Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Queens Park Rangers 1
There's nothing quite like a bit of transfer speculation to get the best out of a misfiring striker.
The imminent closing of the August transfer window proved timely for Wolverhampton Wanderers last night as manager Glenn Hoddle was made to realise he's done the right thing in opting not to push the boat out to buy a new striker.
Carl Cort hit his first league hat-trick, completing his treble in injury time, to see off under-pressure Ian Holloway's surprisingly committed Queens Park Rangers.
Yet Cort was overshadowed by his front-line partner Kenny Miller, the last Wolves player to score a hat-trick almost two years ago, who did everything but score.
While Hoddle said last night that he was still in the market, he surely does not have to panic into spending 'silly money'.
It all added up to a seventh successive home win for Wolves. It could have been a lot more, earning gripes from the fussy Wolves faithful as to just why they should have to be put through more than an hour of torture before Cort's claiming of the three points (and the match ball).
Hoddle was as frustrated as any home fan. But he was also relieved to once again see his side play so well, and get the job done.
"I'm delighted for Carl Cort to have got a hat-trick," he said. "It's been a long time coming and he's maybe got a bit frustrated.
"I was also delighted with the performance of Kenny Miller, who worked tirelessly for the team. He had a super game, apart from not scoring."
Wolves made a seventhminute breakthrough. Simon Royce had to react well to touch Rohan Ricketts' 20-yarder round the post before another blocked Ricketts effort resulted in Wolves leading
Cort cushioned a downward header down as Ricketts burst into the QPR area to bring another great save from Royce. But, when the ball ran loose, Ricketts had the presence to chase it and the pace to win it.
When he curled back over a neat cross, although Leon Clarke missed his kick with an attempted left foot shot, Cort was waiting behind. He took his chance with consummate ease, chesting down before exploding a text-book rightfoot half-volley through Royce.
QPR levelled with ease four minutes later. From former Villa man Stefan Moore's left-wing cross from the by-line, Kevin Gallen climbed above a dozing Lee Naylor to head the equaliser.
It took only 13 minutes for Wolves to restore their lead. This time Miller was the supply line. Leaving Ian Evatt for dead, he threaded a superb ball across the sixyard box. Although Royce might reproach himself for staying on his line, Cort wasn't worried, gratefully running the ball in from two yards.
There should have been more goals. Clarke had an effort blocked at his near post by Royce while the impressive Ricketts fired just wide.
Ricketts then slipped in Miller after the break, only for the QPR keeper to save with his legs. Substitute Seyi Olofinjana was the architect a minute later when Royce threw out a left arm to parry Miller's first-time left-foot shot.
Mark Kennedy finished weakly from Miller's next assist and the tension mounted as Wolves failed to finish the visitors off.
But, in injury time, Ricketts slipped Cort in again and he found Royce's bottom right corner to claim his first treble since hitting one for Wimbledon in the League Cup against Sunderland almost six years ago. It also makes it six goals against QPR in his last three meetings with them.