Football: Kilbane deals the killer blow

West Bromwich Albion 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL CAN be a perverse game. Just as the appointment of a caretaker manager has had a typically galvanising effect on Wolverhampton Wanderers, so the confirmation of job security after four unbeaten games brought Colin Lee his first defeat in charge of the Molineux club.

Even with Lee Hughes, the country's leading goalscorer, failing to break his derby duck - the 22-goal striker has yet to score against Wolves, Birmingham or Aston Villa - West Bromwich Albion were able to claim a third successive victory over their keenest rivals thanks to two second- half goals.

The first, a fulminating 20-yard drive into the top corner from Kevin Kilbane, was a brilliant goal and that inspired Albion to manage a first clean sheet in seven games. Shaun Murphy's close- range finish guaranteed the victory that took Denis Smith's team to within two points of Wolverhampton in the chasing pack behind the First Division front-runners.

"At half-time the gaffer had a little bit of a pop at me, saying I had to get myself going," Kilbane, the Northern Ireland winger, said. "So I was just delighted to strike that one well and I enjoyed the second half."

Wolves did not share his enjoyment. With the news of Lee's appointment as manager until the end of the season still less than 24 hours old, his players looked set in the first period to continue whence they left off after the emotive comeback against Birmingham seven days earlier.

In the first period Wolves broke through the defence almost at will. Guy Whittingham's volley was headed off the line by Jason Van Blerk while five minutes before the interval Paul Holmes cleared David Connolly's shot off the line after Simon Osborn's defence-splitting pass.

But immediately after the break Keith Curle, who last year scored the own goal here that won Albion the day, fouled Hughes just outside the penalty area.

After Mario Bortolazzi back-heeled the free-kick into his path, Kilbane sent a powerful rising drive past Mike Stowell.

The Wolves goalkeeper felt he had been impeded from Bortolazzi's 61st- minute corner but Murphy was in no mood to await any decision as he shinned the ball home from close range.

"Although we didn't play particularly well in the first half, in a local derby like this the result is all that matters," said Smith, the Albion manager.

Lee said: "In any game the only thing that counts is the result.

"We've lost three points this afternoon, albeit against a team every single person in Wolverhampton wants to beat. Every single game we enter into we want to win."

Goals: Kilbane (46) 1-0, Murphy (61) 2-0

West Bromwich Albion: Miller; Holmes, Murphy, Carbon, Van Blerk; Quinn (Sneekes, 77), Flynn, Bortolazzi, Kilbane; Evans (De Freitas, 77), Hughes. Substitute not used: Angel.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Stowell; Richards, Curle, Sedgley; Muscat, Robinson (Niestron, 63), Osborn, Naylor; Connolly, Whittingham, Keane (Corica, 63). Substitute not used: Emblen.

Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay).

Bookings: West Bromwich: Van Blerk, Kilbane Carbon. Wolverhampton: Muscat.

Man of the match: Kilbane.

Attendance: 22,682.

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