The record books say Wolverhampton Wanderers, Championship leaders, beat bottom club Doncaster Rovers to move seven points clear at the top, but that hardly tells the story of a hard-fought battle against Sean O’Driscoll’s spirited side.

McCarthy’s assessment of the game was about right. “The first half was fairly even but second half we had the better of the play. We were always susceptible to a breakout because they had a bit if pace up front but we were really the ones who were trying to win it.”

The Wolves boss revealed that his goalscocer, Neill Collins, would not even have been on the pitch if centre half Michael Mancienne had not cried off with a headache just before kick off.

He also dismissed claims in some Rover’s quarters that he should still have not been on the pitch after a tackle on Lewis Guy that drew howls of protest from the crowd.

From the press box the tackle appeared fine but with the linesman doing an impression of a semaphore signaller on speed, referee Kevin Wright decided a booking was the better part of valour.

McCarthy said: “The crowd made a great case for it but I don’t think he should have been booked. It was a fantastic challenge. The ball went out for a throw in and he clearly got the ball. He did not bring him down as a last man.

“A partisan crowd wanted him off but I thought the referee handled it well.”

Rovers had their chances, the best in the 26th minute when striker Paul Hefferman hit the bar, via Wayne Hennessey’s fingertips. If that was Wolves’ good fortune then Rovers had the footballing equivalent of a rollover lottery win on 39 minutes when Andy Keogh hammered the ball against the bar from 12 yards, then hit the post with the rebound. That found Richard Stearman whose drive was blocked by keeper Neil Sullivan and Stephen Ward had that rebound cleared off the line before lifting it over the bar.

Rovers felt they had a claim for a penalty when Hennessey bundled Guy over on 53 minutes but the sides were finally separated by a touch of class with ten minutes to go.

Subtitute Tomi Ameobi fouled Ward midway in the home half and Michael Kightly with very little angle to work with flight a curling ball to the far post where a line of Wolves players waited and Collins headed the ball home to ensure a very Merry Christmas for Wolves.

Scorer: Collins (80).

DONCASTER ROVERS: Sullivan, O’Connor, Chambers, Lockwood (Taylor, 83), Hird, Stock, Van Niewstadt, Wellens, Guy (Elliott, 77), Spicer, Hefferman (Ameobi, 77). Substitutes: Roberts, Nelthorpe.
WOLVES: Hennessey, Foley, Hill (Jarvis, 45), Henry, Stearman, Collins, Kightly, Edwards, Ebanks-Blake (Vokes, 68), Keogh (Iwelumo, 45), Ward. Substitutes: Shackell, Ikeme.

Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire).

Bookings: Doncaster – Wellens, Wolves – Kightly, Collins.

Attendance: 13,669.