Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Millwall 1
If the honeymoon is anything to go by, Mark McGhee's marriage to Wolves may prove to be the kind of ill-fated affair copyrighted by the House of Windsor. The Molineux side picked up their first point under his management yesterday, but failed to cross the threshold to the victory they must have anticipated at half-time.
At that stage they led through a quite stunning goal by Steve Bull, and Millwall had shown few signs of snapping out of a five-match losing streak. In the second half, however, Mick McCarthy's team dominated with the kind of football McGhee has pledged to introduce at Wolves and Chris Malkin's equaliser was no more than they deserved.
In his programme column McGhee had reiterated his belief that Wolves could yet win promotion. Although the First Division campaign is only at the half-way stage, it looks a fanciful if not forlorn hope: the pre- season favourites go into the final fixture of this "annus horribilis", at home to Portsmouth on Saturday, still occupying one of the relegation places.
Since Wolves lost the first game of the new era, at home to Port Vale, McGhee has brought in Simon Osborn, for pounds 1m from QPR, and Vinny Samways, on loan from Everton. They could hardly be expected to turn a long-ball team into Ajax overnight, and there was more than a hint of the Wolves of old when Millwall's goal fell after 10 minutes.
There seemed little obvious danger when Samways punted the ball forward to Bull on the edge of the area. Taking the ball on his chest, the former England striker swivelled and beat Kasey Keller on his near-post with a right-foot volley that Mark Hughes would have been proud to claim.
Millwall, for whom Malkin and Dave Savage had seen efforts cleared off the line in the opening minute, commendably persevered with their passing game. They were rewarded 11 minutes from time when Malkin stooped to head in Savage's corner, and McCarthy was justified in claiming they might have had a penalty either side of the goal.
Bull, whom some Wolves supporters feared would not fit in with McGhee's more measured style, almost capped his best display of the season two minutes from time. Rising to meet Dean Richards's flick-on from a corner, he powered in a header which Keller brilliantly tipped over.
Defeat would have been harsh on Millwall, who will enter the new year still in touch with the leading group if under a cloud of uncertainty over their manager's ambitions. McCarthy, mindful of his opposite number's reputedly restless desire to better himself, said, as he vacated the press conference hot seat to McGhee: "There's no truth in the rumour that he's nicked the Ireland job off me as well."
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Thompson, Emblen, Richards, Venus; Daley (Rankine, 79), Samways (Cowans, 87), Atkins (Ferguson, 70), Osborn; Bull, Goodman.
Millwall (4-3-1-2): Keller; Newman, Witter, Webber, Thatcher; Rae, Bowry, Van Blerk; Savage; Dixon, Malkin. Substitutes not used: Doyle, Taylor, Berry.
Referee: R Gifford (Llanbradach).
Bookings: Wolves: Atkins. Millwall: Webber.
Man of the match: Rae (Millwall) Attendance: 25,593