Wolves 1 QPR 0
Wolves ended their five-year wait for a return to the Premier League by seeing off QPR at Molineux and all but sealing the Coca-Cola Championship title in the process.
It is nothing less than Mick McCarthy’s side deserve having perched themselves at the summit of England’s second tier since October, and occupying one of the two automatic promotion places since the third game of the season.
Their success has, for the main part, been down to the sheer number of goals they have scored, with the youthful Black Country outfit finding the net more than any other side in the division both at home and away.
And fittingly it was leading scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – on his return from injury – who settled the game in front of a sell-out crowd one minute after the restart.
Wanderers last played top-flight football back in 2004 but a lack of investment saw the club finish rock bottom after just one year in the Premier League.
But the powers that be at Molineux have already stressed that lessons have been learned from that fateful campaign and money will be spent this summer in a bid to beat the drop.
Wolves’ victory puts them within touching distance of the league title – six points and a considerable goal difference clear of second-placed Birmingham with two games remaining, while QPR’s outside hopes of reaching the play-offs were ended.
McCarthy, who has remained level-headed throughout the club’s promotion charge, warned before the encounter that “QPR will be coming here to spoil the party”.
But a quick flick through the history books meant the writing was already on the wall for the R’s – with their last victory at Molineux coming way back in 1998 when Steve Bull and an 18-year-old Robbie Keane were leading the line for the home side.
The hosts were hustling Rangers at every opportunity from the off yet clear-cut openings were few and far between in the first quarter of the encounter – Dave Edwards coming the closest with a header that forced a smart stop from Radek Cerny.
Edwards tried his luck from 30 yards in the 26th minute as the hosts rallied in an attempt to find the crucial breakthrough.
But it failed to materialise in the latter part of the first half, with Matt Jarvis seeing his inswinging corner rebound off the crossbar.
Within a minute of the restart all the tension was released and the home support finally started to believe.
Stewart looked to shepherd Stephen Ward’s hopeful ball to safety just inside the penalty area, but Andy Keogh hounded the Rangers defender and managed to nick in and square the ball across for Ebanks-Blake to fire home.
But QPR reminded the hosts of their threat in the 53rd minute as Rowan Vine’s effort deflected off Christophe Berra before striking the crossbar, much to the relief of a stranded Wayne Hennessey.
The Wolves keeper then had to come to the rescue just after the hour mark, saving well from Heidar Helguson when the R’s striker found himself clean through.
Substitute Marlon Harewood wasted a golden opportunity to put the game, and promotion, beyond doubt shortly after when he fired straight at Cerny from 12 yards.
Nevertheless, Wolves held on for victory to banished the memories of this time last year when they finished just outside the play-off places by the virtue of goal difference.