All of the millions that Sir Jack Hayward has poured into his long-yearned for elevation of Wolves back to the top division will not be rewarded unless their present team can turn the currency of possession into the reality of goals.
Yesterday at Vicarage Road, Wolves gave another example of a team capable of gaining an advantage, losing it, recovering and yet, with their opponents falling back under their vivid attacking, lacking the striking incisiveness that really matters.
Gianluca Vialli had claimed that Watford's 4-0 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday in the Worthington Cup was "not a true reflection of what had happened on the pitch''. Heard that before? Echoes of a few defeats suffered by Chelsea in his time there. But he had a point. After all, Watford had gone six matches unbeaten in the First Division and had looked pretty impressive in the first half, only to fall apart after a couple of set-backs.
Their first half yesterday began very differently. Although their own Tommy Smith had a couple of early tastes of chances, Nathan Blake and Dean Sturridge, the latter likely to join from Leicester City on a permanent basis soon, both looked sharper for Wolves. The result was a ninth-minute goal that Watford conceded all too tamely.
None of their defenders concentrated on the range of dangers when Mark Kennedy centred. They may have expected it to be aimed at Blake, who had found the space, but instead it dropped to Shaun Newton. He enjoyed an unchallenged header past Alec Chamberlain, who had cause to criticise his defenders.
If Watford were defensively fragile, Wolves were also far from solid when, in the 26th minute, Paul Robinson's cross should have been intercepted by Lee Naylor. Instead, he let it fall to Smith who calmly volleyed the equaliser.
Wolves might have regained their advantage when, three minutes after half-time, Newton made a move down the left and finally offered Blake a clear shot from five yards. Somehow he drove it wide. Perhaps he was looking round for Ramon Vega, who most of the time had given him the coldest, heaviest of shoulders.
Vega's close attention to Blake needed the referee's close attention throughout and Vega's tough tackle midway through the second half must have been a close call for a penalty. Dave Jones, the Wolves manager, was adamant that the referee was wrong and Vialli more or less agreed though added "at least he was unbiased – he made mistakes on both sides."
At the time, Wolves were pressing hard but, in truth, neither side had a fund of invention. For most of the game Wolves had concentrated on counterattacks but in the end they were attacking without much in the way of counter from Watford, who were fortunate that Kevin Muscat's shot a minute from time caught the post.
Watford 1 Wolverhampton 1
Smith 26 Newton 8
Half-time 1-1 Attendance: 17,389