Wolves 3 (Harkin 1, Cundle 45, 70) Middlesbrough 2 (Kavanagh 6, Walker 90)
Wolves under-23s booked their place in the Premier League Cup final and a match against Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough at Molineux.
Lee Harkin put Wolves ahead inside 60 second before Luke Cundle’s first of the evening gave the hosts a 2-1 win at the break. The midfielder doubled his tally for the evening after rounding the Boro keeper to give his side needed breathing space as the visitors scored in the final minute of the match, but James Collins’ side had done enough to make it into the final.
Wolves attacked from the off and put the Middlesbrough defence under intense pressure with slick and speedy one touch passing and movement, which led to a goal within less than 60 seconds on the clock.
Cundle, Chem Campbell and Hugo Bueno were all involved in the build-up down Wolves’ left, which dragged the Boro defence out of position, which meant as Bueno’s cross was played into the penalty area, Harkin was able to nudge the ball into the back of the net from close range as he made a clever run to the far post.
Despite Wolves’ quick start, Middlesbrough hit back within four minutes. The visitors broke quickly and Bryant Bilongo was found on the wrong side of Yerson Mosquera, but his ball into the centre of the box found Calum Kavanagh, goalside of Christian Marques, and he had the simple task of guiding the ball past Andreas Sondergaard in the Wolves goal.
Moments later, Sondergaard made a great one-on-one save to deny Sonny Finch from making it two for Boro when he broke the offside trap, while at the other end, Justin Hubner went into the book for a dive inside the visitor’s penalty area as Wolves looked to catch their opponents out with a corner routine straight from the training ground.
Wolves were handed a massive let-off just after the half-hour mark as Martin Payero slammed the ball against the crossbar having been played into space down the left. The winger cut inside and was one-on-one with Sondergaard but lifted his powerful effort too high and it cannoned back off the bar.
Although Boro had more of the ball as the half progressed, Wolves picked up pace just before the as Harkin was played over the top of the defence, turned on the goalline and laid a pass into the path of Cundle, but the midfielder only found the palms of visiting keeper Sol Brynn with his goalbound effort. But he didn’t take long to find the net as he was picked out at the far post by Bueno and slammed a low ball beyond Brynn.
The game continued in a topsy-turvy manner during the opening stages of the second-half as chances fell to both sides after the break, with Kavanagh miss-hitting an effort from close-range for Boro, while Bueno fired a free-kick from a dangerous position over the crossbar.
Cundle grabbed his second of the game with 20 minutes of the game remaining. Dexter Lembikisa’s cross into the box was chested into the path of Taylor Perry by Campbell and his shot was pushed back into the box by Brynn and Cundle was first to follow up. He showed immense control to round the keeper before slotting the ball into an open net.
With a two-goal lead, Wolves were not resting on their laurels, as Lembikisa brought a save out of Brynn, before substitute Harvey Griffiths almost broke the crossbar with a stunningly powerful effort from the edge of the box, which had the Boro keeper beaten, but not the woodwork.
Wolves experienced a nervy final five minutes as Middlesbrough halved the deficit in the final minute of regular time as Stephen Walker was picked out unmarked inside the Wolves penalty area, before hitting a neatly volleyed effort into the bottom corner of the net, but it mattered not as the final whistle blew on the game and secured Wolves’ place in the Premier League Cup final.
James Collins’ side face another semi-final in the coming weeks as they return to Molineux and go head-to-head with Norwich City for the chance to reach the Premier League 2 play-off final before facing West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League Cup final. The dates for these fixtures are still to be confirmed and will be announced once finalised.
TBC Norwich City (H) PL2 play-off semi-final
TBC West Bromwich Albion PL Cup final
Wolves: Sondergaard, Lembikisa, Mosquera, Marques, Hubner, Bueno, Hodge, Perry (Birtwistle 84), Cundle, Campbell, Harkin (Griffiths 80).
Unused subs: Tipton, Hesketh, Shabani.
Middlesbrough: Brynn, Gibson, Wood, Siliki, Bilongo (Collins 87), Payero (Dodds 75), Hall, Hackney, Willis (Walker 79), Finch, Kavanagh.
Unused subs: Lindo, Swan.