Sturridge double breaks Walsall

Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Walsall 0
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The Independent Football

Dean Sturridge added two more goals to Wolves' promotion push last night as they strengthened their advantage at the top of the Nationwide First Division ­ but it took the dismissal of Walsall's David Holdsworth early in the second half to open their route to goal.

Wolves looked as if they might struggle to satisfy a 27,000 crowd at Molineux, but they were given a helping hand only five minutes after the interval. Holdsworth, on loan from Birmingham, was sent off for the second time in four games, for elbowing Joleon Lescott, leaving the Walsall back line exposed. Sturridge struck four minutes later, chipping the goalkeeper James Walker from the edge of the area, and scored his second 14 minutes from time, with Nathan Blake's assistance. A minute after that Blake added the third.

The First Division leaders walked off with an eight-point advantage over Manchester City, but they laboured early on to break down a Saddlers side who are now guided by former the Wolves manager Colin Lee.

Walsall started brightly, but Wolves, unchanged for the third game in succession, quickly gained the upper hand, with Mark Kennedy prominent down the left. They always looked the more likely to break the deadlock despite occasional Walsall counter-attacks, spearheaded by Jorge Leitão.

Wolves almost went ahead when Mohamed Camara met an Alex Rae cross in the 27th minute, but his shot was parried by Walker. Walsall, who held Manchester City on Saturday, were competing well and Walker was rarely troubled. Once Holdsworth went off, though, that all changed.

Sturridge, who scored twice in a 4-1 win at Stockport on Saturday, collected a pass from Kevin Muscat in the 54th minute before lobbing the ball over Walker and into the net. Then in the 76th minute it was 2-0 when Sturridge benefitted from a run through the middle by Blake. He slipped the ball to Sturridge, who lashed an angled drive past Walker. A minute later Blake completed the scoreline with a shot from 20 yards.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Oakes; Muscat, Lescott, Butler, Camara, Newton (Miller, 58), Rae (Andrews,79), Cameron, Kennedy, Sturridge, Blake. Substitutes not used: Ndah, Pollet, Murray (gk).

Walsall: Walker; Shields, Roper, Holdsworth, Aranalde, Wrack, O'Connor (Bennett, 83), Simpson (Byfield, 73), Corica, Marcelo, Leitão (Barras, 82). Substitutes: Harper (gk), Biancalani.

Referee: M Dean (The Wirral).