Football: Wolves fret over warmth of welcome: Hendrie helps Boro extend 100 per cent record as Anglo-Dutch double act rewards Sampdoria's faith

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Wolverhampton Wanderers. . .2

Middlesbrough. . . . . . . .3

THERE is just no respect for property these days. No sooner is Molineux transformed into a home fit for heroes than Middlesbrough waltz through the front door and make off with the points.

In extending the only 100 per cent record in the English leagues - abetted by a late blunder by the home keeper, Mike Stowell, and inspired by their new captain, John Hendrie - Boro also demonstrated that Wolves' new-found splendour may prove a double-edged sword. After his experience of exile with Charlton, Lennie Lawrence appreciates the importance of having a place to be proud of. Unprompted, the Boro manager pronounced himself 'well impressed' with the old gold citadel.

The home improvements may, however, work against Wolves in one sense. Frankly, if visiting First Division players are not stimulated by one of the most stylishly unified stadiums ever constructed by a British club, they should seek urgent career counselling.

Those too involved in the action to notice the architecture will still appreciate the playing surface, which is snooker-table smooth. And the old dressing rooms, where cockroaches paddled in puddles let in by a leaking roof, have given way to a spa bath, sauna and steam room.

For this litany of luxuries we are indebted to a programme interview with the unfortunate Stowell. Normally a model of unflappability, sod's law dictated that he would gift Boro their winner before some readers had reached the bit about Wolves needing only a little more consistency to be promotion material.

Stowell was perhaps mentally replaying Hendrie's second goal, a deft header to climax the move of the match, when he let Jamie Pollock's soft shot from 25 yards squirm from his grasp and trickle over the line. The air, thick with optimism during the hour for which Wolves led after a flurry of early goals, briefly turned blue.

Boro's luck was in, certainly, though Lawrence's judgement that they were better between the boxes was hard to refute. The quick feet of Hendrie, who already has five goals this season in a new central role, also gave them the edge inside the penalty area. Seconds before the diminutive Scot levelled matters, Steve Bull had blown a chance to put Wolves clear at 3-1. The old cry of 'Bully for England' stuck in 20,000 throats, and in the dying minutes it became a case of bully for Boro.

Graham Turner took scant solace from Lawrence's description of his expensively rebuilt team as 'far and away the best we've played'. Well as Wolves performed - especially the midfield axis of Geoff Thomas and Paul Cook - Turner felt they could learn a lot about patience from Boro.

Relegated in May, they have rattled up 13 goals in winning all four opening fixtures for the first time. Since they also scored three in each of the final three Premier League games, when Hendrie first moved in from the wing, they appear to have hit on a winning formula.

With 42 matches to go, Lawrence is not buying that one. Wolves, he believes, will be 'thereabouts'; Derby, Forest, Leicester and Palace are already pressing; and his old club are up there too. 'Everyone writes Charlton off every year, but the spirit lives on,' he said, slipping back into Valleyspeak. 'I'd love it to finish like it is now, with us and them first and second.'

Goals: Hendrie (4) 0-1; Kelly (5) 1-1; Thomas (9) 2-1; Hendrie (75) 2-2; Pollock (86) 2-3.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Rankine, Thompson, Mountfield, Blades; Birch, Cook, Thomas, Keen; Bull, Kelly. Substitutes not used: Regis, Burke, Felgate (gk).

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Morris, Liburd, Kernaghan, Whyte; Hignett (Fleming, 79), Pollock, Mustoe, Moore; Wilkinson, Hendrie. Substitutes not used: Mohan, Collet (gk).

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).