Swansea City 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Mick McCarthy had the obvious response to critics claiming that the wheels have fallen off at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“We’ve got 22 points after 10 games,” the manager said. “Second, aren’t we? If that’s a crisis, then roll on the next crisis.”
This setback in rain-soaked West Wales was a lot easier to explain than Tuesday’s high-profile wobble at home to Reading. Already without suspended Chris Iwelumo, McCarthy lost in-form wingers Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly to hamstring injuries in midweek. Then he was hit with another pre-match blow when it was discovered that Sylvan Ebanks-Blake had failed to recover from a knee injury also sustained in midweek.
It left McCarthy without all the four musketeers who had helped run in 23 goals in Wolves’ first eight league games. It was like taking Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov out of a Manchester United team.
Instead, the Wolves fans (2,600 of them – the largest away following to visit the three-year-old Liberty Stadium) were left feeling like the owner of a broken-down car, with both its axles up on bricks waiting for the roadside assistance van to come. And it was raining!
It rained rather a lot in this grim corner of the Principality, long before all the coaches arrived from the Black Country, throughout the warm-up, throughout the 90 minutes, throughout the post-match formalities, throughout the trudge back to the car park through all the puddles and all the way back up through the valleys to drier land the other side of the English border. But only one of the teams looked comfortable in the conditions – right from the first whistle.
Wolves had already proved they are slow starters by shipping a goal inside the first 15 minutes five times already this season and Saturday’s was the quickest yet, after only 25 seconds!
Admittedly, it was not as fast as the 19-second effort Wolves scored at Molineux against Crystal Palace last month. But it was a hammer blow of a start when Jordi Gomez was allowed far too much space before drilling home a left-foot shot.
Wolves at least had the spirit to level when David Edwards threaded in Andy Keogh but, either side of half time, Jason Scotland was given too much space to score the goals which wrecked Wolves’ unbeaten away record.
Wolves wasted a great chance to level at 2-1, when substitute Sam Vokes was denied at point-blank range by goalkeeper Dorus de Vries’ legs. But McCarthy was not in the mood to bemoan his luck, taking this defeat as squarely on the chin as he did in midweek.
“I don’t know many teams in our league who could afford to lose the players we’ve lost,” he said. “We missed our front four but they wouldn’t have done anything about our bad defending.”
Indeed, Carl Ikeme, brought in after Wayne Hennessey was held accountable for Tuesday’s setback, was blameless. But, whichever of Wolves’ three talented keepers is in goal is not going to be an issue if McCarthy can play his full-strength outfield back.
With Iwelumo due back and the chance to get Ebanks-Blake and Kightly fit again, things are not as black as they seemed on Saturday.
Scorers: Gomez (25 secs) 1-0; Keogh (17) 1-1; Scotland (41) 2-1; Scotland (57) 3-1.
SWANSEA (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Rangel, Monk, Williams, Painter; Pratley, Britton; Orlandi (Tudur-Jones 64), Gomez, Gower (Bauza 90); Scotland (Pintado 73). Subs: Tate, Brandy
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-4-1-1): Ikeme; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Friend (Vokes, 51); C Edwards (Shackell, 81), Henry, David Jones, Ward; D Edwards; Keogh. Subs: Hennessey (gk), Potter, Hemmings.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).
Bookings: Swansea – Painter, Gomez (fouls), Orlandi (dissent), Scotland (ungentlemanly conduct); Wolves – Keogh (foul)