Wolverhampton Wanderers may have as good as won the Coca-Cola Championship, according to Bristol City manager Gary Johnson, but Mick McCarthy will know his side have to stop conceding sloppy goals if they are to make their domination count.
Wolves were cruising comfortably, 2-0 up, against Johnson’s Robins at Ashton Gate but allowed their hosts to come back into the game in the second half under ferocious weather conditions, and in the end, had to settle for a share of the spoils, 2-2.
Goals by Neill Collins – his fourth of the campaign – and Matt Jarvis were cancelled out by the reply of Dele Adebola and Nicky Maynard as the Wanderers missed out on a glorious opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table.
With nearest rivals Reading slipping up at Swansea, 2-0, and Birmingham and Cardiff ending up in a goal-apiece deadlock, McCarthy’s young guns could have capitalised and restored their seven-point cushion.
Johnson however is adamant that Wolves may have already done enough to take the title having won 18 games already this season.
He said: “Mick won’t thank me for saying this but I think they have almost won the league now through the number of wins they have had already.
“They had that ten or 12 wins on the trot and it is going to be very difficult for teams to catch them up.”
The Robins boss added: “Of the other teams, of course, Birmingham and Reading are up there and it is pretty much a three-horse race for the automatic promotion spots.”
McCarthy meanwhile was “livid” at the final whistle that his side had thrown their lead away.
He said: “I’m more than happy with the way we played and the chances we created on what was such a horrible night.
“But I’m livid we haven’t taken all three points.”
McCarthy claimed his team had not been ruthless enough in front of goal with top striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake among those who might have scored to put Wolves three goals to the good and out of sight of Bristol City.
The visitors had made four changes from their midweek FA Cup victory over Birmingham, with right-back Kevin Foley back from injury, Andy Keogh retaining his place up front for Chris Iwelumo, Matt Jarvis in for George Friend and Matt Hill back in for Dave Edwards to face his hometown club.
And they started brightly though opportunities to score were severely limited as both teams battled to settle under storm force winds and driving rain.
It was the horrendous conditions which contributed to Wolves’ opener after good work from Kightly, from Wolves’ first corner of the game.
Bristol keeper Adriano Basso was fooled by the wind which kept Kightly’s flighted ball in the air and there was defender Neill Collins to head it home.
Matt Jarvis extended Wolves’ lead on 54 minutes but that was short-lived.
The introduction of former Birmingham striker Adebola – who loves to score against Wolves – saw the Robins back in the race after he seized on a Collins’ slip on the sodden turf on 58 minutes while Maynard – who had had chance after chance all afternoon – finally made one tell three minutes from time.
Wolves will feel aggrieved that they did not get a certain penalty after Andy Keogh was sent tumbling in the first half. But McCarthy will know – some you win, some you don’t – having been on the other side in midweek when Richard Stearman was reprieved after a stonewall penalty on Marcus Bent.
McCarthy’s men are still five points clear at the top of the division but know that gap could and should have been extended.
It sets things up brilliantly now for the Wanderers’ next league encounter – a mouthwatering trip to Reading at the Madejski Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
Scorers: Collins (45) 0-1, Jarvis (54) -02, Adebola (58) 1-2, Maynard (87) 2-2.
BRISTOL CITY ( 4-3-3): Basson; Orr, Carey, McAllister (John, 85), Fontaine; Skuse, Johnson, Elliott, Styvar (Adebola, 45); Maynard, Sproule (McIndoe, 55). Substitutes: Wilson, Henderson.
WOLVES (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Hill (Shackell, 90); Kightly, Jones, Henry, Jarvis (D Edwards, 78); Ebanks-Blake, (Vokes, 78), Keogh. Substitutes: Higgs, Iwelumo.
Referee: Mark Haywood (West Yorks).
Bookings: Bristol – Sproule (foul); Wolves – Stearman (foul).
Wolves man of the match: Michael Kightly.