WANDERERS have landed back at square one with a thump – now their survival credentials will really be examined.

A seven-game unbeaten streak was ended in the most brutal fashion by a Wolves side looking every inch the Championship winners in waiting.

Just four days earlier, escape from the bottom three had been within the grasp of Phil Parkinson’s side. Two late goals and two dropped points against Reading later, followed by this most comprehensive defeat, and they are now rooted to the bottom of the division once again, with all the hard work to do.

Wolves were simply a different class. Two goals from the sublime Ivan Cavaleiro, plus three more from a sterling supporting cast of Wily Boly, Leo Bonatini and Diogo Jota was the least they deserved.

Wanderers got a consolation through Will Buckley – his first for the club – but played a part in their own downfall with some shambolic defending at Molineux.

Barnsley visit the Macron this weekend, and who knows what psychological effect such a whitewash will have on a camp which, until last Tuesday, had looked galvanised.

Parkinson was ordered off the touchline with his opposite number Nuno Espirito Santi following a first-half tiff and could now face watching Saturday’s game from the stands. That being the case, he might not – like the rest of us – appreciate what he is seeing.

Wanderers had found a formula which worked over the last six weeks, starting to salvage a season that appeared to be heading directly back to League One. But their lack of tactical flexibility has been exposed in the last few games, and Parkinson will know that without some very canny work in the January transfer window it is asking too much to flog this hard-working group and expect to stay up.

Buckley’s goal to make it 3-1 prompted the Whites boss to change his shape and go for broke, but the switch to 4-4-2 only played into Wolves’ hands, and they picked off another couple of well-taken goals to turn a comfortable win into a rout.

Bolton have now conceded as many goals after 19 games as they did during the entire promotion campaign in League One. Wolves’ brilliance played its part, but so did Wanderers’ ineptitude at times.

Boly’s powerful header to open the scoring was a simple set-piece, while the second owed much to a rush of blood from keeper Ben Alnwick.

The £15million-pound man Ruben Neves set Jota away down the left with a brilliant pass but in rushing needlessly from his line, the Bolton keeper allowed Jota to skip to the line and cross for Bonatini to nod into an empty net.

Much of Wanderers’ recent improvement had been anchored by their two ball-winning holding midfielders, Karl Henry – a former Molineux man – and Darren Pratley. While not the only culprits, neither player made a challenge worthy of mentioning for the first hour, leaving Wolves to play some pleasing football at their own pace.

The first sign of any real fight from Wanderers happened just before half time when David Wheater clattered into Jota right in front of the dugouts, prompting both benches to rise as one angry mob.

Both Parkinson and Nuno left their technical area to remonstrate with each other, and after a short consultation with his fourth official ref Keith Stroud instructed both managers off the field.

Wanderers saw more of the ball in the second period as the home side relaxed a little on their lead but they still claimed a third when Romain Saiss was tripped by Antonee Robinson in the box, leaving Cavaleiro to convert the resulting spot-kick.

Robinson will take little solace from being Bolton’s stand-out player on a desperate day but the Everton loanee did his growing reputation little harm.

Parkinson brought on Buckley and Craig Noone for Adam Armstrong and Sammy Ameobi, two of the players who really have been run into the ground of late. Another, Gary Madine, continued to spearhead the attack with no chance of respite.

Both new wingers showed a bit more attacking intent as Wanderers changed their formation for the last 15 minutes and Buckley stabbed in his first goal for the club after some good work from Pratley and Madine on the edge of the box.

Any hope of a comeback was ended swiftly as Wolves were gift-wrapped a fourth as Alnwick’s shanked clearance allowed sub Helder Costa to pick out Cavaleiro to drive home a second from the edge of the box.

Local press claimed before the game Nuno’s side were playing the best football in living memory at Molineux, yet the fifth was pure route one.

John Ruddy claimed Josh Vela’s corner and drove a kick deep into the Bolton half for Jota to chase. He took the ball at pace and produced a fine finish, totally befitting Wolves’ performance on the day.

With more clinical finishing the margin of victory could, and should, have been more.

Such was the class gap on show it is impossible to group this mauling in the same category as Reading circa 2014 or Bristol City 2016 but considering the rivalry which had built up between these two famous old clubs in the past, it was still just as hard to stomach.

Wanderers have another hill to climb – but this time it’s steeper.


WANDERERS (4-2-3-1)












Subs: Buckley 6, 63 (for Armstrong), Noone 5.5, 63 (for Ameobi), Le Fondre 78 (for Pratley).

Not used: Howard, Cullen, Darby, Burke.

WOLVES (3-4-3): Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Douglas; Cavaliero, Bonatini, Jota.

Subs: Costa 72 (for Bonatini), N’Diaye 85 (for Cavaleiro), Vinagre 89 (for Douglas).

Not used: Norris, Batth, Price, Enobakhare.

Attendance: 27, 894 (821).

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire) ........6