Ince double lifts Derby as Wolves look ragged for new manager Paul Lambert

Wolverhampton Wanderers rallied after a poor first half but were beaten 3-2 by reviving Derby County before the confirmed appointment of Paul Lambert

As Wolves sloped off at half-time amid an atmosphere that verged on the poisonous, the greatest encouragement for Paul Lambert might have been that it was not too late to reconsider. By the end, with Derby County clinging on to a victory that should never have become this complicated, there was at least evidence that his new job need not be a hiding to nothing. Lambert’s appointment as Wolves head coach, replacing Walter Zenga, was confirmed on Saturday evening and he will be presented with more questions than answers when he comes to unpick a dramatically two-tone performance that resulted in their third home defeat in a row.

The measure of Wolves’ improvement was that it was the officials, rather than the home players, who were booed off after the final whistle. Their fans felt Wolves should have been awarded at least one penalty in the latter stages but a fluent Derby had earned their win, two goals by Tom Ince and an expert volley from Darren Bent continuing their sense of renewed momentum since Steve McClaren’s return last month.

Molineux had been fractious at the outset. Six winless games before Saturday and Zenga’s swift departure had dispensed with early-season hopes of a new dawn under the Chinese owners Fosun International and the evidence of the early stages was that there would be scant tolerance for mistakes.

When Wolves found themselves two down within 15 minutes, then, the mood seemed to have plummeted irretrievably. While Derby’s supporters were delighting in Ince’s simple finish after a Will Hughes header had been saved and then, far more memorably, Bent’s thrilling over-the-shoulder volley from Hughes’s ingenious lofted assist, the home faithful took the cue to hound their team’s every move.

Amid such a climate Wolves were ripe to be blown away, and they should have been. McClaren has Derby playing at the tempo of his first spell in charge of the club but barely a finger was laid upon them by the home side: Bent, Johnny Russell and Jacob Butterfield – the latter denied by Andy Lonergan’s tip on to the post – came close and it was no shock when Wolves’ interim manager, Rob Edwards, replaced midfielder Joao Teixeira with George Saville after just 32 minutes. Equally unsurprising was Teixeira’s decision to trudge slowly off the pitch.

“It doesn’t help,” said Edwards of the local unrest. “But the crowd need to be able to bounce off the players as well and I think if we’d have put that second-half performance in during the first half they’d have been with us.”

Relations certainly improved and Wolves deserved the lifeline they were given when Hélder Costa, profiting from the good work of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, swept past Scott Carson after 61 minutes. They were pressing for an equaliser when Ince, who made the chance himself when controlling a Carson clearance beautifully, went down softly under Ivan Cavaleiro’s challenge 13 minutes from time and scored from the penalty spot.

That appeared to have restored the previous order but immediately Cavaleiro, perhaps trying too hard to make Ince pay, went down under the winger’s challenge in the Derby penalty area, only to earn nothing but a reprimand from the referee, Paul Tierney. Cavaleiro then crossed for David Edwards to reduce the deficit again but, despite the Sir Jack Hayward Stand’s renewed energy and another penalty shout from Matt Doherty, it was not enough.

Lambert has two weeks to get a further measure of his squad before a tricky-looking debut at Preston. “First and foremost, Paul is a very experienced coach, and, as many people know, is a real student of the game,” the Wolves sporting director, Kevin Thelwell, said after his arrival had been confirmed.

“He understands modern structures at clubs, has worked and been successful in the Premier League, and has also secured promotion from the Championship which is a league he knows very well,” Thelwell added.

Edwards, a highly rated young coach who came across well here, will join Stuart Taylor in assisting Lambert. If Wolves begin any more Championship matches as they did this, their new hope will need all the help he can get.


Nick Ames at Molineux

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