Wolves Under-23s coach Rob Edwards has declared Niall Ennis a ‘big-game player’ but admits he should have had a hat-trick against Southampton.
The 19-year-old striker bagged a brace in the 3-1 win which sent Wolves back to the top of Premier League 2, a point above Monday’s opponents.
But he missed the chance of completing a hat-trick when he fired against the bar from Ryan Giles’s cross in time added on as Wolves broke at speed following a Saints corner.
“He scored two goals but it should have been three at the end,” said Edwards.
“It won’t let him forget that one that hit the bar! It would have been a great finish to a counter attack.
“His attitude and workrate is there for all to see, but he’s got the end product as well.
“He’s always had that and he’s a big-game player. He turns up on the big occasions and delivers.
“He scored the winner against Manchester United earlier in the season and he did the same in this game.
“He just loves Molineux – he always gets a goal at Molineux! He’s been outstanding for us this season, he really has.
“They all have, they have been really consistent.”
Edwards wants the youngsters to sample as much experience of the big-time as possible and the top-of-the-table clash was played at Molineux in front of a larger-than-usual crowd of 1,175.
The players ran out to the signature tune of the first team ‘Hi, Ho Silver Lining’ and the LED boards were at full glare displaying the teams to give the match a bigger feel.
“It was great to do it at Molineux with a few people watching. The eyes are on them so it’s good,” added Edwards.
“The crowd have been brilliant so thank you to them for coming out and to the organisers at the club who put it on, such as Lisa Hollis (academy operations officer) and everyone at the club.
“It was great for everyone – the LED boards were on with the line-ups, so it felt like a real occasion, and the club are trying to provide that next step for the lads, which is important.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fans provide that realism, so if these players go out on loan or get into the first team, they’ve had a taste of it, because we want them out there in front of 30,000.”
Edwards was especially pleased with the way Wolves’ front two of Ennis and Austin Samuels linked up, the pair scoring a goal each to put their side 2-1 up at the break before Ennis’s fine solo goal sealed it just after the hour.
“I was delighted for the front two to get the goals because I don’t think anyone has scored three against Southampton this season,” said the coach.
“They don’t concede too many so that was really pleasing.
“I was really pleased with Niall and Austin as well. He’s been playing ‘up’ for us this season because he’s an Under-18 and his performance was very good.
“I thought our first two goals were great team goals and we controlled things really well and then it was great to have an end product from that control.
“I was expecting an onslaught to come from Southampton in the second half but it didn’t really materialise, so it was great timing to get the third goal, a great individual one from Niall.
“Then we were fairly mature in seeing the game out.”
The only downside for Wolves was Samuels’s exit with a sprained shoulder.
“It was disappointing but hopefully he’s not too bad. It looks like a sprain at the moment,” said Edwards.
“It doesn’t look like there’s any dislocation or anything which is good news, because he landed awkwardly on it.”
Edwards believes both sides were wary of each other at the start of the game, given their impressive results which had carried them to the top two.
“Southampton are a good team and they’re well coached by Radhi Jaïdi (the Tunisian former Birmingham and Bolton centre back),” he added.
“He’s doing a really good job because they have got lads getting into the first team, they were top of the league and they’ve got some good players.
“We knew it was going to be difficult and we knew what we thought we were going to come up against.
“I think they were slightly concerned about us so I think it was like a game of chess in the first half.
“But the two goals we scored were outstanding. Once we were 1-0 up and then when they got the equaliser, it was a bit of a 50-50 game again.
“I thought their threat was Sam Gallagher and they were trying to play it long to him and trying to get balls into the box and setpieces.
“So we made sure we tightened up on that at half-time but just before that, our second goal was great timing.”