It Doesn’t Get Any Easier!

Ouch! Cup KOs That Really Hurt

FA Cup disappointment 1979-style, with John Barnwell consoling Willie Carr after the semi-final defeat against Arsenal at Villa.

It often used to be said that the worst round in which to exit the FA Cup was the semi-final. Wolves fans will be waking up today to the realisation that going out at the last-eight stage isn’t much fun either.

The common theme in the feeling of letdown is the missing-out on a trip to Wembley. In the decades when semis were played at provincial neutral grounds, defeat at that point deprived a club and supporter-base of a big day out at the twin towers.

These days, there’s disappointment a round earlier among those denied a trip to football hq to try for a final place. Those Wolves supporters who witnessed the defeats against Leeds at Maine Road in 1973, Arsenal at Villa Park in 1979 and 1998 and Tottenham at Highbury in 1981 can judge for themselves whether the deflation then was greater than it is now. But it certainly isn’t much of a choice. 

Yes, depressingly, the club have played five FA Cup semi-finals since last winning one, courtesy of Norman Deeley’s arrowed winner against Villa at The Hawthorns in 1960.

Wolves had victory at their fingertips in a pulsating tie yesterday, only to finish on the receiving end of a repeat of the scoreline they suffered when taking on Watford at Wembley in 2019.

Again, they were undone by an unexpected late twist, Coventry snatching two goals during what turned out to be ten minutes of stoppage time after Hugo Bueno’s fine finish shortly before had looked like winning the day.

It was sickening, utterly deflating. But more than one former Wolves player expressed the view that the better team went through.

For all the pre-match anxiety over where the goals might come from if Wolves were to prevail, they ultimately lost because they couldn’t prevent a Championship team having 24 efforts on their goal, 12 of them on target.

The two goals Gary O’Neil’s side scored were all we could realistically have hoped for in the absence of Matheus Cunha, Hee Chan Hwang, Pedro Neto and Jean-Ricner Bellegarde but no-one would have expected a defence who shut out the two Albions in the previous rounds to be as accommodating as they were.

Coventry could have been clear had it not been for any number of diving saves from Jose Sa. It certainly wasn’t an afternoon of comfort like the 2-0 home victory at the same stage against the same opponents 51 years ago. 

Wolves on the attack against Villa in their all-West Midlands semi-final at Albion 64 years ago.

The semi-final will provide the Sky Blues with their fourth Wembley appearance in seven years and gives them a second avenue to success as they seek to secure a play-off place for the second season running.

As for Wolves, ten League games remain and there is a template to what they need to do. In 2018-19, they overcame a brief post-semi hangover to win three – including one at Watford – and draw one of their remaining final six League matches to qualify for the Europa League.

Following the international break, they are at Villa in two weekends’ time and the door to European competition is still ajar.

 

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