DERBY COUNTY 2 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Andy Keogh finally won over the hearts and minds of the old gold and black with a brace of goals to ensure his side remain on course for automatic promotion to the top flight and Coca-Cola Championship title winners to boot.
The Ireland international’s strikes either side of a Matt Jarvis effort were in the end enough to ensure Wolves remain firmly in the box seat for the step up into the Barclays Premier League with only three matches remaining.
But Wolves fans were made to sweat it out for Keogh’s match-winner until three minutes from the end of normal time as Nigel Clough’s Derby side put on a battling display with two goals of their own.
Had the Rams also been able to convert numerous other chances the champagne back home in the Midlands might have been not so much on ice as packed away.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy later paid tribute to Keogh saying his player had not always been “flavour of the month” amongst the fans but may have finally silenced his doubters.
“I am thrilled for Andy,” he said. “I just asked him what that chant “Keogh, Keogh is all about – I haven’t heard that for a while and it was nice.
“He might not have been flavour of the month with the fans at times and he wasn’t flavour of the month with me in the first half!
“He kept turning and twisting and not passing the ball but he is flavour of the month with me now!
“He is brilliant.
“He puts in such a shift and he got his reward today.”
Quite how the league leaders managed to keep their heads while all around them were losing theres was anyone’s guess with rivals Birmingham, Sheffield United and Reading all dropping points again.
McCarthy had, however, chosen to stay with the same team who performed so well in their 20-minute assault on Southampton on Friday with strike duo Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Chris Iwelumo still absent through injury.
Clough’s Derby, meanwhile, boasted players with experience - former West Bromwich Albion striker Rob Hulse and ex-Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage to name but two.
The last time these two sides met at Molineux Wolves were 3-0 victors but then Derby did not have a Clough at the helm.
The visitors had started brightly enough with Dave Jones looking to use set-pieces to his advantage with Wolves having corner after corner in the opening minutes.
However, their opener, when it came, was from open play with Keogh firing home a sublime strike following a long speculative punt upfield from Christophe Berra.
Wolves should have pushed on but they appeared to sit back on their lead and now Derby were back in the game with Kris Commons causing all sorts of problems.
Just before the half hour they were level after Przemyslaw Kazmierczak converted a free kick awarded for a foul by Karl Henry.
Derby were now playing with a new confidence with 30,000 fans behind them and Commons might have extended their lead only to see Jody Craddock slice it to safety.
In the 35th minute Commons found Gary Teale whose volleyed shot stung the gloves of Wayne Hennessey before the wind was momentarily taken out of the Rams’ sails through the loss of left back Jay McEveley with an ankle injury.
Wolves might have taken advantage at this with Jones finding Keogh who was able to reach the former’s cross with a header but the ball flew just wide.
The visitors started the second half firmly pegged in their own half as if Derby sensed a giant-killing on their hands.
Hennessey was kept busy with save after save from Commons and Hulse while at the other end all Wolves could offer was a Kevin Foley effort which hit the post.
Hennessey became vital in denying a brace of chances from Derby midfielder Mile Sterjovski.
But it was inevitable the pressure would tell and Derby were ahead on 55 minutes aftter Commons dug out Sterjovski who fired home on the half-volley.
McCarthy responded by replacing Sam Vokes with Marlon Harewood and five minutes later Kyel Reid came on for Dave Edwards.
Now the league leaders were back in the game with Keogh seeing another chance go begging before Jones found Reid out wide on the left and in the frantic spell that followed somehow the ball fell to Matt Jarvis who sliced it home between the keeper and the post.
The goal sent the Wolves’ fans into raptures but it was far from over and Wolves’ killer blow did not come until minutes from the end when another subsitiute, Harewood, found Reid’s pass to set up Keogh for the winner.
It was not pretty but it was three points, as McCarthy later pointed out, and that is all that counts with three matches remaining.