Black Country Bugle
Strong finish for Baggies but Wolves lose steam at the final stretch
Top three nearly all season, but form deserts Molineux men when it matters
Season 2001-02 Part One
THIS turned out to be a terrific season for Albion, an unlucky one, in some respects for Wolves and a rather poor one for Walsall.
All three were in Division One – the Baggies gained automatic promotion as runners-up, Wolves came home in third place but then missed out by losing over two legs in the play-off semi-final with Norwich City, while the Saddlers ended up in 18th position.
Under the leadership of manager Gary Megson, Albion started the campaign pretty well, winning six and drawing one of their first ten games.
They had a batch of mixed results in October but then, from early November until Boxing Day, they firmly established themselves as promotion contenders by recording five wins and five draws, to keep in touch with leaders Manchester City.
Undefeated for the first six games of the New Year, Albion ended the season strongly, remaining unbeaten in the last ten games to end up in second place, with 89 points, ten fewer than runaway champions
Goalkeeper Russell Hoult kept 24 clean sheets in the League, and three more in the Cup
Manchester City and just one above arch-rivals Wolves – this after a tense last game 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, while challengers Wolves could only draw 2-2 with Sheffield Wednesday. Albion’s full seasonal record for 2001-2002 was played 46, won 27, drew 8 and lost 11, goals scored 61 against goals conceded just 29. Goalkeeper Russell Hoult in fact kept 24 cleansheets in the League (and three more in Cup ties). The Baggies’ best win was that of 5-0 at home to Portsmouth in late February while 4-0 victories came against champions Manchester City and Stockport County, both at home. The Albion’s heaviest defeat (in terms of goals conceded) was that of 3-2 away at Barnsley towards the end of October.
Signed from Carlisle United, Scott Dobie top-scored with 10 goals followed by ex-sunderland striker Danny Dichio with nine, while Hoult, Derek Mcinness and Neil Clements all played in 45 of the 46 League matches.
Wolves, with manager Dave Jones in charge, were never out of the top three from September until the season’s end.
They were unbeaten in their first 11 League games; lost only once in seven games in October/november; stuttered somewhat in December; lost one of 13 games up to early March and then, when it mattered most of all, they collected just 10 points out of a possible 27 from their last nine games, and this cost them dearly!
Wolves’ best wins of the campaign were all by the same score. 4-1 – against Barnsley, Crewe Alexandra and Stockport.
Their heaviest defeat was a 3-2 home loss at the hands of Preston North End.
Striker Dean Sturridge was the Wanderers’ top scorer with an impressive 20 goals, while goalkeeper Michael Oakes was the team’s only ever-present.