Wolves 3 (Sako 22, Doumbia 61, Johnson 90+1)
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 (Mackail-Smith 43, Buckley 72, Dobbie-pen 89)
Six goals, a sending-off, controversial decisions, a first for Roger Johnson in Wolves’ colours – it was all happening at Molineux as Brighton fell behind twice, took the lead, and then were denied at the death by ten man Wanderers.
Before kick-off the last post was sounded in respect of the fallen in wars, and sapper Clive Smith, a Wolves supporter who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, and is this year’s ‘face of the poppy’, carried the match ball to the centre spot.
Ståle Solbakken made three changes to his side with Kevin Foley, Jermaine Pennant and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake coming in for Richard Stearman, Tongo Doumbia and Björn Sigurdarson.
Brighton kicked-off attacking the North Bank end and there was an early chance for the visitors when Bruno Saltor fed David Lopez who drilled a shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
Otherwise, despite Brighton enjoying the early possession, they didn’t really threaten although it wasn’t until the 16th minute that Wanderers won a corner and that was wasted as Backary Sako’s kick curled out of play before coming back in again.
Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak juggled with a Kevin Doyle header before claiming after a cross from Stephen Ward before Wolves moved ahead in the 22nd minute with a slickly taken goal. Pennant pushed the ball forward to Sako who played a quick-fire one-two with Doyle before netting with an angled drive.
In Wolves’ next attack, Sako was fouled 22-yards out. Pennant took the free-kick but the ball ballooned up off the wall and into the keeper’s arms. At the other end, a long-range effort from Stephen Dobbie flew narrowly wide.
Sako was wide with a shot on the turn after taking a pass from Pennant. The ball appeared to take a deflection on its way out but the referee gave a goal-kick.
Two minutes before the break Brighton pulled level. Sako’s underhit pass to Ward was intercepted and Saltor pulled the ball back to Craig Mackail-Smith who fired into the far corner of the net.
Wolves’ woes continued moments after the restart when Karl Henry’s late challenge on Liam Bridcutt resulted in a straight red card. To his credit the Brighton man got straight to his feet but the referee deemed it a reckless challenge and, despite his protests, the skipper was dismissed.
In stoppage time, Sako struck a free-kick from fully 30-yards that went inches over the bar.
Half-Time: Wolves 1 Brighton 1
Doumbia replaced Ebanks-Blake at the start of the new half which was just three minutes old when Lopez missed a good chance. Saltor’s centre hit Christophe Berra and bounced invitingly to Lopez but he blazed his shot over the bar from just eight-yards out.
Carl Ikeme made a fine block after Andrea Orlandi had burst into the area, and then the keeper made another good save, this time from Dobbie.
Orlandi volleyed into the side netting before Dobbie picked up a half clearance and shot straight at Ikeme. Then, a second change for Wolves saw Sigurdarson taking the place of Pennant.
With 61 minutes gone, the stadium erupted as Wolves regained the lead. Sigurdarson was fouled by Lewis Dunk midway through the Brighton half. As Doumbia took possession the referee waved play on and the midfielder hit a 20-yard shot past Kuszczak. Dunk was yellow carded before the game restarted.
Brighton were inches away from equalising five minutes later as Dunk headed against the bar after Dobbie had lifted a free-kick into the area.
Johnson, with a diving header following Sako’s corner, almost stretched the lead but, in the 72nd minute, a Brighton break saw the south coast side levelling as Bridcutt pushed the ball forwards to Will Buckley who scored from just inside the box.
Dobbie shot narrowly wide before Brighton were denied a third twice in the space of a few seconds. Ikeme saved well from Orlandi and when the ball rebounded to Ashley Barnes, his effort was cleared off the line by Johnson.
An incredulous decision from the referee gifted Brighton what looked to be the winning goal in the 89th minute. Dobbie, from just two yards, backheeled the ball onto Ward’s arm. There was no doubt about the contact but the Wolves man had no chance of getting his arm out of the way – it was a definite case of ‘ball to hand’. But the penalty stood and Dobbie beat Ikeme from the spot.
Roared on by an incensed crowd, Wolves hit back to claim a point in stoppage time. Doumbia had a header cleared off the line by Orlandi after a Sako corner but Brighton failed to clear the danger and Wolves were awarded a free-kick to the left of the box. Sako took the kick and Johnson rose to send a header just inside the far post to square things up.
Wolves: Ikeme, Foley, Ward, Edwards (Davis 82), Johnson, Berra, Pennant (Sigurdarson 57), Henry (capt), Doyle, Ebanks-Blake (Doumbia 45), Sako.
Unused subs: Stearman, Batth, Forde, De Vries.
Sending-Off: Henry (43 – serious foul play).
Brighton: Kuszczak, Saltor, Greer (capt), Dunk, Crofts (Buckley 65), Dobbie, Orlandi, Mackail-Smith, Lopez (Barnes 65), Bridcutt, Bridge (Calderon 34).
Unused subs: Hammond, Hoskins, Ankergren, Dicker.
Booking: Dunk (61 – foul).
Referee: S. Matthieson.
Middlesbrough Under 18s 1 Wolves 3 (Dell 2, Iorfa)