Wolves stall in their automatic drive

Wolves 0 Norwich City 0
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The Independent Football

Wolverhampton Wanderers have become ominously too big for their boots. After seeming to be guaranteed an automatic footing into the Premiership, now that over-confidence is being called into question.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have become ominously too big for their boots. After seeming to be guaranteed an automatic footing into the Premiership, now that over-confidence is being called into question.

All it took to frustrate them yesterday was a blatantly defensive, obstinate performance by Norwich to show that they are far from the superior First Division product that only a few weeks ago they could legitimately claim. Their finishing was poor, passing haphazard and defending nowhere near as assured as that of their opponents.

This season has taken Norwich supporters on a mystery tour of optimism and despair. After failing to achieve a win in five matches, they eventually defeated Gillingham last Tuesday and so found themselves back in the hunt for promotion.

Thinking that another win might revive serious hopes of a play-off place, they would have preferred a potentially easier trip than to Molineaux. After all, Wolves will need to put in an awful lot of sub-standard performances to relinquish their automatic promotion place. One duly came in their last game against Grimsby, which they not only lost 1-0 but fully deserved the setback.

Suddenly David Jones' side needed to justify the confidence of over 12,000 fans who, with the Premiership in sight, had already bought season tickets for next season. The volume of their support is tantamount to a 12th man on the field, but whether Wolves are really capable of holding a safe place in next season's top division has to be questioned.

Yesterday they bustled and foraged in their early attempts to gain a hold in midfield, but, like Norwich, they were not up to full strength in attack. As a result, although they had the greater share of incursions into their opponents' penalty area, they found Malky Mackay and Craig Fleming solid in the Norwich defence. Not only that, they were fortunate not to concede a 13th-minute goal when a powerful volley from Clint Easton was annulled by Michael Oakes' one-handed deflection.

Norwich had to settle for a counter-attacking game that held some danger to Wolves, but over the first half decreased in regularity. Yet, for all of Wolves' possession, Norwich were satisfied to reach half-time still defending, but still holding their own.

As for their own opportunities, they may have been scarce but still demanded the close attention of the Wolves defence, especially when, five minutes after half-time, David Nielsen broke away fast and seemingly free. As he swept into the penalty area, Ludovic Pollet cut across him and took the ball away in a triumph of timing.

For Wolves, the pity was that the timing of their offensive, as well as defensive, passing was considerably less impressive. Nathan Blake and Kenny Miller were only occasionally provided with hopeful possession and even when they were, the diligence of MacKay and Fleming was sufficient to negate their efforts.

Frustration nagged at what confidence Wolves did summon and they badly needed some saving of face for what was developing into another indifferent performance. Misplaced passes, particularly from their midfield players, cost them any platform of encouragement.

Norwich consolidated their own modest gains, when necessary, stringing five across midfield, but when four minutes of added time were announced, it heralded a desperate last phase of defending which was highlighted by a fine diving save by Robert Green from Colin Cameron's shot, and that retained the point.

Wolves 0 Norwich City 0

Attendance: 26,280

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