Football: Taylor struggles with great expectations

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Wolves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Froggatt 11

Reading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 27,012

IF Graham Taylor did not already know the pressure he is under to propel Wolves into the Premiership, he certainly knows it now.

He sent out a side containing three new players for the opening game of his first full season back in club management. He also took a risk on Steve Bull's fitness that did not completely come off and included Geoff Thomas in midfield after an 11-month absence through injury.

Wolves won, but the former England manager knows that is not enough. The fans who packed Molineux want the finished article: to be First Division champions. They should understand it is not that simple.

Bull has a problem with scar tissue from an old hamstring injury, which means he can look fit in training but then struggle in a match. He lasted only 12 minutes but at least in that time he helped Wolves score what proved to be the winning goal.

Fed the ball by David Kelly, he turned it inside to Darren Ferguson. Reading's goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop, who had already made a brilliant save from a Kelly header, could not hold Ferguson's fierce drive and Steve Froggatt, one of the new boys at Wolves, knocked in the loose ball to equal his goal- tally for Aston Villa last season.

Euphoria all around. The fans thought it was the start of something big. Instead it marked the end of the game for the biggest name at Molineux. Bull soon trudged off and seemed to take most of Wolves's good intentions with him.

As Mark McGhee, Reading's manager, had anticipated, the early storm blew out and Wolves began to look ordinary. Their passes became longer, they surrendered midfield and Reading grew in confidence.

If Bull is relied upon for most of Wolves's goals, Jimmy Quinn has the same burden at Reading. Had he not been off his game in front of goal Reading would have taken at least a point. He lifted a cast-iron chance over the bar three minutes from time. Was Taylor grateful for that. 'You would have put your mortgage on him there,' he said.

Stuart Lovell, too, had a number of good long-range efforts, but like Quinn he wasted his chances at close range. Shortly after Wolves scored he scuffed a shot wide and then Quinn put his header off target from Mick Gooding's cross.

With Adrian Williams showing his full potential in a superb display at the centre of the Reading defence, Wolves found it difficult to create clear chances. Bull's absence and Thomas's lack of match fitness also limited them and Lee Mills proved an inadequate replacement for the local hero in attack, blasting his best chance high over the bar six minutes after the restart.

Mike Stowell had to make two superb saves to keep Wolves ahead, turning away the debutant Simon Osborn's 62nd- minute shot and touching over Lovell's header 16 minutes from the final whistle.

Buthe was helpless in the 87th minute when the substitute Michael Gilkes used his pace on the left to make room for a cross to Quinn 10 yards out. 'It was one of those where you cross your fingers and hope,' Stowell said. Quinn obliged with a loose shot.

But McGh ee was not about to criticise his leading scorer of last season. 'He'll win us plenty of games this season and finish as our top scorer again,' he said. 'There's nothing I have to say to Quinn.' But he may be at a loss to know what to say to his players, because they deserved at least some reward from their spirited performance.