Nuno's battlers prevail after feisty clash
Wolves 3 (Cavaleiro 44, Bonatini 61-pen, 63)
Preston North End 2 (Hugill 65, Coady-og 76)
After taking a three goal lead against Preston North End, Wolves gave their fans something of a nervy final few minutes as the visitors twice hit back.
But after a gritty and battling performance, Nuno’s men secured three more points to help secure their position at the top.
Leo Bonatini came in for Helder Costa in an otherwise unchanged
Wanderers team as Preston kicked-off attacking the South Bank end on a drab, blustery afternoon at Molineux.
The first attempt at goal came when Daniel Johnson laid the ball into the path of Ben Pearson who was way too high from 25-yards.
Preston keeper Chris Maxwell cut out a low cross from Ivan
Cavaleiro before the game was halted for treatment to Romain Saiss who had taken a knock in the face in an aerial challenge.
In the 14th minute a low shot from Johnson had John Ruddy at full stretch with the keeper just managing to turn the ball behind. Josh Harrop’s corner was headed clear by Diogo Jota.
Most of the attacking play was coming from the visitors and they should have been ahead in the 28th minute after Jordan Hugill had fed Tom Barkhuizen. He delivered a low cross and Johnson, from eight-yards, fired high and wide.
Despite being pushed and shoved, Jota managed to play a one-two with Barry Douglas and, from the left of the Preston box, he hit an angled drive that wasn’t far over.
A quickly taken Ruben Neves free-kick on the halfway line released Bonatini who ran to the edge of the box before dragging a low shot wide of the far post.
Wolves finally made the breakthrough a minute before the break after Matt Doherty and Cavaleiro had combined on the left.
Doherty’s low cross ran to Jota and he backheeled the ball to Douglas who returned it into the six-yard box where Cavaleiro was waiting to convert.
Half-Time: Wolves 1 Preston 0
Less than two minutes after the restart Preston won a free-kick on the right. After the referee had whistled, Alan Browne clattered into Neves sparking a melee involving virtually every player on the pitch. When order had been restored, Browne was shown the yellow card.
Darnell Fisher scooped a first time shot over the bar after he connected with a Barkhuizen centre and then, after a Conor Coady foul on Hugill, Danny Batth headed clear Johnson’s free-kick.
Wolves extended their lead in the 59th minute from the penalty spot after Josh Harrop had fouled Doherty. Bonatini put the ball to Maxwell’s left and although the keeper guessed correctly, he couldn’t reach the ball.
Preston introduced Stephy Mavididi for Harrop but he could only look on as Wanderers added a third on 63 minutes. Maxwell made a fine save from Jota but the loose ball bounced to Bonatini who chested it over the line.
Just two minutes later the Lilywhites cut the deficit when Hugill headed home Barkhuizen’s cross.
Wolves responded with a 30-yarder from Neves that dipped over the bar, and Preston went close when a low centre from Barkhuizen flew across the face of goal and wide of the far post with no visiting player able to apply the finishing touch.
After Paul Huntington had been booked for a foul, Douglas was cautioned for felling Barkhuizen. Then Nuno made a double switch sending Costa and Bright Enobakhare on for Bonatini and Cavaleiro.
Preston scored a second in the 76th minute when Barkhuizen’s low cross struck Coady and bounced into the net.
Costa took the ball half the length of the pitch before cutting into the box and hitting a shot that didn’t have the power to trouble Maxwell.
A final Wolves change saw Alfred N’Diaye replacing Jota before Roderick Miranda became the third home player to go into the book after he had fouled Mavididi.
As what had been a fractious contest drifted into stoppage time, it exploded once again after Browne had brought down N’Diaye and followed up with a kick on the Wolves midfielder.
The Preston man didn’t wait for the referee to brandish a second yellow and he trotted off as another melee broke out in front of the Wolves dug-out.
It took several moments before order was restored and, when it was, the official called for Browne to come back from the dressing room before showing him a yellow and then a red. He then added Saiss and Johnson’s names to the list of bookings.
There was almost nine minutes of added time but Wolves held out in a feisty encounter to record their ninth League victory of the campaign.
Wolves: Ruddy, Doherty, Douglas, Miranda, Batth (capt), Coady, Cavaleiro (Enobakhare 75), Jota (N’Diaye 82), Neves, Saiss, Bonatini (Costa 75).
Unused subs: Norris, Bennett, Marshall, Price.
Bookings: Douglas (73 – foul), Miranda (85 – foul), Saiss (90+1 unsporting behaviour).
Preston: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington (capt), Davies, Earl, Browne, Johnson, Harrop (Mavididi 61), Barkhuizen, Pearson, Hugill.
Unused subs: Hudson, Woods, Boyle, Robinson, Gallagher, Horgan.
Bookings: Browne (47 – foul), Huntington (72 – foul), Johnson (90+1 – unsporting behaviour), Hugill (90 – foul).
Sending-Off: Browne (90+1 – foul, second bookable offence).
Referee: S. Martin.
Wolves Academy Under 18s 2 (Hesson, Otasowie) Newcastle United 2