Sam Murphy reports on Wolves win over Preston.
Wolves remain top of the Championship with a 3-2 win over Preston in a thrilling encounter at Molineux.
Wolves went into this game with the second best goal scoring record in the Championship facing the best defence in the league, in Preston. Fifth in the league, the Lilywhites have had a great start to the season building a well-drilled side on a shoe-string budget.
Wolves made one change from their victory against Aston Villa, with Leo Bonatini coming in for Costa. Preston only made one change with Josh Harrop replacing the injured Sean Maguire in midfield. Under Alex Neil Preston have become an organised outfit, playing high pressing football but lead the league for number of fouls committed this season.
The first half mirrored the weather at Molineux. Preston disrupted, and harassed Wolves players all over the pitch. Unlike a week ago against Aston Villa, the Wolves players were given no time on the ball to build up their slick passing interplay. Preston were the better team for most of the first half working harder than most teams that have come to Molineux this season.
John Ruddy kept Wolves in the game in the first half with a smart save down to his left from an early Preston chance. Preston had the best chance of the game when Roderick Miranda was caught on the ball by the bullish Jordan Hugill. A pull back to Daniel Johnson, who shot high over the bar.
Wolves scored just before the half time whistle against the run of play. Doherty, who had another excellent game in a Wolves shirt, broke from deep before the ball ricocheted to Barry Douglas. His cross to the far post allowed Cavaleiro an easy tap-in to score his third of the season.
In the second half Leo Bonatini scored a brace within minutes of each other. For the first, Doherty was tumbled over by Josh Harrop inside the box from a Neves cross field pass. It looked a certain penalty. Leo Bonatini stepped up to pass the ball into the bottom right hand corner for Wolves to go 2-0 up.
Before the Molineux crowd had time to celebrate Bonatini scored again. Following a pin-point pass from Remain Saiss to Diogo Jota whose shot was saved by Maxwell in goal. Maxwell could only palm it into the path of Bonatini who kneed the ball over the line. That makes it four goals in three games for the Brazilian who is Wolves joint top goalscorer this season.
Preston were the dominant team for the remainder of the game. They piled on the pressure on Wolves penalty box, and pulled two goals back. Jordan Hugill beat Danny Batth to the ball to score a header on the 65th minute. Hugill, a Wolves target in the summer, was a nuisance for Wolves defenders all game. Preston made it 3-2 when Connor Coady turned the ball into his own net on the 76th minute.
Tensions bubbled throughout the game with some strange refereeing decisions setting the tone for the match. Nuno didn’t hold back in showing his displeasure on some of the refereeing decisions. At one point he towered over the fourth official, arms exclaiming against a strong of fouls against the home side seemingly not punished.
This culminated in the bizarre sending off of Alan Browne for a second bookable offence in the 91st minute. The referee distracted by a brawl did not formally show the Preston midfielder his second yellow before he left pitch. Browne was brought back onto the pitch just to be shown the second yellow, only to be sent straight back down the tunnel.
Under Nuno Wolves have been able to cultivate a habit of winning when they are not at their best. They remain top of the league and unlike against Cardiff in a similar dog-fight game earlier on the season, Wolves were able to grind out a victory. Wolves have been able this season to find different ways of winning from the sublime to the battling. They will need plenty of both to stay top of the league and to defeat Pep’s team on Tuesday night at the Ethiad.