Wolves edge closer to safety after Upton Park triumph
West Ham United 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Tuesday night’s result at Upton Park is a testament to the Mick McCarthy mantra. Earlier this season, the Wolverhampton Wanderers manager was vilified for opting to field a weakened side against Manchester United. He was even fined by the FA for his policy.
It was not the first time the 51-year-old has seen his management style criticised. Eight years ago he received a torrent of abuse from certain sectors of the Irish media and supporters following a much-publicised spat with Roy Keane during the 2002 World Cup in Saipan. His tactical approach was adjudged to be akin to the Jack Charlton philosophy: “Put Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem under pressure.”
These sniping remarks may have had some substance. The Republic of Ireland could be accused of playing an unattractive brand of football under the stewardship of the likeable manager. The football may not have been easy on the eye but it certainly proved effective.
In contrast to his Irish days, McCarthy’s Wolves have shown a willingness to play slick football and entertain an attacking attitude this season.
We have seen other managers attempt to play an expansive brand of football but ultimately fail to avoid the dreaded drop. Tony Mowbray’s West Bromwich Albion spring to mind.
The visit of McCarthy’s side to Upton Park last night showcased the credentials of two teams desperate to buffer the gap between themselves and 18th placed Hull City.
Gianfranco Zola’s side were thankful to be playing in front of a home crowd after successive away trips to the Emirates, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge allowing nine goals to seep through their defence.
Meanwhile last weekend, Wolves had put on a valiant display at Villa Park manufacturing chances and showing an attacking thrust which caused Martin O’Neill’s men numerous problems. Three points appeared a real possibility until a late lapse allowed Jon Carew to rescue a point for Villa.
That positive attitude was vital to Wolves’ success at Upton Park. They pieced together some tidy moves, held on to possession and looked to dissect the susceptible Hammers rearguard. David Jones looked particularly impressive while Kevin Doyle heroically led the frontline.
It was a mistake which provided Doyle with the opportunity to put the visitors into a deserved lead. James Tomkins’ untimely touch ran into the path of the Irish forward. Doyle drove forward towards the goal and delivered a low shot across Robert Green into the right corner.
Scott Parker’s mazy run just before the break appeared destined to end in an equaliser. He jinxed his way into the box and fired a shot past Marcus Hannemann. But much to the despair of the Upton Park Faithful, the shot rebounded off the post with Parker’s sharp follow-up shot smothered by the Wolves goalkeeper.
It would prove the best chance of the night for West Ham United.
Shortly after the interval Jones played a ball down the right hand side for the gigantic Ronald Zubar. Despite a narrow angle, the Wolves defender drilled a shot past Green and sent the travelling fans into a state of delirium.
Things soon got better as McCarthy’s men secured a vital win. David Jones threaded a pass through the Hammers defence finding Matt Jarvis. The winger raced onto the ball to notch up a third to secure the three points.
The West Ham fans were treated to a late goal from Guillermo Franco but it provided little solace after a dismal display. In truth the home supporters had already left in their droves long before Zola’s men summoned up the late strike.
The West Ham manager was quick to sum up the doom and gloom now descending over Upton Park. “It is a big blow,” said Zola. “For me personally and the team.”
“The team is not playing well and I take responsibility. I am personally hurt because I didn’t expect a performance like that – it is painful,” he added.
Meanwhile Mick McCarthy was unsurprisingly ecstatic with the result which now sees Wolves edge towards safety.
“The scoreline didn’t flatter us. We played very well and deserved that victory. I don’t think anyone could disagree with that.
“It was a vital win for us in terms of us concertinaed the league above us a little bit more and doing damage to West Ham.”