Wolves 3, Norwich City 3
PUBLISHED: 19:37 03 February 2009 | UPDATED: 16:03 10 September 2010
Four games, no defeats and, after three games against what you might call fellow strugglers a superb draw against the league leaders on their own turf. It was magnificent stuff from City, who could have won the game had Jamie Cureton not missed a couple of sitters in the second half. But it would be churlish to criticise anyone on a night when they followed their manager's instructions to the letter.
When the glam rock "star" that is the medicine man from Dr and the Medics tried to warm up the Molineux crowd with a pre-match sing-song, you knew something out of the ordinary was on the cards. The good doctor, resplendent in long, green coat, failed miserably.
"Who are you?" sing the visiting Norwich fans. They know a thing or two about medicine men these days, following as they do the good doctor that is Bryan Gunn, who is bringing an ailing patient back to good health.
Four games, no defeats and, after three games against what you might call fellow strugglers a superb draw against the league leaders on their own turf.
It was magnificent stuff from City, who could have won the game had Jamie Cureton not missed a couple of sitters in the second half. But it would be churlish to criticise anyone on a night when they followed their manager's instructions to the letter.
A battle, he predicted - and how right he was. Sylvain Ebanks-Blake kicked off his hat-trick, but City responded through Lee Croft to level at half-time and then went ahead early in the second half when Carl Cort netted the goal of the game. Cureton's misses followed before Wolves went ahead with two goals in the space of two minutes.
But anyone who thinks this City side is ever beaten had better think again - and when Gary Doherty bundled in an equaliser on 64 minutes, they had got what they deserved.
Gunn was forced into his first managerial change, with the suspended Mark Fotheringham replaced by Darel Russell, whose role up front was taken by one-time Wolves striker Cort, making his first Championship start. There was also some strengthening down the left, with Adam Drury recalled to left back, and Ryan Bertrand moved up to left midfield - and Wes Hoolahan dropped to the bench.
Wolves made one change, Matt Jarvis replacing Kyel Reid.
Gunn had told his players it was imperative to get off to a good start and frustrate not just their opponents, but the home fans too. Within a couple of minutes Bertrand had set up Russell for a 20-yard shot that went wide, the signal for a confident start by City - and already you could hear the odd groan or two.
It was almost quarter of an hour before the lethal right boot of Ebanks-Blake swung into action, but City keeper David Marshall had no problems gathering a weak shot.
Wolves slowly got their act together, finding a few passes, and on 22 minutes Ebanks-Blake saw a vicious shot tipped superbly on to the bar by Marshall - before Matt Jarvis fired the rebound over.
You don't get too many escapes like that against the league leaders; the trick is to make them pay for it.
City didn't - and it was Marshall who went from hero to villain.
Kightly cut in from the right, chipped a ball into the mix, Ebanks-Blake almost got a touch but his presence appeared to put Marshall off as he dived low to gather in front of him. The ball squirmed out of his hands, Jarvis reacted quickly and tapped it across the face of goal - where Ebanks-Blake was waiting to tap into an empty net from two yards.
A gift, as simple as that; the trick is not to give gifts to league leaders.
Cureton forced Wayne Hennessey into action with a neat, but routine, shot as City regrouped, but it had suddenly become an altogether different ball game.
And then, wouldn't you know it, City go and score - a habit they seem to have acquired under Gunn's stewardship. It started innocuously enough, City flicking the ball down the middle, Croft chasing the loose ball after a poor clearance attempt by Richard Stearman and then going round the keeper before slotting into an empty net.
Another gift - and one greeted by a melee pitchside as the players headed in Gunn's direction to celebrate - that shows you what it meant to them and how it was deserved.
Kightly went off injured before the interval - a bonus of sorts for City - and then Marshall went back to hero status with a double save that made you forget all about his earlier error, beating away Ebanks-Blake's shot from 18 yards before somehow getting his hand to a Jarvis header.
Wolves were ending the half as they began it - frustrated.
t Half-time: Wolves 1, Norwich City 1
Gunn brought David Carney on for the second half - the first Aussie to appear for City - with Bertrand making way, maybe a result of Kightly's earlier departure.
But it had nothing to do with what happened next, as City once again sprang a surprise - by taking the lead.
It started with Russell bringing the ball forward from midfield, heading left and then slipping the ball wide left to Cort, who, from a good 20 yards, placed a lovely first-time right-foot shot beyond Hennessey's left arm. It was a goal of the highest quality, matching the way City were going about their business.
Cureton completely missed his kick three minutes later when he really should have buried Carney's clipped cross - it really could and should have been 1-3.
Of course, it signalled the kitchen sink manoeuvre from Wolves, and City cracked on 54 minutes - Jarvis crossed in low from the left, the ball hit a City leg and went as far as Ebanks-Blake, who again proved how lethal he is from two yards.
Then came the follow-up just two minutes later - Jarvis dispossessed Russell on the Wolves left, slipped it into the area and Ebanks-Blake blasted home from six yards for his hat-trick.
It was cruel on City, but the sight of Cureton missing another good opportunity - failing to get a clean head to Carney's cross - summed up the difference between the two sides: class in attack.
Step forward a defender to show the way as City started writing their own script again. This time Clingan swung across City's first corner, it fell in a no-man's land of space, Doherty surged forward and with a body part known only to him, somehow got it over the line.
Three goals apiece - and not even the most compulsive gambler would bet on the outcome.
Gunn put debutant Alan Gow on for Cureton - against the team he almost signed for last week. Would it prove an omen - or had the excitement finally come to an end?
Wolves fans were howling in frustration as the minutes ticked by - but they got what they deserved, even after Ebanks-Blake managed to smash a left-foot shot wide in injury time.
t Result: Wolves 3, Norwich City 3
t Wolves: Hennessey, Foley, Stearman, Craddock, Ward, Kightly (Vokes 39), Henry, Jones, Jarvis (Iwelumo 90), Keogh (Reid 79), Ebanks-Blake.
Subs: Edwards, Higgs.
Goals: Ebanks-Blake 25, 54, 56
Bookings: Henry, 11, foul on Russell.
t Norwich: Marshall 7, Otsemobor 6, Doherty 7, Grounds 7, Drury 6, Croft 8, Russell 8, Clingan 6, Bertrand 6 (Carney 46, 6), Cort 7 (Killen 86), Cureton 6 (Gow 68). Subs: Hoolahan, Nelson.
Goals: Croft 32, Cort 47, Doherty 65.
Bookings: Croft, 55, foul on Ward
t Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants)
t Att: 21,654