It was a second scoreless game in succession for Wolverhampton at the weekend, but the point gained in the 0-0 draw against Stoke City edges them ever closer to Premier League survival.
Mick McCarthy and his players remain adamant that they will not rest on their laurels until they are mathematically safe from relegation. However, many would argue following the good form of the men in gold that only three or four points would be enough to give them another crack at the top flight next season.
The weekend’s results were favourable for Wolves as Iain Dowie’s Hull side were struck down 4-1 against Burnley. Defeat for the Tigers has left them firmly entrenched in the relegation zone alongside the Clarets for the time being. Meanwhile, fellow strugglers West Ham have climbed closer to Wolverhampton, which lessens the buffer between them and the relegation zone. Both Bolton and Wigan could overtake the Wanderers if they win their respective games in hand. But the Molineux faithful can take comfort in the fact that one of their relegation rivals will face tough opposition against west London opposition midweek. Owen Coyle’s side have the misfortune of having to face in-form title favourites Chelsea on Tuesday night, but Wigan will face a Portsmouth side who will be concentrating on their FA Cup final to come.
McCarthy was delighted with how things unfolded over the last weekend in terms of the other results. But he maintained his belief that it is up to his side to be the maters of their own destiny and should expect no favours from elsewhere.
Although the former Republic of Ireland manager stresses that the hard work is far from over he does concede that the sides chasing Wolves suffer a tall order if they are to overturn the deficit. The Wanderers are currently six points better off than the two teams who occupy the two remaining relegation spots, with the added advantage of holding a superior goal difference. McCarthy is targeting for his side to remain in their current 14th spot come May 9, but he argued that should they falter slightly they may still stay safe. “Someone down below is going to have to get seven points out of the remaining games to get above us anyway.”
Should Wolves survive they will definitely feel as though they deserved it and have worked hard in trying to maintain their Premier League status. Their latest test at the weekend was to withstand a barrage of long throws from Stoke’s Rory Delap. Many Premier League defences have fallen victim to the Stoke man’s impressive throwing ability and he launched 25 of his guided missiles into the Wolverhampton box on Sunday, but the midlands side’s rearguard managed to cope and were rewarded with a hard-earned point. Jody Craddock was particularly impressive in the centre of defence and picked up a man of the match award for his efforts in the goalless draw.
It was fitting that Craddock had such a great performance in the Staffordshire derby as he was making his 500th league appearance and had the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Karl Henry. The defender was hurt in the first half and returned back into the fray both bloodied and bandaged. After the game he was compared to former England skipper Terry Butcher for both his wounds and his gutsy display, which drew much praise from his manager. McCarthy joked: “He’s better looking than Terry Butcher! I bet he hasn’t played as well as that for 500 games – if he had he’d probably be at Manchester United!”
The boss then expressed his wish for Craddock to stay at the club beyond the end of the current season as his performances continue to improve despite his age and the veteran’s experience is invaluable to the squad.
It is reported that negotiations are already underway to reward Craddock with a new contract. The defender was shipped out on-loan to Stoke by McCarthy back in 2007, but since his return he has established himself as a first team regular and has become a fans’ favourite following his impressive defensive displays as well as hitting the back of the net five times this season.