Football: Southend ripped apart

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Wolverhampton Wanderers. . .5

Southend United. . . . . . .0

WOLVES, two goals up after only 10 minutes, swept to the top of the Endsleigh Insurance League with a powerful performance that thoroughly overwhelmed their opponents at Molineux, still bedecked with floral tributes to the late Billy Wright.

Their position at the head of affairs may not last long with Middlesbrough, on equal points, in action tonight. But the manner of Wolves' victory justified the label of promotion favourites foisted on them before the season began.

The impressive opening to the campaign put together by Graham Taylor's side has been made despite injury problems which have repeatedly denied them a settled line-up.

Last night, another adjustment was necessitated by Paul Stewart's withdrawal with a damaged ankle only one match into his loan from Liverpool. However, if this were a handicap it was soon overcome as the latest reshuffled pack made a dazzling start.

Neil Emblen, whom Taylor bought from Millwall as a defender but who is currently operating in central midfield, gave them the lead after seven minutes with his third goal in six starts. He reacted quickest to the loose ball after Paul Sansome had blocked Peter Shirtliff's diving header at point-blank range.

Three minutes later, David Kelly, recalled in place of Stewart, doubled the score. Darren Ferguson, whose teasing cross created the first goal, looked offside when Bull slipped him clear in the penalty area. Graham Bressington had the presence of mind to tackle the Manchester United midfielder, even with one eye on the linesman, but the ball ran kindly for Wolves again as the flag stayed down and Kelly drove it past Sansome.

Southend, with Ronnie Whelan, another player loaned out by Liverpool, prompting from midfield, carved out some pleasing moves but lacked a cutting edge. Their chances of recovery were ended seven minutes before half-time. A cross from the right by Mark Walters, also on loan from Anfield, threw their defence into panic. After Kelly and Emblen had both failed to find the target, Froggatt tapped in Wolves' third goal.

The home side's domination turned into a rout in the second half when two goals within four minutes gave Wolves their first five-goal haul since November 1992. First Walters beat Sansome with a beautifully-struck shot curled in from the edge of the penalty area, and then Bull finished off a superb break down the left by Froggatt by shooting in off a post.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Smith, Venus, Shirtliff, Thompson; Walters, Emblen, Ferguson, Froggatt; Bull, D Kelly. Substitutes not used: Blades, Birch, P Jones (gk).

Southend United (4-3-3): Sansome; Hone, Bressington (Edwards, 71), Dublin, Powell; K Jones, Whelan, Hunt; Thompson, Forrester (Poole, 60), Otto. Substitutes not used: Royce (gk).

Referee: R Poulain (Huddersfield).