Wolves wobbled by 10-man Swindon

Wolverhampton Wanderers1Swindon Town1
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The Independent Online
Promotion-chasing Wolves and newly relegated Swindon may well be two divisions apart next August, though there was no discernable chasm in quality in the Molineux sunshine.

Another draw, Wolves' seventh in a nine-match run-in which yielded a solitary victory, means that they receive Bolton in the first leg of the play-off semi-final next Sunday. At the start of February, Graham Taylor's team succumbed 5-1 at Burnden Park.

Yesterday's outcome reflected great credit on Swindon, who played the last 54 minutes with 10 men. Kevin Horlock was dismissed for the offence that led to Andy Thompson putting Wolves ahead, but Peter Thorne hit back instantly and the visitors closed another calamitous campaign with a modicum of respectability.

With Wolves' play-off place secure and Steve McMahon's men doomed, the match resembled a phoney war until the old gold shirts began queuing up for target practice in the later stages. Worryingly for Wolves, Steve Bull looked a shadow of his former self, which put the striking onus on David Kelly, the first player to outscore him over a season.

The Republic of Ireland forward would have added to his 22-goal tally but for the reflexes and agility of Fraser Digby, who saved his best for last, twisting in mid-air to tip over a Kelly header with three minutes remaining.

Swindon had survived an appeal for handball when Digby hurtled out to block Mark Venus's drive after 36 minutes. But the ball broke to Kelly, whose shot was kept out of the net by the dexterity of the diving Horlock. Thompson converted his ninth penalty of the season and, with the full- back sent off, Wolves had cause to anticipate an overdue win.

Within two minutes, a fine equaliser disabused them of such notions. Chris Hamon's cross was met with a thumping header from Thorne, the former Blackburn striker who scored a hat-trick at West Bromwich on his last visit to these parts. He might have had a second goal, but after beating two defenders early in the second half, saw Mike Stowell touch his shot on to the bar.

Wolves then swarmed around Digby's goal. A Bull header shook the bar, while Dean Richards, the defender Taylor hopes to sign on a permanent basis from Bradford, caused problems with some sinewy surges. Swindon survived and have the summer in which to contemplate trips to Carlisle and Walsall. For Wolves, the season must now start all over again.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Thompson, Shirtliff, Richards, Venus; Goodman, Rankine, Cowans, Dennison (Wright, h-t); Kelly, Bull. Substitutes not used: Law, Jones (gk).

Swindon Town (4-4-2): Digby; O'Sullivan, Robinson, Taylor, Horlock; Pitman (Ling, 76), Worrall, Nijholt, Beauchamp; Hamon (Murray, 76), Thorne. Substitute not used: Hammond (gk).

Referee: J Watson (Whitley Bay).

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