Dean Saunders is hoping a long-awaited first win as Wolves boss will prove the catalyst to better times ahead – but believes the team have played better than against Millwall tonight and ended up on the losing side.
An early goal from the recalled Dave Edwards and a superb second half overhead kick from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake ultimately earned Wolves a comfortable 2-0 victory at the New Den, their first win since December 21 and first in 10 attempts under Saunders.
Coming off the back of an injury time equaliser against promotion-chasing Watford last Friday, Saunders believes Wolves will have gained fresh confidence from the morale-boosting victory ahead of Saturday’s tough test at in-form Nottingham Forest.
“It’s always nice to get your first win,” said the boss.
“It has been a long time coming but the performances have not been too dissimilar to that one tonight.
“We’ve just got on the wrong end of results and have probably played better than that.
“We set about them straightaway and got on the front foot – instead of taking a backward step we got in their faces and pressed them to get the ball back off them.
“And it was a good goal from Dave Edwards.
“I just thought we pressed them and stopped them building any momentum up.
“We kept that going and stopped them making passes and when the ball did come in the box we dealt with it.
“The main thing I said at half time was not to take a step back.
“I felt we had started to do that just before half time and there were balls coming into our box.
“That starts with the strikers taking a step back instead of pressing the centre backs and if that happens the midfielders take a step back towards the back four and before you know it they are planting balls into the middle of our goal.
“And then it’s a Lottery who it drops to, while you also give fouls away when you let teams come on top of you.
“I tried to get everyone on the front foot so we defended stepping forwards and not going backwards.
“We have won the game and played well but I think we have played better in other games and come off with nothing.
“Most of our performances have been like that but tonight we have got two great goals, especially the one from Sylvan.
“He had been struggling a little bit with his groin and his back and we weren’t sure whether he was going to be alright.
“But I put him and Jake Cassidy in today with fresh legs after Björn and Kevin Doyle had worked their socks off against Watford.
“Thankfully Sylvan paid me back with his performance and his goal.
“For the first 15 to 20 minutes the ball stuck with him and he and Jake were getting to the ball first.
“That’s why we were on top of them.”
And in terms of the belief and confidence levels from finally getting a victory?
“Hopefully the belief will come back now,” said Saunders.
“It was one of those games tonight when if we had conceded one goal we might have conceded another with five minutes to go – I have been there as well!
“So it was nice to keep a clean sheet and not concede near the end and that will give the lads belief as well.
“We defended well and kept another clean sheet - I think it’s three games now since we conceded a goal in open play so we are defending better.
“We have got to make the most of winning positions and when we get in front manage the game properly so we do certain things to stop giving the opposition a chance like giving fouls away.
“It wasn’t so long ago Milwall were tenth in the league and now we’re only five points behind them so it’s a good away win.
“I think it has been coming for a while now and hopefully we can build on it and get two or three wins which would make a complete difference to the league table.
“It’s like any walk of life – if you try and do something and it works you do it the next time because you expect it to work.
“When you have been losing as long as we have you maybe start to expect things to go wrong.
“So I expect even at 2-0 tonight the lads were thinking that if they (Millwall) scored they might get another one because that is what you feel like.
“I thought we managed the game great at the end, putting the ball down the sides and not giving them a chance although we probably gave too many fouls away.
“It is a good result but now we have a tough game at Forest on Saturday which will be a different type of game altogether.
“We have got to be ready for that now.”
The boss made four changes to the side for the 2-0 win, bringing back the fresh legs of Edwards, Cassidy, Stephen Ward and Ebanks-Blake.
He admits he has been looking to find a winning formula with Wolves getting close to doing so in previous fixtures.
“When you win it makes life a lot easier,” he explained.
“When you are looking for answers like I have been and looking for the right formula you will try different players, different shapes, different training sessions – you will try anything.
“We have won the game now so onto the next one.
“I’ve always been convinced but sometimes things don’t go your way and tonight they have but I’ve not said anything too different.
“I just felt we were coming into this result sooner or later.
“We have to make sure we build on this and do not take a step back between now and the end of the season.”