Lovell adds insult to injury

Reading 2 Lovell 89, 90 Wolves 1 Atkins 75 Attendance: 14,853
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The Independent Online
Wolves are again insisting on making a mess of their attempt to grasp the Holy Grail of the Premiership. So much organisation, so much money, so much desire and yet here they are once more struggling fretfully at the tail-end of the season. The lottery known as the play-offs awaits.

Just as they seemed to have eked out three precious points at Elm Park yesterday - and it was blood from a stone stuff - they conceded two injury- time goals to grant Reading an unlikely victory. Having taken the lead 18 minutes from the end, Wolves really had to be sure in their defending. It had been a thoroughly inauspicious contest. What it lacked in quality was easily matched by its boredom quotient. Maybe added time should be compulsory in all such encounters.

In the 91st minute Darren Caskey stood off the Wolves defence, latched on to a Martin Williams cross and drilled home from 12 yards. Wolves, it seemed, must settle for a point.

The clock had gone round to the 97th minute (actually the 101st including an almost equally prolonged first half) when Stuart Lovell's shot from inside the area was blocked. He recovered the ball and his poise to beat Mike Stowell at the second attempt.

The crowd, Reading's highest of the season, reacted as though the home side had entered the promotion race rather than seeing off the much duller prospect of entering the relegation fray. This is because the fixture is now always imbued with edge. The former Reading manager Mark McGhee left them having apparently agreed to stay. Via Leicester, his first stop, he is now with Wolves. Whether he or his team were intimidated by the reception they received or not they played without much belief. The possession they earned and retained in the opening 30 minutes should have given them the opportunity to stamp their authority on the match. They did not, which was not only an indication of an ill-directed midfield but a sign too that the rigours of the season and the prizes possibly in store are beginning to prey on minds.

Reading infused the match with an attractive touch or two early in the second half but they came to nought. Without demonstrating much extra conviction Wolves whose set-piece work was the most clinical aspect of their play, took the lead in the 72nd minute. Darren Ferguson's corner from the left was beautifully accurate, just beyond the near post, though there was a hint of a push as Mark Atkins made the header count.

It mattered not.