It would have taken a hard heart not to feel for Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday. They had never led a Premiership match before, never mind won one, but just when it seemed the wolf, like every dog, would have its day, the prize was snatched from them.
Having led for more than hour thanks to Alex Rae's stupendous volley, the massed ranks of gold that have been battered by regular beatings, appeared to have just enough to cling on to a precious victory. Then, with five minutes remaining, their concentration disintegrated and Kevin Davies got Bolton's equaliser.
"One lapse and it's cost us three points," Dave Jones, the Wolves manager said, referring to when his left-back, Lee Naylor, who threw the ball to allow Bolton the quick throw-in that led to Davies goal. "The ball should have gone to my missus in Row Z.
"It was a lack of concentration and at this level you cannot switch off at all. He's learnt a very harsh lesson today." Wolves began the day taking stock of another harsh fact, that Sir Jack Hayward is to quit as chairman, writing off £40m in the process. That should make him the most generous person at Molineux, but anyone who has watched Wolves' defence this season might argue otherwise.
A goal difference of minus 16 also spoke volumes for the attacking end of the team, too, but Wolves came out baring their teeth. As early as the second minute a mix-up between Simon Charlton and Emerson Thome allowed Steffen Iversen to flash a 30-yard drive wide and that was followed up by long-range efforts from Paul Ince and Mark Kennedy.
Despite that, it was Bolton who should have taken the lead after 21 minutes when Davies flicked on and Henrik Pedersen profited from Lee Naylor's indecision. From a range of six yards the Danish striker should have scored but Michael Oakes shot from his line to block.
This attack had been out of context and it was wholly deserved when Wolves took the lead in the 30th minute. Kennedy's corner was cleared, only for it to be met by Rae, whose thunderous volley from 30 yards crashed into the top corner.
Bolton looked stunned to be the first team to trail Wolves in the Premiership and they might have suffered even more if the referee had not taken a benevolent view over Kevin Nolan's penalty-area collision with Colin Cameron in the 47th minute.
The home side could only get better and with Wolves concentrating on protecting what they had, Bolton at last gained some meaningful possession. After 53 minutes, Oakes had to block Ivan Campo and Davies before Jay-Jay Okocha's shot was diverted wide. Four minutes later the Nigerian's mazy run almost got him into a position to shoot and then substitute Mario Jardel's shot was touched round the post only at the last by Oakes.
At the other end, Kenny Miller was denied by Nolan's acrobatic 65th minute clearance after Jussi Jaaskelainen had blocked an attempted through ball to Cameron and had been left stranded 30 yards outside his goal.
That was Wolves' last growl and the closing minutes were confined to their area. Oakes tipped a shot from Okocha round a post and Jardel headed wide. Then, with five minutes remaining, Naylor allowed Thome a quick throw-in which gave Glen Little space on the right. His cross was precise and so was the volley that Davies put past Oakes.
"It was about their goalkeeper making great saves and us finding it hard to find the killer instinct," a relieved Bolton manager Sam Allardyce said.
"Until we find the way to score goals regularly we are going to struggle."
Bolton Wanderers 1
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 27,043Reuse content