Sturridge's goals keep Wolves in hunt

Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Coventry City 1
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Dean Sturridge, who until the turn of the year was leading scorer with a Premiership club, is on course for a rapid top flight return after striking twice as Wolves reclaimed second place in the First Division yesterday with a thumping win over Coventry.

Sturridge, who turned his loan from Leicester into a £375,000 transfer on Christmas Eve, sparked a Coventry collapse with contrasting demonstrations of the predator's art immediately after half-time. Still leading the Filbert Street chart until Jamie Scowcroft finally overtook last week, he thus took his goal tally to eight in 11 appearances for Wolves.

Colin Cameron made it three goals in six minutes, and Wolves soon squandered the chance of a fourth when Nathan Blake missed a penalty. The visitors' problems worsened when David Thompson was shown his second red card and Coventry's sixth of the the season. Their stoppage-time goal, credited to Jay Bothroyd, was scant consolation for a side who have taken only 12 of the last 36 points on offer.

Wolves' form at Molineux during Dave Jones' year as manager, 10 defeats and now eight wins in 22 matches, has hardly been that of a team with Premiership aspirations. Although they were the more positive side in the first half, when both Blake and Sturridge had "goals" rightly disallowed for offside, their powerful start to the second period clearly caught an under-strength Coventry by surprise.

Mohamed Camara, the former Le Havre player who had an outstanding match at left-back, set the ball rolling with a fine long pass to Blake. He muscled Richard Shaw off the ball, forcing Gary Breen into a sliding challenge which merely steered it to Sturridge, who side-footed home from 12 yards.

The second goal, which followed another long ball by Mark Kennedy, owed much to the failings of two Swedes. Tomas Antonelius appeared unaware of Sturridge's surge through the centre, while Magnus Hedman, who is likely to be in goal against England in Japan, advanced 16 yards but failed to collect. Sturridge, darting between them, found the unguarded net with a glancing header.

Coventry's disintegration continued apace. Sturridge could not turn in Shaun Newton's low cross, but Cameron, following up, hooked in via the sprawling Hedman's outstretched hand. Even so, Sturridge thought his second hat-trick for Wolves beckoned in the 62nd minute when he grabbed the ball after Breen bundled over Blake. But Blake, Jones' designated penalty-taker, pulled rank, only to trundle the ball feebly wide.

Thompson, by some distance Coventry's best player, had tested the referee's patience during the first half by hacking down Kennedy shortly after being cautioned for fouling Kevin Muscat. He finally exhausted it nine minutes from time by planting a boot in Michael Oakes' ribs as the goalkeeper caught Lee Carsley's pass.

Coventry had the last word, Bothroyd's header from a Carsley corner finding the net via deflections off Joleon Lescott and Cameron. Yet after their bright start under Roland Nilsson, promotion is beginning to look a remote prospect.

Goals: Sturridge (50) 1-0; Sturridge (53) 2-0; Cameron (55) 3-0; Bothroyd (90) 3-1.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Oakes; Muscat, Butler, Lescott, Camara; Newton, Rae, Cameron, Kennedy; Sturridge (Miller, 85), Blake (Ndah, 75). Substitutes not used: Naylor, Andrews, Murray (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Edworthy, Breen, Shaw, Antonelius; Delorge (Betts, 62), Carsley, Fowler, Thompson; Mills (Bothroyd, h-t), Joachim. Substitutes not used: Davenport, Quinn, Hyldgaard (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland).

Bookings: Wolves: Cameron, Butler, Kennedy. Coventry: Thompson, Breen. Sending-off: Coventry: Thompson.

Man of the match: Lescott.

Attendance: 21,009.