The victory that would have pushed Liverpool to within one place of the foot of the Premier League eluded both Wolves and West Ham – an outcome which has the making of worse news for Mick McCarthy than for Avram Grant.
McCarthy's men should have had more to show for their first-half dominance than a goal by England contender Matt Jarvis. Instead they saw their hopes of a first win since the opening day recede after Mark Noble's penalty transformed West Ham from a defeat waiting to happen into a side who looked capable of a first away success in 22 attempts stretching back 14 months to the first day of last season, at Molineux.
Indeed, they thought they had it in the final seconds of stoppage time when Frédéric Piquionne netted. However, Mark Clattenburg thought the Frenchman had handled, a decision which riled Grant. "Human beings make mistakes and Mark's a very good referee, but I've seen the replay and it clearly hit him on the chest, not the hand," the West Ham manager said. "Today we won, but the referee decided not."
McCarthy, bizarrely, also felt the referee had cost his side the points, saying: "I've seen Kevin Foley's challenge [on Victor Obinna] again and it's a very harsh decision. We were brilliant in the first half and battered them, but a decision like that changes the whole dynamic of the match."
Wolves now embark on a four-match sequence which pits them against Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal. By the time they receive Bolton on 13 November, they may well have relieved West Ham of the 20th place they currently occupy.Being bracketed by Fulham's Danny Murphy with Stoke and Blackburn as one of the rough-house sides in the division has also caused deep offence. In the programme, the club's chief executive, Jez Moxey, declared – choosing his words carelessly given their parlous position – that "Mick and the players have no plans to change the way our team play".
The purest purist could not have quibbled with Wolves' tackling, or a first-half display which made light of the early loss of their injured stand-in captain, Jody Craddock. When their pressure produced a breakthrough, it was the result of a period of patient, sustained possession as well as a testament to the tenacity and finishing of Jarvis.
The former Gillingham player's right-footed trickery on the left flank has been one of the few redeeming features during Wolves' difficult run. But when his cross was blocked, Jarvis fought to regain possession before laying the ball back to David Jones, who in turn rolled it to Stephen Ward on the opposite wing. Robert Green's weak punch from the ensuing cross sent the ball straight to Jarvis, who volleyed it instantaneously high into the net from 10 yards.
West Ham, who missed the authority of the injured Matthew Upson less as the contest went on, creaked badly as balls fizzed in from wide positions. Kevin Doyle's cross bypassed Green, forcing Tal Ben Haim to clear desperately, while the keeper dived to tip away Jones's goalbound drive. In one comical cameo, Manuel De Costa lost both his footing and the ball near goal, leading to a Doyle shot that felled Daniel Gabbidon and left him nursinga delicate part of his anatomy.
Wolves were entitled to a sense of injustice soon after half-time when Foley was ruled to have barged over Obinna. The pair went shoulder to shoulder before falling together, but Noble's penalty, hit confidently to Marcus Hahnemann's right, brooked no argument. West Ham, driven on by Noble and Scott Parker, were a team transformed. Piquionne smacked the bar with a shot, and wheeled away in triumph after beating Hahnemann at the death, only to incur the game's only card for his disbelieving protest.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: NobleReuse content