Rob Edwards has praised the character of Wolves Under-23s after they beat Stoke 2-1 last night to keep their Premier League 2 Division Two title hopes alive.
Wolves snatched victory to go top on goal difference ahead of Reading with just one game left. But watched by a Molineux crowd of 2,934, they had to weather heavy second-half pressure from a determined Potters side who created plenty of chances before Ed Francis drilled home the winner with five minutes left.
Dion Sanderson had given Wolves the lead only for Daniel Jarvis to cancel it out.
“It shows a lot because you can never be outstanding all of the time throughout the season,” said Edwards. “To be fair to the boys, every time they have performed here this season they have been very good, so that was the first below-par performance we have had.
“So to still get the win is really pleasing. I spoke to the lads about the importance of winning, especially at this stage of the season and at the level they’re playing at.
“That’s what it is about, and the next level is where it really does matter, and they’re learning that now. So the players were delighted because they found a way to win.”
Edwards admitted he was unhappy with the performance, as Wolves were forced to defend for long spells.
“I was a little bit disappointed at the manner of it because we didn’t perform at our best,” he said. “I thought we were a bit passive and probably a little bit too easy to play against, probably for the majority of the game.
“We stepped it up a bit towards the end and pressed them higher and managed to get more pressure on the ball.
“It was fantastic to win the game but we rode our luck a little bit and sometimes you have to do that. It’s great to get the three points when you’re not at your best, which we weren’t.”
Edwards was also delighted with the size of the crowd, which was the biggest home gate for the Under-23s this season, eclipsing the 2,500 that watched the Manchester United game earlier in the season.
“I thank all of the supporters who came to support us, it made for a really good atmosphere when we did get forward and get them going,” he said.
Wolves have to hope they can win their final game, away to Manchester United at Leigh on Friday, April 26 (7pm), and that Reading and Southampton slip up in theirs, if they are to win the title.
Saints play Albion away on Thursday before hosting Sunderland in their final game of the season on Monday, April 29. Reading also have just one match left, at Stoke on the same evening as Wolves travel to play United.
Only the champions are promoted to Division One. The second, third, fourth and fifth-placed teams go into a play-off, with the runner-up and third-placed teams at home.
“Now we have put the pressure on one or two other teams, which is all we can do at this stage because we know it’s not in our hands,” added Edwards.
“The ball is back in Southampton’s court now and that’s all we can do. I’ve said to the lads, if we finish second or third, then we know the semi-finals will be here as well. We’ve been really good here all season so let’s aim for the highest finish we can possible and then we will see what comes of it.”
Wolves’ goals came from corners and were both scored by central defenders.
“It just shows the importance of set-pieces,” admitted Edwards. “When we were not at our most fluid and brilliant best we found a couple of goals from set-plays. We talk all the time about them and the importance of them and we work on them, so it was great to score from two.
“It was great to see Dion Sanderson attacking the really good delivery from our first corner of the night, and then Ed Francis, who I thought played really well, and it was superb for him to get what proved to be the winner.”
Wolves were without nine-goal striker Niall Ennis due to a hamstring problem and Edwards admits they need goals to come from all departments in his absence.
“With missing Niall as well we perhaps are going to need goals from other areas of the pitch, and it was great that the two centre backs have pitched in with goals from set-pieces,” he said.