Football: Old gold fading but Keane's stock rises

Sunderland 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Online
THE FATES are conspiring against Colin Lee, the way fate tends to gang up against those footballing figures destined never to be fully feted.

Lee, the caretaker manager still operating at Wolves without a contract, will also be without his best player, Robbie Keane, before too long.

In a few weeks' time Keane will be spirited away to the World Under-20 Championship in Nigeria by the Republic of Ireland and, to prove it, has just had his injections.

If only Lee had the wherewithal to immunise the players he leaves behind against the perils of plodding on without their teenage inspiration, perhaps he might convince the Old Gold that the First Division play-off place he craves will turn out to be something more than fool's gold.

Sadly for him the evidence suggests that Lee will fail. Wolves, as underlined even in defeat, grow ever more dependent on the pounds 8m-rated striker who has a future altogether more assured than the club which discovered him. True, Keane was unable to help secure the draw or win which would have extended Wanderers' unbeaten run to seven games. However, if anyone was going to be do it for them, then it would have been this explosive bundle of attacking energy.

It was Keane who hustled Andy Melville into giving away the goal Sunderland did concede midway through the first half. He also had two others disallowed, one through no fault of his own. Sunderland, in short, found him very difficult to handle.

Yet Peter Reid's runaway leaders were able to sustain their virtually unchallenged march on the Premiership. Although they scored an early goal through Allan Johnston, this was not the day to view them. Only through sheer persistence did they find their winning goal, in stoppage time through Niall Quinn, after Johnston's mis-hit shot fell at the veteran striker's feet for his 17th goal of the season.

Even with his spectacles on, Lee could not have seen that coming, just as he could not see why one of Keane's second-half efforts had been disallowed. Quinn offered an alternative explanation as to why his young international strike partner had been docked a goal, referring to Havard Flo's rough challenge on Melville as "a forearm smash right out of Giant Haystacks' repertoire".

Goals: Johnston (10) 1-0; Melville og (23) 1-1; Quinn (90) 2-1.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Melville, Butler, Gray; Summerbee, Clark, Ball, Johnston; Quinn, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Williams, Dichio, Bridges.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Atkins, Richards, Curle, Muscat; Emblen, Sedgley, Osborn, Simpson; Keane, Flo. Substitutes not used: Connolly, Robinson, Gilkes.

Referee: T Richards (Preston). Booking: Wolves: Flo.

Man of the match: Keane.

Attendance: 41,268.