Given the near sub-zero conditions, I think many of us were treating this replay as more of an exercise in duty than anticipation.
And yet, in the latest in their long line of magical acts, Gary O’Neil and his team conspired to deliver an enjoyable FA Cup tie.
Our exploits in football’s most fabled competition have been nothing to write home about since our heartbreaking trip to Wembley in 2019. However, with the team performing above expectations in the league, the magic of the cup has been palpable around Molineux in recent weeks.
Throw in the prospect of a fourth round tie with our old enemy and O’Neil’s charge had all the incentive they needed to put Brentford to the sword.
As is always the case with cup games, it wasn’t that straightforward. Say what you like about Nathan Collins, but he’s usually a talking point whenever he plays. After his kamikaze display in the league game at the Gtech, he profited from some shoddy Wolves defending to bag the Bees an undeserved opener.
The goal disrupted our early rhythm, so credit to the lads for drawing level thanks to Semedo’s Doherty-esque strike. One of the most frustrating things about the Portuguese wing-back has been his lack of attacking output in contrast to his predecessor, so it was great to see him add that to his ever-improving game here.
After that leveller, the stage was set for a routine turnaround victory, so it was unsurprising to see that fail to unfold. I suspected Maupay’s initially cancelled strike was onside, and so wasn’t too incandescent when our old friend VAR intervened in support of the away side. That’s not to say that either the officials or VAR had a good evening, with their frequent dilly-dallying frequently interrupting the flow of the game (although Thomas Frank’s unlikable side were also guilty of that).
To counteract such shenanigans, O’Neil was always going to have to get his substitutions right, so kudos to the gaffer for his decision to throw fledgling striker Nathan Fraser into the mix. His equaliser was one of the moments of the season, and enough to suggest we might have a decent prospect on our hands.
It’s a shame that we couldn’t wrap the game up in normal time, especially given that man of the match Cunha was visibly struggling towards the end of the game. Credit to the Brazilian for soldering on, and his winner from the penalty spot was the icing on the cake of yet another highly influential performance.
The striker is one of many increasingly key players in this Wolves side, and it’s tantalising to think about how the second half of the season might unfurl if we can keep everyone fit.
But first, it’s onto the small matter of ‘The Albions’ Brighton and the B*****s.
How’s everyone’s nerves?