Middlesbrough 2 (Emnes-pen 88, McDonald 90+4)
A late and dubious Middlesbrough penalty decision robbed Wolves of a point which would have been the least they deserved from their game at the Riverside Stadium.
Karl Henry had no chance of avoiding Scott McDonald’s driven cross but, to the fury of the Wolves players, referee Robert Madeley pointed to the spot.
Heated protests to the referee and linesman were ignored and Marvin Emnes scored from the spot. In stoppage time, with Wanderers throwing everyone up front, Boro broke away and McDonald added a second.
Wolves were unchanged whilst Boro, who lost out to Swansea in the Capital One Cup quarter-final in midweek, included one-time Molineux midfielder George Friend in their line-up.
The first threat came from Wolves on four minutes when Bakary Sako ran into the Boro box and drilled a low cross through the six-yard box with home keeper Jason Steele failing to cut the ball out.
Friend then picked out McDonald in the Wolves area and the striker was a yard wide of the far post with a shot on the turn.
Luke Williams looked on to give the home side an 11th minute lead as he ran into the box but Carl Ikeme was quickly off his line to make an excellent block at close quarters. The loose ball ran in front of McDonald, who failed to react quickly enough, before it was scrambled away.
Kevin Doyle was sandwiched between two defenders as he closed in on goal but the referee waved away penalty appeals. With the travelling fans still howling at the official, Boro broke from defence and Ishmael Miller lofted the ball over the bar from a tight angle on the right.
McDonald just failed to get a touch to Justin Hoyte’s dangerous low cross before Seb Hines’s foul on Tongo Doumbia to the right of the home area presented Sako with a free-kick which flew through the wall but straight at Steele who dived forwards to save.
Henry dispossessed Hines and fed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who was robbed by a defender before he could get a shot away. The ball went behind for an unproductive Sako corner.
Grant Leadbitter was shown the yellow card for tripping Doyle who was in full flight with a run from halfway. Sako’s free-kick was headed out.
The Wolves winger then drifted past two challenges as he ran into the Boro area but his angled shot was saved at the near post by Steele.
In the final minute of the half Friend received a lecture from the referee for a challenge on Ebanks-Blake some 25-yards out. This time Sako’s free-kick curled narrowly wide of the near post.
Half-Time: Boro 0 Wolves 0
Both sides made some early probes after the resumption without either keeper being troubled until the 52nd minute when Richard Smallwood’s long-range drive forced a full length save from Ikeme.
Wolves responded when Sako cut in from the left and hit a low shot that was saved by Steele.
Ikeme was soon back in the thick of things saving at his near post from Williams and then, in the 57th minute, Doyle’s flicked header from Sako’s corner was turned behind by a defender only for the referee to award a goal kick.
Boro made a double switch sending on Emnes and Emmanuel Ledesma for Williams and Miller and, after Ledesma had fired straight at Ikeme from 20-yards, Wolves also made two changes with Jermaine Pennant replacing Ebanks-Blake and David Davis taking the place of Doumbia.
Wolves were dominating the attacking play and it took a flying save from Steele to deny Doyle who had shot from distance.
The keeper then parried a fierce effort from Davis and from Sako’s corner Roger Johnson’s glancing header landed on the roof of the net. Then Steele did well to cling on to the ball as Sako drove in a low cross.
Two minutes from the end came the controversy as McDonald’s cross struck Henry’s arm for the referee to award a totally unwarranted penalty which was dispatched by Emnes.
To rub salt in the wounds, deep into stoppage time, McDonald added an easy second with most of the Wolves team at the opposite end of the field searching for a reward for their efforts. Thanks to an awful decision, there was to be no reward.
Boro: Steele, Hoyte, Friend (Parnaby 80)j, Leadbitter, Hines, McEachran, Williams (Emnes 62), McDonald, Miller (Ledesma 62), Smallwood, Woodgate (capt).
Unused subs: Leutwiler, Thomson, Bailey, Jutkiewitz.
Booking: Leadbitter (41 – foul).
Wolves: Ikeme, Foley, Ward, Doumbia (Davis 74), Johnson, Berra, Sigurdarson, Henry (capt), Ebanks-Blake (Pennant 74), Doyle, Sako.
Unused subs: De Vries, Stearman, Nouble, Batth, Forde.
Referee: R. Madley.
Attendance: 15,662 (699 away supporters).