Football: Lambert's single piece of ingenuity

Wolverhampton Wanderers O Reading 1
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The Independent Online
NORMAN FOX

Wolverhampton Wanderers O Reading 1

Having seen the club he used to manage throttle the match and make off from Molineux with the winning goal, Mark McGhee was understandably choked. Wolves had lost three successive home games. A sympathetic suggestion that injuries surely had a lot to do with it was rebuffed with the remark: "Even accounting for injuries, we're playing badly. Anyway, the last bloke said injuries had cost points and he went." The last bloke was, of course, Graham Taylor.

Whether, unlike Taylor, McGhee can eventually produce a team that provokes the memory as much as the fine new statue of Billy Wright that stands outside the splendid ground is being cast in doubt all too regularly these days. Reading came with no intention of offering entertainment and succeeded miserably. But it was up to Wolves to find some ingenious way through. In the event the game's only real ingenuity came from Reading's James Lambert.

Last season Lambert was considered much too testy for his own or Reading's good but he denies it and says he came back a lot wiser from the time he spent with the Monaco club. Obviously he was a quick learner, since he was only there for a week. His midfield passing and good movement into the penalty area made it dangerous for Wolves, who were drawn into being fully committed to the offensive in a first half mottled with a spotty collection of half-struck shots from Steve Bull, Iwan Roberts and Mark Atkins.

Remaining on more or less permanent attack while Reading voluntarily retreated was probably no bad thing for Wolves, since as soon has they had to defend their disorder was exposed, just as it had been in their two previous home matches. So when Dean Richards made a poor fist of intercepting Lambert in the penalty area after 68 tedious minutes, the Reading inspiration drove in the winner. "An accident really, I mistimed the ball" he said - Lambert, not Richards, who mistimes everything at the moment.

Some re-arrangements by McGhee at half-time had seen the injured Roberts replaced by Glen Crowe, who at first found a semblance of range with his shooting but quickly lapsed into the team's characteristic haphazard finishing. But it still took a clutch of good saves from the Reading goalkeeper, Tommy Wright, to ensure that they embarrassed their former boss.

Not that Wright was at Elm Park when McGhee was around. In fact he has never played there for his new club, having only signed on loan from Nottingham Forest on Friday afternoon.

Mick Gooding, the Reading joint manager, made the point that teams tend to raise their game in the lofty surroundings and on the velvety pitch of Molineux. A few older Wolves supporters would make the point that Billy Wright's teams played vastly better in several inches of mud than the current side could achieve on this perfect surface.

Goal: Lambert (68) 0-1.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Smith (Romano, 59), Richards, Venus, Thompson; Corica (Emblen, h-t), Atkins, Froggatt, Ferguson; Bull, Roberts (Crowe, h-t).

Reading (5-4-1): Wright; Brown, McPherson, Wdowczyk (Caskey, 56), Bernal, Bodin; Williams (Meaker, 63), Gooding, Lambert (Nogan, 83), Gilkes; Morley.

Referee: K Lynch (Knaresborough).

Man of the match: Lambert.

Attendance: 23,193.

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