Championship: Wolves 3 Derby County 0
It might not have been a Champagne performance but the sparkle was certainly back as a Sylvan Ebanks-Blake double helped Wolves put their promotion bandwagon back on track after last weekend’s lacklustre defeat at Queens Park Rangers.
In between, a Dave Edwards strike just before half time was enough to kill off any Derby hopes that the Wolves bubble might just have burst at Loftus Road.
Striker Andy Keogh could have had a couple on another night while Ebanks-Blake hit a post as Wolves ended the night on cruise control.
Derby County were a poor side in the Premier League and on this showing are not going to set the Championship alight. Wolves had the dream start when a bread and butter ball was hoofed route one by keeper Wayne Hennessey and as it bounced its way into the Derby penalty area it spread panic in its wake.
As it pin-balled between defenders and attackers it seemed to bounce up and strike Derby captain Paul Connolly on the arm and as the ball was cleared referee Grant Hegley blew and pointed to the spot with 55 seconds gone. Some you win, some you lose and Christmas had come early for Mick McCarthy as Ebanks-Blake steered in his 13th league goal of the season.
That should have settled Wolves’ nerves but both sides carved out chances in what was developing into a scrappy battle. Derby’s best chance came when Hennessey fluffed a cross leaving Derby players lined up to smash the ball against blocking Wolves feet before it was cleared. At the other end England Under-21 pair Michael Kightly and Ebanks-Blake combined down the right and Stephen Bywater in the Rams’ goal did well to hold a low, deflected cross.
With 31 minutes gone it should have been two when Ebanks-Blake found himself in the clear down the centre, drew keeper and defence and laid the ball left to fellow striker Keogh who scuffed his shot wide.
It was enough to lift Wolves though and suddenly they started to play like Championship leaders. In the 39th minute Kightly had the beating of Jordan Stewart down the right and found Ebanks-Blake who took a touch then hammered the ball against the post from 15 yards. A minute later Kightly was at it again down the right, He cut inside and his left foot cross was headed back by Ebanks-Blake for midfielder Edwards to hammer home.
Derby came out with all the enthusiasm of a team on the wrong end of a half-time chat with their manager knowing that at 2-0 the next goal either ensures a furious scrap or posts game over and in the 59th minute it was the latter. Keogh was clear down the middle but went too far and too wide allowing Bywater to block only to return the ball to sender and Keogh picked out Ebanks-Blake for his 14th of the season.
Wolves had done enough and Derby settled for damage limitation.
Scorers: Ebanks-Blake (pen, 2), Edwards (40), Ebanks-Blake (58).
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Mancienne, Hill; Kightly (Collins, 71), Henry, Edwards, Ward (Jarvis, 87); Ebanks-Blake (Vokes, 76), Keogh. Substitutes: Higgs, Jones.
Derby (4-4-2): Bywater, Connolly, Albrechtsen, Powell (Tomkins, 53), Stewart; Zadkovich, Addison, Kazmierczak (Commons, 77), Villa; Varney, Hulse (Ellington, 75). Substitutes: Price,Teale,
Referee: Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire)