Match report: Wolves 2 Sheffield United 0

Florent Cuvelier holds off Bakary Sako.
Florent Cuvelier holds off Bakary Sako.
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Kevin McDonald, the Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder, was not wrong when he described this victory as a smash-and -grab raid.

For long periods of Saturday’s match it seemed as if the League One table had been turned upside down as Sheffield United dominated both in terms of territory and possession before conceding two second-half goals.

Bakary Sako celebrates his superb strike as a dejected Jose Baxter and Matt Hill look on.

Bakary Sako celebrates his superb strike as a dejected Jose Baxter and Matt Hill look on.

While Kenny Jackett celebrated his team’s ability to win ugly, the visitors were left to contemplate another cruel defeat which left them still searching for their first win since the opening weekend of the campaign and, because of results elsewhere, propping up the rest of the division.

A scenario, Harry Maguire finds impossible to explain.

“When you look at the table, it makes your heart sink,” the United defender said. “Even more so because I thought we were the better side out there and we’ve come away with nothing.

“It must be hard for the staff to watch because we are making chances and getting into the right positions and areas. It must be hard for the fans to watch for exactly the same reasons.

“We were on top and buzzing because Wolves are a really good team with the biggest budget in the league.

“And then what happens? They are the ones who get that lucky break.

“That’s the way it seems to have been going for us all season. It seems like we are so near and yet so far because it’s difficult for me to say what we did wrong.”

David Weir, the United manager, confirmed he will continue to question “myself and everything we are doing” in an attempt to arrest a miserable run of form which means the South Yorkshire club, who started the season with hopes of challenging for promotion, have taken zero points from their last six games.

However, on this evidence, Jack Regan could lead the interrogation and struggle to build a compelling case as to why Weir’s side departed Molineux with nothing to show for their efforts.

True, United’s confidence visibly drained once Leigh Griffiths scrambled home in fortuitious circumstances.

But, until that moment, they were far more creative and assured than opponents now beaten only once in nine outings.

Wolves were indebted to Carl Ikeme for making a series of smart reaction saves as Ryan Hall, Jose Baxter and Febien Brandy threatened to pick apart their rearguard while, at the other end, George Long had been a spectator until Griffiths tested his handling moments before the interval.

Cue sarcastic cheers from the home crowd.

“It was a smash-and-grab raid for us,” McDonald, who joined Wolves from United less than two months ago, acknowledged. “But we got the three points so we can’t complain.

“To be honest, at the beginning they played us off the park.

“In the first half they put us under a lot of pressure whereas in the second, when I thought we were better, we put them under a little bit.

“Fortunately, we were still in the game enough to be able to do that.”

“Of course, Sheffield United will get out of the position they are in,” McDonald continued. “They’ve got a good manager, good ideas and good players.

“I know better about that more than most.

“Their luck will change soon and it will all click. It’s only a matter of time.”

Time, though, is not in limitless supply and United must quickly discover the knack of turning performances into positive results if they are to avoid being sucked even further into trouble.

Jackett, having seen third-placed Wolves move to within three points of leaders Leyton Orient, claimed “some great defending” had been the catalyst for their seventh win of the season.

United’s failure to translate their early superiority into a commanding lead did come back to haunt them but, on this occasion, they appeared dangerous in front of goal.

Marlon King has brought some much-needed guile and presence to United’s attack and, despite lacking a degree of sharpness, dovetailed well with Baxter and fellow new arrival Hall.

Indeed, until Griffiths broke the deadlock, Weir’s charges were impressively precise while Wolves, aware the contest was ebbing away from them, resorted to a series of hopeful long balls.

Ikeme scrambled away Baxter’s low shot at his near post before thwarting Hall with another diving block.

Then, having seen Tony McMahon sweep a free-kick just wide, Brandy unleashed an acutely-angled drive only to see the Wolves goalkeeper intervene again.

Dave Edwards was inches away from connecting with Griffiths’ low centre as the hosts started the second period in brighter fashion but United’s response was instant with Brandy heading wide after ghosting in front of his marker to meet King’s cross.

Griffiths bundled home his fifth of the campaign from close-range after meeting Bakary Sako’s centre - the ball richoeting off his body and into the back of the net following Long’s initial save - before Baxter saw another effort deflected wide.

Sako, the former Saint Etienne winger, showcased the skills which earned him 10 France under-21 caps with a thunderous drive from distance at the end.

Maguire added: “We need to stick together, keep working hard and keep believing.”