McCarthy off hook as Ebanks-Blake sinks Sunderland

Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Sunderland 2
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The Independent Online

As every chairman knows, expressions of support for a beleaguered manager almost inevitably backfire with alarming speed so the goal by which Sylvan Ebanks-Blake snatched Wolves only a second win in 14 matches will have been as much a relief to Steve Morgan as Mick McCarthy.

It spared the Wolves chairman the embarrassment of calling McCarthy to account only days after allowing the chief executive Jez Moxey to respond to unhappy fans by reaffirming their backing for their under-fire employee.

McCarthy turned the heat up on himself by describing yesterday's match as one Wolves had to win and his players did his blood pressure no favours but none of that mattered after substitute Ebanks-Blake rifled that ball past goalkeeper Craig Gordon with a minute left.

It meant that Sunderland's recovery from a goal down to be 2-1 in front with less than 10 minutes left was not, after all, the beginning of the end for McCarthy's reign at Molineux.

Wolves, following the pattern of many performances this season, had been the better side in the first half but could not convert their dominance into goals. The centre-half Richard Stearman did have the ball in the Sunderland net but was ruled offside when he applied the finishing touch to a George Elokobi attempt.

Although it was a correct decision – there was a defender but no goalkeeper between Stearman and the goal when Elokobi drove the ball goalwards – it was one that few linesmen would have called and McCarthy might have thought it was just his luck that this one did. But luck was not entirely against him. At the other end, a Kieran Richardson free-kick beat Wayne Hennesey but bounced off a post.

Five minutes into the second half, Matt Jarvis, exceptional throughout, drew a save from Gordon only to be beaten by Kevin Foley's follow-up. But it all threatened to unravel after Steve Bruce had bolstered his attacking options by sending on Steed Malbranque and Asamoah Gyan. A mistake by Stearman, who failed to clear a Gyan flick-on, freed Darren Bent, whose finish to level the scores was exemplary.

With 13 minutes left, Danny Welbeck headed Sunderland in front, diverting Phil Bardsley's cross wide of Hennessey. But, as McCarthy never tires of repeating, Wolves can seldom be faulted for effort. Sunderland lost their composure at the back and when a Jarvis cross was headed back across goal by Elokobi, Gordon could not save cleanly and the substitute Stephen Hunt forced home his first Wolves goal.

Then Ebanks-Blake, introduced with only 10 minutes to provide belated support for the tireless Kevin Doyle, did what he does best and bought time for his manager, dealing Sunderland only a second defeat in 13 games. "If I had been wearing a heart monitor it would have made interesting reading," McCarthy said. "They put me through it but as usual they gave me every last drop of effort."

Attendance: 25,112

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Jarvis

Match rating: 8/10

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