Wolves 2 (Ebanks-Blake 3, 72-pen)
Wolves gave their supporters an early Christmas present with a battling victory at Blackpool thanks to a brace from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and a magnificent goalkeeping performance from Carl Ikeme.
Jermaine Pennant came in for the injured Björn Sigurdarson as the only change to the team that had been so unlucky at Middlesbrough a week earlier.
Wolves kicked-off and in their initial attack Pennant’s cross was headed out to Bakary Sako whose shot from the edge of the box was both high and wide.
But success wasn’t far away as Wanderers moved into a third minute lead. Pennant slipped a short through pass to Ebanks-Blake and he calmly clipped the ball past home keeper Matthew Gilks.
Tiago Gomes’s long-range drive lacked the power to trouble Ikeme and then former Villa man Nathan Delfouneso was way off target from 20-yards out.
Delfouneso was then fouled by Pennant a yard to the left of the Wolves box. Gomes’s low free-kick went straight to Ikeme who gathered at the second attempt.
There was a brief hold up in play after Stephen Ward took a knock but he was able to continue after treatment.
Ward was adjudged to have fouled Thomas Ince near the right-hand corner. The highly coveted winger took the free-kick himself but Christophe Berra was there to head out with Pennant completing the clearance.
Moments later, another home free-kick, this time taken by Stephen Crainey, saw Berra and Roger Johnson clashing heads as they cleared. Both were able to carry on after treatment.
In the 31st minute, Blackpool were inches away from pulling level as Ince lashed a low cross that just eluded the outstretched foot of Wes Thomas.
The pressure on the visiting back four continued and from another Ince centre Gomes hit a first-time shot against the foot of the post with Crainey’s follow up going straight to Ikeme.
Then Ince beat the offside trap and raced through unopposed looking certain to equalise until Ikeme made a superb block. The ball ballooned up into the air and Thomas headed it over the bar as Berra challenged.
In the 45th minute Pennant played Ebanks-Blake in to the right of goal and Gilks made a tremendous near post save to thwart the striker.
Deep into stoppage time Berra’s challenge on Thomas, right on the 18-yard line, gave Blackpool a free-kick that Ince hit into the wall. Wolves broke from defence and Kevin Doyle forced a corner but the referee blew for the break before it could be taken.
Half-Time: Blackpool 0 Wolves 1
Shortly after the restart, three times in the space of two minutes, Ikeme pulled off brilliant saves to maintain his side’s advantage.
Ince had already had a shot deflected narrowly over the bar when Gomes met Crainey’s cross and his glancing header drew a diving save from the keeper.
Then Ince arrowed a shot towards the top corner and Ikeme somehow got his fingertips to the ball to turn it over. From Gomes’s corner the ball was only half cleared and Ince took a shot at goal that forced another acrobatic save from the keeper.
Pennant was shown the yellow card following a challenge on Crainey before David Davis was sent on in place of Tongo Doumbia.
Wolves gave themselves a little breathing space in the 72nd minute when Ebanks-Blake slotted away a penalty (pictured) after Sako had his run along the bye-line interrupted by Chris Basham who pulled at the winger’s shirt. The offence didn’t go unnoticed by the referee who immediately pointed to the spot.
In the 87th minute the popular striker missed out on a hat-trick after he had run onto Davis’s through ball and skipped past the keeper only to shoot over with the goal gaping before him.
Almost immediately Alex Baptiste pulled one back for the Tangerines but not before Ikeme had pulled of another fine save blocking substitute Noucha Dicko’s drive. But unluckily for the keeper the ball looped up in the air and Alex Baptiste ran in to nod it into the net.
The 1,000 strong travelling support then had to endure four minutes of added time but it passed without any more heroics from Ikeme.
Blackpool: Gilks, Crainey, Gomes, Ince, Baptiste (capt), Basham, Osbourne, Angel (Phillips 75), Thomas (Taylor-Fletcher 45), Delfouneso (Dicko 82), Broadfoot.
Unused subs: Eardley, Sylvestre, Halstead, Harris.
Bookings: Osbourne (72 – dissent), Broadfoot (74 – foul).
Wolves: Ikeme, Foley, Ward, Doumbia (Davis 67), Johnson, Berra, Pennant (Forde 82), Henry (capt), Ebanks-Blake, Doyle, Sako (Stearman 88).
Unused subs: De Vries, Nouble, Jonsson, Batth.
Booking: Pennant (61 – foul).
Referee: D. Coote.