Dean Saunders tonight saluted another “massive” win after Wolves held off both second half fatigue and a rousing Birmingham comeback to run out 3-2 winners at St Andrew’s.
A devastating first half blitz saw goals from Stephen Hunt and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (2) – the second a penalty – put Wolves firmly in control against an in-form Blues side which had won 4-0 at promotion-chasing Crystal Palace in their previous match.
The extra 24 hours rest and Blues’ recent confidence came to the fore after the break though as the hosts pulled one back through a Wade Elliott penalty and, after Wolves lost top scorer Ebanks-Blake to injury, Elliott struck again in the fifth minute of injury time after another spot kick had initially been saved by Dorus De Vries.
In a dramatic finale there was still time for Blues to win a dangerous free kick which was sent into the area, but Wolves defended and held on for a second 3-2 victory in three days and third in succession in all.
“It’s a ridiculous job being a football manager isn’t it!” said Saunders.
“When they got the free kick at the end I just shut my eyes.
“I looked across the back-line and saw we’d got Danny Batth in there, Roger Johnson and Kaspars Gorkss and I was just thinking ‘please get your head on it!’
“And they were up against Zigic who is about 7ft 6in and seemed to get bigger as the game went on!
“It’s a massive win for us and I’ve got to give the players so much credit.
“They’ve had a torrid time over the last couple of years and I think we are turning it around now having got four wins out of five.
“I’m not sure we’ve had a bad performance since I’ve been here and there have been games we’ve lost which could have gone our way.
“It was frustrating when we weren’t getting the results I thought we deserved and now we are getting them.
“The lads were absolutely magnificent in the first half today, even more so because we’d only played on Saturday and went to the wire and were hanging on.
“It’s a good job we scored three because I know Birmingham’s manager and how he’d get them to come back at us.
“There was no way he was going to let them buckle and fair play to them for that - I knew they were going to come at us and fight back.
“I didn’t want us to give them anything and we did with a penalty although I didn’t think it was.
“Jamie just put his hand on the lad’s back.
“The second one was a penalty though as Jack (Robinson) put his hand up – I don’t know what was going through his mind.
“And then we had to hang on a little bit at the end.
“Although I also felt we should have had a penalty for the challenge on Stephen Hunt which I have seen again.”
Saunders also felt that Blues keeper Jack Butland was fortunate to escape a red card for bringing down Doyle for Wolves’ penalty, but was more concerned at Wolves having to play twice in 48 hours given their Midlands rivals had taken on Palace in a televised fixture on Friday night.
He believes that played a part in Blues’ strong second half comeback, as well as contributing to Wolves’ injury worries, including the loss of Ebanks-Blake after a tackle from Paul Robinson.
“I think it is absolutely ridiculous that we have had to play Saturday-Monday and Birmingham have had an extra day’s rest,” said Saunders, repeating his pre-match concern.
“It might have sounded like sour grapes if we hadn’t won but we have ended up with a couple of groin strains and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake possibly out for the season with ankle ligament damage.
“Fingers crossed that’s not the case but we’ll have to see.
“He went over on his ankle and I think it’s partly down to fatigue and stretching – you get injured when you are on your feet.
“David Davis has done his groin and was signalling he wanted to come off but we had to leave him out there.
“It’s just tiredness and it showed in the second half when we suffered and the boys were out on their feet.
“Some teams have been able to play on Friday and some tomorrow as well and I don’t really know what’s behind it although I know some are on the television.
“I’ve just got to concentrate on the team really but we weren’t fully recovered and I think it should be looked at.
“That’s what annoys me more than anything, we’ve won the game but have picked up injuries.
“You get a dead leg on Saturday and sometimes you can’t get over it by Monday.
“Jamie O’Hara was out there with a dead leg which he hadn’t fully got over and I had a massive dilemma whether to pick the same team as we wanted continuity or to make changes.
“I decided to stick with the same team because I wanted us to keep up the momentum and luckily we won!
“In the first half we came straight out of the traps and they were maybe a little bit complacent after winning 4-0 on Friday.
“They came back in the second half when I thought our back four stuck at it and Roger (Johnson) headed everything out and did really well.”
There followed that nervy finish as Blues made it 3-2 with full time looming but Saunders was ultimately delight with the victory as Wolves avoided what would have been a very unhappy Blue Monday!
“I’m really pleased we got the points and really pleased with how the players have responded and shown their character,” he added.
“They have not buckled under the situation and have fought their way to where we are now just four points off 11th!
“I was hoping that if we could have got to 20 minutes to go and still been 3-0 I could have brought some of them off and rested them but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”