SYLVAN'S SAVER SO VITAL FOR WOLVES; (1) SQUEEZING THROUGH: Cameron Jerome (above) Dodges a Tackle to Give Birmingham the Lead at Molineux. Wolves' Chris Iwelumo and Nicky Hunt (Right) Square Up in a Heated Exchange (2) DASHING AWAY: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake Scores the Equaliser for Wolves Picture: DAVE PINEGAR
Byline: Ian Ridley
WOLVES 1 Ebanks-Blake (74) BIRMINGHAM 1 Jerome (48)
COME the second half of the season, goes the wisdom in the Championship, Wolverhampton Wanderers will struggle to retain one of the automatic promotion places to the Premier League and stronger, deeper squads, probably those of Birmingham City and Reading, will overhaul them.
Perhaps so, perhaps not.
Whatever happens, though, on the evidence of this West Midlands derby, Wolves will not surrender the leadership without a fight.
After falling behind to a goal by Cameron Jerome that was Birmingham's reward for their initial superiority, Wolves responded with a vibrant performance that justly earned them a point, courtesy of Sylvan Ebanks- Blake's goal, and they might even have taken three.
In the end, it was a lively game between the top two after a patchy start. When the pre-match Robbie Williams impersonator murdered Let Me Entertain You, it was seemingly a sign of things to come in a game of mists and misses. Ultimately, though,
Wolves were the happier with a share of the spoils, despite failing to take full toll of home advantage.
Something was always going to give, the leaders coming into it on the back of a remarkable seven straight wins, the latest a midweek demolition job at promotion rivals Sheffield United, and Birmingham having won three in a row. But Wolves retained their lead of six points at the top.
'I've got mixed feelings,' said Birmingham manager Alex McLeish. 'I'm disappointed we didn't get three points, especially after the way we played in the first half, but then we haven't lost and that is as good as we have played away from home all season.' His Wolves counterpart, Mick McCarthy, was satisfied enough.
'I have a pragmatic approach,' he said. 'Would I have taken four points from our two games this week? Yes.
The result on Tuesday was wonderful and what pleased me today was that we got better as the game went on.' They had to. Wolves were almost gifted an early lead when Liam Ridgewell glanced a header from Stephen Ward's long throw against his own post but City fashioned the better chances of the first period, the more admirable given that they were without a key creative influence in Sebastian Larsson for 'personal reasons'.
Marcus Bent thought he had given the visitors the lead when, from James McFadden's through-ball, he chipped over Wayne Hennessey but Richard Stearman, beginning as he went on in a towering display at centre-back that eclipsed even the young England defender Michael Mancienne alongside him, got back to clear off the line. …