Watford 1 Wolves 4: Cup love affair reignites McCarthy's hopes of making push for promotion

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The Independent Football

Quirkily, Wolves must return to Vicarage Road for a Championship fixture next Saturday in a match likely to be played at a different tempo, certainly by the home side. In the meantime, the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, in particular, faces a tantalising wait.

What he wants to find out, after enjoying what must have felt like his best few days in a couple of months during another frustrating Molineux season, is whether his team's promotion challenge is at last about to regain its momentum. The signs have been good. A first victory in nine matches in the League, at Scunthorpe nine days ago, proved they had not entirely forgotten how to win and, what is more, revealed potentially the answer to McCarthy's striking dilemma as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, signed for £1.5m from Plymouth, capped an impressive debut with a goal. And now this.

McCarthy was the first to qualify the merit of Saturday's win, pointing out that his Watford counterpart Aidy Boothroyd's line-up was hardly his strongest, but the manner of it was satisfying, none the less.

McCarthy cannot understand why some are so indifferent towards the FA Cup. "If I stopped dreaming about winning it, I might as well pack it in," he said. "What would have happened if I'd put out a weakened team and we'd got beat? I'd have gone back to play Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday and the whole demeanour would have said, 'We've lost again'."

Such considerations clearly are less of a bother to Boothroyd, whose side have not won a home league match since mid-October. "We had a few bumps and bruises and niggles and I did not want to risk players with two close league games coming up," he said.

Wolves were on top from the moment Andy Keogh brilliantly lobbed goalkeeper Richard Lee for his first goal to the crisp low shot with which he wrapped things up. In between, the dizzying Matt Jarvis gave Stephen Elliott and then Jay Bothroyd the chance to profit from his work. John-Joe O'Toole's consolation was probably more than Watford deserved and Wolves will have the upper hand, psychologically, when they meet again.

Goals: Keogh (5) 0-1; Elliott (58) 0-2; Bothroyd (68) 0-3; O'Toole (70) 1-3; Keogh (90) 1-4.

Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley, DeMerit, Mackay (Mariappa, 76), Sadler; Kabba, Bangura, O'Toole, McAnuff; Ellington, Priskin (Smith, 62). Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Stewart, Rinaldi.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, R Edwards, D Ward, Collins; Elliott, Potter, Henry (Kightly, 90), Jarvis (Gray, 84); Keogh, Bothroyd (Gibson, 90). Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Breen.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).

Booked: Wolverhampton Henry, Bothroyd.

Man of the match: Jarvis.

Attendance: 12,719.