership, Barnsley are having the greater trouble recovering. The Tykes, now under the player- manager John Hendrie, followed last weekend's draw against West Brom with a 3-1 defeat at Crewe, Chris Lightfoot scoring twice.

Hendrie was not best pleased and stormed out of the dressing-room. "The players have got to lift themselves," he said. "They are professionals and have to be mentally tough. There's a lot of strong character in the dressing-room but now they have got to show it."

Bolton, also relegated after one season in the Premiership, seem to have recovered more readily from their blues. They followed last Saturday's draw at Crystal Palace with a 2-0 home win over promoted Grimsby Town. Nathan Blake and Dean Holdsworth showed they have enough to cope with the less demanding attentions of First Division defenders by scoring in the 56th and 70th minutes, Holdsworth from a penalty.

The biggest win of the day was West Bromwich Albion's 4-1 demolition of Sheffield United, Lee Hughes scoring twice in the second half after Matt Carbon and Kevin Kilbane had put them in charge in the first period.

"The first-half performance is about as good as it gets against that quality of opposition," Denis Smith, Albion's delighted manager, said. "We should have been 4-0 up by half-time. It was probably our best display since I took over at the club last year."

In the Second Division Millwall, Bournemouth, Colchester United and Stoke City have 100 per cent records; in the Third it is Cambridge United, Rotherham United, Southend United, and Conference champions Halifax Town with two wins out of two.

Finally, of the four Conference newcomers only Kingstonian won their first game when first-half goals by David Leworthy and Joe Francis accounted for Hereford United.

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