Tranmere Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
EVENTUALLY the hurt came out. Graham Taylor had nervously but successfully come through his first match as Wolves' manager, and was explaining that he sent on Cyrille Regis with eight minutes left because draws were no good for a club that is mightily ambitious about getting into the Premiership. It was, he said, a Cup final situation, as would be all the remaining games this season.
'That doesn't bother me. I've got some experience in Cup final situations. I faced 38 of them with England.' But later he added, somewhat bitterly: 'I really only lost two of the important ones.' Never mind the turnip cartoons, the humiliation of losing to the United States, the tactical fiascos, he has convinced himself that he lost his job only because England were beaten by Norway and the Dutch in the World Cup qualifiers.
Wolves and a large proportion of their fans will soon start to believe him. He speaks well of them and they chanted his name with gusto when he arrived on the bench after the interval, by which time Wolves had put in a lot of hard work and gained a goal lead through Guy Whittingham.
After John Aldridge had equalised in the middle of the second half, the chanting of Taylor's name died a little but in the 82nd minute he made a positive decision, which came as a bit of a surprise to some of us who had so often sat while England had dithered.
The decision to send on the gnarled Regis was instantly seen as the inspired intervention of a manager whom the fans already seemed to believe had been wildly maligned when he wore the blue blazer of national office. It was, of course, the most obvious thing in the world to ask the wily old boy to go on and blast his way through Tranmere's always fragile midfield.
And he did it magnificently, within a minute at that. He simply took the ball into the heart of the penalty area and it ended up with Lee Mills, who turned what Taylor had called 'my most nervous day for a very long time' into one he obviously enjoyed hugely.
You could hardly begrudge him that, but as he admitted himself, Wolves seem a bit locked into a rigid system. If they want a different one every week, they may well have chosen the right man, but it was Easter and not a time to be churlish about someone who is actually a good egg.
Goals: Whittingham (20) 1-0; Aldridge (73) 1-1; Mills (83) 2-1.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (5-3-2): Stowell; Rankine, Blades, Shirtliff, Venus, Thompson; Keen (Regis, 82), Ferguson, Cook (Birch, 72); Whittingham, Mills. Substitute not used: Jones (gk).
Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Nixon; Nolan, Higgins, McGreal, Brannan; Nevin, Thomas, O'Brien, Morrissey; Aldridge, Irons. Substitutes not used: Jones, Mungall, Oakes (gk).
Referee: K Lupton (Stockton-on-Tees).