What follows should only be the story behind an unimportant midweek game in an irrelevant tournament played between two unfashionable sides.
Not with Notts County. That’s rarely the case. How to attack (for the want of a more suitable term) this piece is a challenge in itself considering how much ground there is to cover.
Notts made sure from the offset that opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers knew they were in a game. Within the first minute, the Wolves faithful’s all time number one nemesis Lee Hughes (more on this later as it happens!) had the ball in the back of the net. Not for the last time on the night though he was flagged offside.
This was a common theme of the evening for Notts’ lead forward. The slightest hint of an opening for Lee would be met by the waving of the linesman’s flag right under the noses over a thousand travelling, frustrated Notts County supporters.
Wolves were to settle into the game well over the next 20 minutes, probably enthused by the early departure of injured Notts captain John Thompson. Still, the efforts of Ebanks-Blake and Marcus Bent were largely nullified as a sense of belief began to grow within the County defence. Chilvers was having his best game in the black and white.
Wolves managed to craft the better of the first half chances (including hitting the bar), whilst the linesman continued to bring any Notts move crashing to a halt.
I’m often one to acknowledge the poor performances of officials when they deserve it, and have said on more than one occasion (this season alone) that it’s hard to understand how officials can get worse…yet still they do. But this wasn’t even like other weeks where both sides fall foul of short sightedness. This was one way traffic for much of the tie unfortunately.
The game was without a goal as the half time whistle blew and you had to think half of the job was done and that Wolves would be there for the taking in the second half.
On 57 minutes the away support was thanked with a Lee Hughes header that soared over the outstretched palm of Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal. Not quite the end of the story here though.
Hughesy is a player who absolutely THRIVES on the hatred he receives from opposing support. The more grief you give him, the more he will punish you. It’s that simple. So put him on the pitch of his former club (and supported team) West Bromwich Albion’s most fiercest rivals and you get some idea of just how up for the game he was.
The torrent of abuse from three stands in Molineux bordered on obscene. I’m a firm believer in cheering for your own team and not against others. But instead a majority of Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters were more intent on making their feelings known to Hughes for 120 minutes, despite his departure from the field ten minutes from normal time.
The goalscorer did nothing to make matters any better for himself in celebrating by lifting his Notts shirt to reveal the Boing Boing slogan adopted by West Brom in recent seasons. Talk about adding further fuel to the fire. There’s no smoke without fire they say, none more so than when a smoke grenade found it’s way onto the playing surface amidst the celebrations.
Myself and other Notts fans had been searched upon entry into the ground, so why was this allowed to happen?
The incitement of the home crowd was enough to earn Hughes his fourth yellow card of the season already so a suspension looms even closer now. Not the wisest decisions in retrospect most would agree, but probably not Lee.
Whilst a question needs to be asked about why he even wore anything to stir the pot even further, surely the argument can be made that by wearing another club’s shirt under his County colours he’s actually working to his own agenda and not that of his employers? As a Notts fan, it’s disappointing.
The goal was richly deserved though, and would’ve been enough had it not been for the right foot of Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal, Hughes the man denied a goal in front of the baying mob that would’ve meant game over for Mick McCarthy’s side.
As with just over a week ago at Charlton though, a Hughes miss was to prove the turning point. Moments later he was substituted in place of Jake Jervis. Two minutes after, two more contentious decisions by the referee did nothing to do County any favours.
Liam Chilvers was adjudged to have hauled down Christophe Berra and by the letter of the law saw red. It’s without question that Chilvers should never have had his hands on the Wolves man and most in Berra’s position would have done the same if their side was minutes away from being dumped out by lower league opposition.
Chilvers made no complaint to the referee, as he exited the playing surface. The spot kick was slotted past Rob Burch by Milijas and extra time loomed.
The equaliser had undoubtedly come as the proverbial hammer blow to Notts who were now left to climb the hill (as if i’m going to say a mountain, it’s Wolves) again, but this time without Lee Hughes.
The home side had the ball in the net within seconds of extra time starting, but like Notts in the first minute of normal time, the goal was flagged offside. This made little difference, as just moments later, Mick McCarthy’s weapon from the bench Steven Fletcher had put Wolves in front.
The lead was extended at the end of the first period as the impressive Rob Burch could parry into the path of another substitute Kevin Doyle, in the second minute of added time. One more than the official had indicated. Make of that what you will.
A tired Notts had effectively been put to the sword by a two international forwards.
Notts never stopped pushing though, and they were rewarded with a goal by Kevin Smith, rising high above a lethargic Wolves defence. Shades of Bournemouth at 3-2 of course, with this occasion giving Notts six minutes of time.
It didn’t matter. Kevin Doyle was on right hand to slot with pretty much the last kick of the game.
A 4-2 defeat at Premiership opposition. On paper it’s a drubbing. But looking deeper, the performance was one that should fill every Notts County fan with pride. The side that Craig Short put out NEVER gave up fighting until the final whistle.
Leaving the stadium was somewhat unreal, just hard to believe we’ve been beaten 4-2 when we’ve put in a performance as good as that.
But let’s not blame the officiating. Notts County on the night deserve more credit than that. The players rose above everything thrown out of them, and but for that right foot of Hennessey, we’d be in the fourth round draw.
A totally undeserved defeat, but that’s the second time in as many weeks i’ve had to say that now.
Of course, as everyone now knows this wasn’t the end of the evening for many.
Three officially provided supporters coaches full of County fans were attacked upon making their way out of Wolverhampton. One elderly lady was left hospitalised as the buses were bricked by a gang of youths in a supposedly pre-meditated attack.
I’m not going to point the finger. In doing so it only appears like i’m singling out the whole of the Wolves support when we all know by now that these idiots make up a tiny minority, and that every club has them.
t goes without saying that both clubs have condemned the attacks, but why was it agreed prior to the match that the evening would be a stewards-only affair, with no police presence? If every supporter attending knew beforehand that there’d be a bit of needle, surely someone must’ve known it’d be wise to have the police on hand at least as a precautionary measure?
The matter might have been somewhat exacerbated by the on-field actions of Lee Hughes of course.
Some quarters have claimed the Boing Boing t-shirt to be the catalyst for the attacks, which is simply ridiculous. Can anyone here think of a slogan on a piece of clothing that would drive them to attack the innocent elderly? What the shirt has done however is inadvetently make a rod for his own back.
No one should have needed to foresee the events that happened leaving the ground. But no one should deny to themselves, in retrospect that the shirt might’ve been a bad decision.