Carl Cort’s first goal for his new club breathed new life in Wolves’ survival bid as Dave Jones’ side moved off the bottom of the table with an encouraging 2-1 win over Fulham.
Cort poached a vital goal after a horrible mix-up in the Fulham defence after Paul Ince had put Wolves in front midway through the first half. The home side combined patient possession football with stout defending to end a run of five games without a win. Chris Coleman’s side belatedly threatened a comeback when Steed Malbranque drove in with eight minutes to go, but the visitors never really played any of the flowing football that had characterised their remarkable start to the season.
Wolves were on top from the off – as if inspired by the fact that they have been written off as relegation fodder by most of the pundits. Alex Rae dominated proceedings from the midfield of the park in a display full of energy and no little skill, exemplified by the cheeky backheel that played in Kenny Miller for the game’s first chance on five minutes. Fulham played plenty of neat football themselves but struggled for a cutting edge in the final third.
It was no surprise when the home side took a deserved lead twenty minutes in. A hopeful ball forward from Mark Clyde was flicked on by Rae and Ince rifled a low finish past van der Sar from inside the area. Wolves should have been out of sight by half-time but the recalled Henri Camara badly fluffed his lines in front of goal again. He saw one effort deflected over the bar by Carlos Bocanegra and he shot straight at van der Sar when he should have done better.
Mark Kennedy’s clever free-kick almost caught Fulham out and it was virtually one way traffic for the first half hour. When Coleman’s travellers finally awoke from their slumber, Ian Pearce was disappointed to stab into the side netting having found himself free at the back post from Sean Davis’ free-kick. Van der Sar was called upon again to deny Miller with a brilliant reaction save after Cort had put his strike partner clean through and Bocanegra diverted Paul Butler’s strike wide of his own goal with ten minutes to go before the break.
Fulham did fashion a couple of clear chances before half-time. McBride’s first-time volley was well saved by Paul Jones in the Wolves goal and Pearce nodded over but any hopes of a second half onslaught were dashed by kamikaze defending after the interval. Bocanegra’s poor clearance was charged down by Camara and Pearce presented Cort with possession and a clear run on the goal. The former Newcastle forward had plenty of time to think about his finish as he bore down on van der Sar but kept his cool impressively.
Jones’ men squandered good chances to put the game to bed and were unfortunate when a piledriver from Ince rattled the crossbar and bounced down to safety, before van der Sar claimed the ex-England captain’s header from the rebound. A Fulham riposte appeared unlikely as Sylvain Legwinski smashed a shot wide and Davis drove over the bar when it appeared easier to score, but after Jones could only parry Luis Boa Morte’s low drive, Malbranque was on hand to ensure an anxious last eight minutes for the Molineux faithful. But Jones saved bravely from Davis as Wolves held on for a vital win.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-3-3): Jones; Naylor, Butler, Craddock, Clyde; Kennedy, Rae, Ince; Camara, Cort (Cameron 90), Miller (Ganea 78). Subs (not used): Oakes, Iversen, Luzhny.
GOALS: Ince (20), Cort (51).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Pearce, Knight (Djetou 74); Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque, Boa Morte; Hayles (Petta 67), McBride. Subs (not used): Crossley, Green, Inamoto.
GOAL: Malbranque (84).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).