Seeing Red, Winning Well
Where The Numbers Don’t Quite Add Up
Struggling as we are to recall any previous examples of Wolves winning a top-flight game from a goal down and a man down, it’s time for compromise…..
The heroically unlikely victory at Southampton yesterday has set us thinking of past matches that had a happy outcome from such unpromising positions – and the cupboard is pretty bare.
Players just didn’t get sent off in the Stan Cullis era and when they departed ahead of schedule in later decades, the side’s hopes of a win usually went with them.
So here are a few Wolves matches that became well known, for the right reasons, because of one or more sending-off.
September 26, 1973: Belenenses 0 Wolves 2 John Richards scored and was then sent off as Wolves made another successful raid on Portugal, two years to the week after he missed the 4-1 win away to Academica Coimbra. The tie early in the first League Cup-winning season was easily negotiated but the backlash came in the next round as the striker was ruled out of both legs against Locomotiv Leipzig and his side went out on the away goals rule.
February 26, 2000: Wolves 3 Nottingham Forest 0 Ade Akinbiyi hurt his hand lashing out in the dressing-room corridor area in a fit of anger after being ordered off in this West Midlands v East Midlands clash but the afternoon turned out to be a rewarding one. Forest had two men given their marching orders, making the outcome a formality, with Colin Lee’s side building a 3-0 half-time lead.
April 28, 2001: Crystal Palace 0 Wolves 2 Strange things happened during and after this late-season second-tier encounter. Keith Andrews’ sending-off shortly before half-time led to the replacement, for tactical reasons, of Temuri Ketsbaia, who showed his displeasure by hurling his shirt to the ground near Dave Jones. The manager then had to listen to an outspoken outburst from the player on the Monday before Andrews was strangely made captain before the home game against QPR that soon followed.
December 31, 2017: Bristol City 1 Wolves 2 No-one who lived through the exhilaration of the Championship title-winning season under Nuno will forget how maximum points were hauled in from the New Year’s Eve trip to Ashton Gate. Danny Batth was sent off in the opening 15 minutes for a Wolves side who then fell behind early in the second half but the numbers were evened up when Bristol had keeper Frank Fielding ordered off. Barry Douglas’s free-kick and Ryan Bennett’s stoppage-time header highlighted the turnaround and sent Wolves ten points clear of second place.
March 30, 2018: Middlesbrough 1 Wolves 2 Same season, same outcome in another thriller. Who could have foreseen the drama that was coming as Wolves stormed into a 2-0 first-half lead through Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro? Ruben Neves and Matt Doherty were sent off either side of the hour mark, though, and the nine men had just enough in the tank to get over the line – and prompt a memorable full-time celebratory dash on to the pitch by Nuno – after Boro pulled one back in the dying moments.
February 12, 2023: Southampton 1 Wolves 2 Who wouldn’t have bitten off the hand offering their side a point after the Saints’ early breakthrough yesterday had been followed by the ridiculously harsh red card brandished to Mario Lemina? But Wolves went one better even than that as they floored the Premier League’s bottom club in the final 20 minutes through a Jan Bednarek own goal and a fine winner from the debutant Joao Gomes – a result followed today by the sacking of St Mary’s boss Nathan Jones after only 95 days in charge.
And here’s a strange thing: Wolves were victorious in four matches under Graham Turner in the late 1980s in which they suffered a sending-off. Maximum points were taken at Exeter in May, 1987, despite Alistair Robertson’s early bath, and also at Hereford early in 1987-88 when Keith Downing was ordered off. This was also the era in which Steve Bull was involved in one or two altercations but the team made light of his dismissals at home to Tranmere and at Colchester by winning both. The results underline how superior Wolves were at that Fourth Division level.