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Wolves’ Part In Others’ Last-Day Nail-Biters

Last-afternoon dramas have come thick and fast in Wolves’ history – and Sunday’s trip to Liverpool could provide another.

We have come up with 11 final-day cliff-hangers here but, by way of a change, chosen ones that have been much more important to the opposition than to Wolves, like the clash at Anfield in four days’ time.

We have assembled them in what we regard as an ascending order of impact and decided to place the 1972 climax – arguably the most famous farewell to a League season Molineux has ever witnessed – a little lower on the grounds that visitors Leeds did not end up empty-handed. They had won the FA Cup two days earlier.

Here is our list – have we missed off any that have hugely helped or hindered Wolves’ opponents?

Keeper Fred Molyneux under fire from Hugh McIlmoyle in April, 1965. Photo courtesy of Liverpool Post & Echo.

April 26, 1965: Wolves 1 Liverpool 3

The post-Cullis Wolves had already been relegated despite a run of four wins in five games and Liverpool were well off the pace at the top. But this game was notable for more than the fact the visitors turned up wearing all white and had a keeper called Molyneux. With the FA Cup final against Leeds five days away, they made ten changes and flirted with trouble at the hands of the game’s authorities as a result.

April 24, 1964: Bolton 0 Wolves 4

Ray Crawford (3) and Peter Knowles brought Wolves a second 4-0 win in a week and spelled Division One relegation for the other Wanderers along with bottom club Ipswich – champions only two seasons earlier. Bolton finished a point below Birmingham, who occupied the last of the survival positions, and provide us with another entry later.

April 30, 1955: Cardiff 3 Wolves 2

This time Wolves lost and their conquerors stayed up. Cardiff scraped home despite goals by Ron Flowers and Dennis Wilshaw and would have another two years in the top flight. Their surprise rescue act here against the League runners-up, with whom they had drawn at Molineux in the autumn, was bad news for Leicester, who took the plunge with Sheffield Wednesday.

May 6, 1950: Wolves 6 Birmingham 1

Ouch! What’s worse in football than taking a pounding from your local rivals and being relegated? Jimmy Mullen (2), Jesse Pye (2), Roy Swinbourne and Johnny Walker did the damage in front of a 43,000 crowd who were possibly a little smug. The one softener for Blues was that they had had a week to start coming to terms with Second Division life….Charlton had put them down by winning at Derby a week earlier in those days of staggered season finishes.

May 12, 1984: Stoke 4 Wolves 0

Blues were again the fall guys thanks to this result. Wolves were already down by a distance but Stoke guaranteed their own survival in some style thanks to four goals from Paul Maguire. The foot of the First Division was a Midlands hell, with Notts County also relegated and Albion and Coventry joining the Potters among those just above the dreaded line.

May 2, 1992: Wolves 1 Middlesbrough 2

We have profiled this extraordinary occasion on our site at length before and will merely recap here for readers by reporting that Lennie Lawrence’s Middlesbrough needed to win to secure Second Division runners-up spot – and did so despite Andy Mutch’s breakthrough goal in the second half and the sending-off of defender Nicky Mohan. Oh, by the way, the game was nearly postponed because of arson and terror attacks on Molineux.

May 9, 1999: Wolves 2 Bradford City 3

Once more Molineux staff had to clean up after the spray of others’ champagne as Paul Jewell’s men ended Bradford’s 77-year absence from the top flight. Typical of how Wolves tried and failed to take that same final step at the time, was the fact that their former player, Lee Mills, was among the visitors’ scorers. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the game, with the Yorkshire club now in the basement division and Wolves flying very high.

May 8, 1972: Wolves 2 Leeds 1

This epic, unforgettable, controversial Molineux night – attended by more than 53,000 enraptured spectators – would, to most eyes, be the most dramatic knock-out blow Wolves have ever landed on the last day of a season. Leeds needed a point to become double champions but were denied by a super-charged performance and goals from Frank Munro and Derek Dougan. Billy Bremner hit back for Leeds in front of a heaving, swaying South Bank.

May 14, 1977: Bolton 0 Wolves 1

We promised you more Bolton agony and it came here, with massive repercussions. Kenny Hibbitt’s early goal for the Division Two champions meant Bolton just missed out on promotion (for the second season running) and Nottingham Forest went up instead. How Brian Clough, who then immediately led the East Midlanders to the League Championship and successive European Cup triumphs, must have loved Wolves – they had also made his Derby side champions in 1972 by downing Leeds.

May 4, 1976: Wolves 1 Liverpool 3

‘Runner-up’ in our list is the painful night on which Liverpool’s three lateish goals brought them the title and, in Bill McGarry’s last match as manager, sent Wolves down. On an evening on which the publishers decided the stakes should be further emphasised through a ridiculously dramatic programme front page, Steve Kindon gave the home side hope of demoting Birmingham instead, only for it to be extinguished later.

May 31, 1947: Wolves 1 Liverpool 2

Stan Cullis runs out for his last Wolves game….the fateful title decider against Liverpool in 1947.

Wow…..was there ever a more important, gut-wrenching finale than this? Captain Stan Cullis announced on match-day lunchtime that this was to be his last game as a player, then he resisted the temptation to bring down match-winner Albert Stubbins because he didn’t want to be remembered as the man who had settled the title race with a professional foul. A goal by Scouser Jimmy Dunn was not enough to save Wolves in a furnace-like setting attended by 51,000 – note the date of the game; necessitated by the record-breaking winter that preceded it. Liverpool were crowned champions but only after Stoke had failed to overhaul them when subsequently losing their last game, at Sheffield United, a full two weeks later.

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