BOSS HUGHTON DEFENDS KEEPER
Wolves are gifted leveller by Stockdale
KEEPER David Stockdale went from hero to zero as Brighton held play-off chasing Wolves, but manager Chris Hughton stood by his shot stopper.
Brighton right-back Bruno had guided his well-struck shot from the edge of the area under Tomasz Kuszczak after a patient Albion build-up to give the hosts a deserved lead.
But Stockdale gifted the visitors an equaliser when he palmed a Rajiv van La Parra’s mishit cross into his goal.
The former Fulham man went someway to atone his howler when he blocked out Bakary Sako’s last-gasp blast with a pointblank save and Hughton refused to blame his shot stopper for the draw.
He said: “I think there is no doubt that Stocky will be disappointed with the goal that they scored but that is a goalkeeper’s lot.
“He ended up making three good saves. Two in particular were excellent saves for us.
“You have to be big and strong enough to respond to mistakes as a goalkeeper.
“You have to remember the save at the end was after he has conceded that goal.
“As a goalkeeper you have to accept the bad bits that come with the good bits.
“I’m disappointed with the draw because we had the lead, but if we’d come from behind I’d be delighted.”
Lewis Dunk spectacularly slipped to allow Benik Afobe a free effort at Stockdale but the keeper blocked out the shot before Gordon Greer ran back onto his own line to block Sako’s rebound.
Afobe, who had scored seven times in 11 Wolves games since joining from Arsenal, again forced Stockdale into muddying his jersey when his shot looked set for the bottom corner.
Craig Mackail-Smith should have scored on his return from injury in just the second minute but he weakly met Inigo Calderon’s cross to head straight at Albion old-boy Kuszczak.
The frontman found himself in behind the visitors’ defence again after Wolves left-back Kortney Hause misplaced his clearance, but slipped as he poked the ball wide.
Mackail-Smith then completed a hat-trick of first-half squandered chances when he curled an effort tamely at Kuszczak.
It was almost fourth-time lucky for the former Peterborough goal-getter but he was adjudged marginally offside after Kuszczak had palmed away Joao Teixeira’s stinging drive.
Hughton said of his misfiring striker: “All we can do is keep working with him.
“He puts players under pressure and works hard but he needs to add goals to the mix.
“First and foremost a striker needs to be a team player and the next stage is getting goals.”
Wolves could have gone within a point of the Championship playoff positions with a win, but Wolves chief Kenny Jackett said: “I felt it was a close game.We have to keep pushing.
“A couple of the other teams in and around the play-offs dropped points so gained a point.
“We have two home games this week and they will be key to whether we go up.
“Both teams ended the game very well.
“It was a great save by Stockdale at the death and Afobe had a very good chance with a header.
“My goalkeeper is disappointed that he let the ball under him but it is all fine lines in a close game.
“There are loads of thin margins through a season which define promotion but Sako’s miss won’t be decisive in our season.
“It was probably a cross that caught out their keeper.
“I haven’t spoken to Van La Parra about it but I’m sure he will claim it.”
POINT TO PROVE: Wolves scorer Rajiv van La Parra celebrates with Bakary Sako
RAMPAGING FORWARD: Brighton defender Bruno breaks away