Goalscorer: Jason Roberts 22, Brett Emerton 38, Junior Hoilett 45, Jamie O’Hara 73, Stephen Hunt 87
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wayne Hennessey, Jody Craddock, George Elokobi, Kevin Foley, Michael Mancienne (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 46), Stephen Ward, Karl Henry (Adlene Guedioura 85), Jamie O’Hara, Stephen Hunt, Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher (Christophe Berra 90)
Blackburn Rovers: Paul Robinson, Gael Givet, Phil Jones, Christopher Samba, Michel Salgado, Jermaine Jonas, Steven N’Zonzi, Martin Olsson, Brett Emerton, Junior Hoilett (Morten Gamst Pedersen 79), Jason Roberts
Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 29,009
‘Survival Sunday’ in 2011 was going to be a tense one for five clubs. Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool, Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers went into the final day of the season still not safe. It was going to be a remarkable afternoon full of twists and turns.
Two of these sides met at Molineux as Wolves hosted Blackburn. A point would be enough for Blackburn to survive, whilst Wolves really needed the three points as teams below had fixtures that they could easily win. Mick McCarthy’s side came into the match in good form, having beaten West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland in their previous two games, whilst Blackburn, who were sitting seventh in mid-January, had been dragged into the relegation scrap in the season’s closing months.
Steve Kean was a man under pressure. Not wanted by many of the club’s fans after the shock sacking of Sam Allardyce in December 2010, Kean needed his side to deliver a perfect performance and they were sensational in the opening 45 minutes. Their display just added to the nail-biting tension of the afternoon.
Rovers settled quicker and took the lead after 22 minutes. Michel Salgado, a former UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, fired a shot across the face of goal which was turned into the back of the net by Jason Roberts. That lead was doubled 16 minutes later with the direct approach working for the ex-Premier League champions. Paul Robinson’s kick was only partially cleared by Jody Craddock. Brett Emerton took aim from distance and his strike flew into the back of the net. It was Wolves who were sinking towards the Championship by the interval. The dangerous Junior Hoillett skipped past tame challenges from Craddock and George Elokobi. Once again, Wayne Hennessey was left with no chance whatsoever and at half-time, Wolves were in big trouble.
They had to improve on their dreadful showing in the first 45 minutes and they did improve. With 18 minutes remaining. Stephen Hunt rolled a free-kick back to Jamie O’Hara and the Tottenham loanee managed to find the corner of the net from 20-yards out. However, the situation was constantly changing. Wigan took the lead away at Stoke and when Craig Gardner equalised for Birmingham at White Hart Lane, Wolves were going down on goals scored. They needed one more goal, even in defeat to survive.
It came dramatically with just three minutes of normal time remaining. Hunt received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and bent a riveting shot into the top corner of the net and send Molineux into ecstasy. Even though they were still losing on the day, it looked like they’d done enough. There were celebrations at the full-time whistle from both sets of supporters. Blackburn had got the result, Wolves the goal required to keep them up and everyone inside the ground was happy. Ultimately, it was Birmingham and Blackpool who would feel the pain of relegation on a see-saw afternoon of drama.