Gray shades it for Wolves in colourful clash

Watford 2 Wolverhampton 3
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The Independent Football

Low on quality, packed with incident and drama. This absorbing game encapsulated the Championship, left fans sure they had got their money's worth but had both managers scratching their heads. Wolves finally edged it thanks to a winning goal 20 minutes from the end by Michael Gray, but they knew they had been in a contest. "We didn't look like a promotion team," said their manager Mick McCarthy. "There was lots wrong with the game and lots right with it. But I'm a glass-half-full bloke and the points were important."

Wolves stayed in second spot and while McCarthy will have to tighten things up if they are to haul themselves back into the Premier League, neutrals can enjoy the ride at least. They got off to a flyer yesterday, Chris Iwelumo putting them ahead with a scrappy goal after just 43 seconds.

A long ball was misjudged by Lloyd Doyley and Iwelumo capitalised on the hesitancy shown by goalkeeper Richard Lee and left-back Mat Sadler. It was his first goal since that horrible miss against Norway a fortnight ago and silenced early chants of "You'll never score for Scotland". "He said to me, he should have lobbed the keeper but I said 'bollocks' you scored. Don't worry about it," added McCarthy. Beggars can't be choosers.

Watford drew level after 20 minutes through Grzegorz Rasiak's first goal since last January, a simple tap-in after Carl Ikeme had done well to keep out a Will Hoskins shot. Rasiak then hit the bar from John Harley's cross and Neill Collins blocked Hoskins' follow-up.

The excellent David Jones, once of Manchester United, put Wolves ahead six minutes from the interval with a left-foot shot that curled around the wall and to which Lee could only get the lightest of touches; he probably should have done better. Having saved three penalties in his previous two outings, the keeper was not having the best of days and much of that could be put down the nuisance striker Iwelumo made of himself. "I'm not going to blame Lee," said Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd.

Watford drew level again less than two minutes after the interval when the busy John-Joe O'Toole got a touch at the far post to Tommy Smith's menacing free-kick for his seventh goal of the season. This time Wolves' keeper Ikeme was nowhere to be seen.

Smith then blazed high and wide from the spot after Jones was ruled to have brought down O'Toole inside the area. "The penalty got what it deserved," mused McCarthy, who felt Iwelumo had earned one earlier.

Wolves edged ahead once more after Michael Kightly found himself clear and squared to Gray, who finished well at the far post. It was by no means a grey day though and Wolves were soon indebted to two marvellous stops by Kevin Foley on the line, the first with his head from O'Toole's volley and then when he diverted substitute Jobi McAnuff's close-range effort.

"We dominated a very good team for a long period but I am thoroughly annoyed at the way we conceded three goals," said Boothroyd. "I would love to have a frugal team. It's OK being entertaining but clean sheets win championships and we are miles away." He will have to make do with a frugal board.