MICK McCarthy could be forgiven for thinking he will never win a Premier League game at the Stadium of Light. Yesterday was the former Sunderland managers 25th attempt to break his top-flight duck on the banks of the Wear, and like the 24 before it, it ended in failure.
To make matters worse, it also resulted in the Black Cats first five-goal haul since the game at Luton that secured the Championship title. For all his achievements in rebuilding the club after its first disastrous relegation, perhaps McCarthy is simply not meant to succeed at Sunderland.
It must have felt that way given Wolves superiority for large periods of yesterdays game, but as the Irishman will attest following the forced nature of his departure from Wearside, football is a results game. And while they might have defended poorly for large periods, this was a result that went resoundingly in Sunderlands favour.
The quality of the home sides strikers was the difference, with Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones scoring two goals apiece as they tormented a Wolves back four who were battered and bedraggled by the final whistle.
Michael Turner was also on target his second goal as a Sunderland player helped mask a shaky defensive display and going forward at least, the Black Cats looked like a side who are capable of making a major impact this season.
The less said about events at the other end the better, but having opted to name three of his summer signings in the back four alongside new-look left-back Kieran Richardson, Steve Bruce must accept that teething problems are likely to exist for a while. Given that Sunderlands next two matches are against Manchester United and Liverpool, however, it is to be hoped they are tempered quickly.
It would be wrong to focus on Sunderlands shortcomings as the potency of the hosts attacking was impressive throughout. Under McCarthy, the Black Cats struggled to make the most of the chances that came their way. Under Bruce, they now boast two players capable of scoring a goal from nothing.
It helps when your opponents are as compliant as Wolves, and the first of many aberrations from the visitors led to Sunderland claiming the lead in the eighth minute.
Segundo Castillo lunged needlessly to fell Bent in the area while the midfielder appeared to take some of the ball, there was no need for him to make such an ungainly challenge at so early a stage in proceedings and after dusting himself down, Sunderlands record signing converted clinically from the spot for the second Premier League home game in succession.
The Black Cats also secured their second goal from a penalty at the start of the second half, but inbetween their tendency to give the ball away under pressure invited their opponents to attack with increased intent.
Dave Edwards should have equalised midway through the first half, only to glance a close range header wide following Matt Jarvis centre, and Kevin Doyle also went close with a similar opportunity on the stroke of half-time.
The two opportunities exposed some worrying gaps in the home sides defence, with Richardson and Turner appearing particularly uncertain.
The hosts were considerably more assured at the other end, and while Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was at his most alert to deny both Bent and Jones in the final ten minutes of the first half, he was powerless to prevent Sunderland doubling their lead three minutes after the interval as the players in front of him conceded their second unnecessary penalty.
Steed Malbranque crossed from the right, and Christophe Berra brought down Bent after the Sunderland striker nudged the ball ahead of the Wolves centre-half.
With Bent still hobbling as a result of the challenge, Jones took over penalty-taking duties and proved equally effective from the spot.
A two-goal lead at that stage was probably more than the Black Cats deserved, but it did not last for long. Seven minutes later the scores were level at two apiece.
First, Paulo Da Silva was caught out of position as Doyle played Berra in down the lefthand side, and while Craig Gordon saved the defenders shotcum- cross, the ball ricocheted off John Mensahs chest and ended up in the net.
That was messy enough, but it was nothing compared to the calamitous sequence of events that led to Wolves equaliser.
Richardsons over-hit backpass was heading in until Gordon flung himself to his left to produce a full-stretch save, but the visitors were rightly awarded an indirect free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box.
Karl Henrys initial attempt was blocked by the wall, but Doyle reacted quickest to lash the rebound into the bottom left-hand corner. It would be interesting to know what lifelong left-back George McCartney made of the incident from the Sunderland bench.
Two Wolves goals in doublequick time had changed the face of the game, but the match turned on its head again as the Black Cats scored a threeminute brace of their own shortly afterwards.
The first owed almost everything to the individual ability of Jones. There appeared little on when the striker latched on to Bents chest-down 25 yards from goal, but after switching the ball to the outside of Berra, he drilled it into the bottom lefthand corner of the net.
Turner re-established a twogoal lead when he stole ahead of his marker to power Andy Reids left-wing corner into the net, and Bent made the win safe when he scored his seventh goal in seven Sunderland games in the final minute.
Darting inside George Elokobi after picking up Malbranques square ball, he produced a low drive that deflected past Hennessey.
Match facts Goals:
1-0: Bent (8, pen, placed spot-kick into corner after he was fouled by Castillo)
2-0: Jones (48, pen, side-footed home spot-kick after Bent was fouled by Berra)
2-1: Mensah (own goal, 50, Gordons save from Berra rebounded into the net off his chest)
2-2: Doyle (55, lashed in from close range after Henrys six-yard free-kick was blocked by the wall)
3-2: Jones (70, gathered Bents chestdown and drilled 25-yard shot into bottom left-hand corner)
4-2: Turner (73, powerful front-post header from Reids left-wing corner)
5-2: Bent (90, low shot after cutting inside deflected into the bottom corner off Mancienne)
Bookings: Turner (20, foul), Doyle (21, foul), Henry (39, foul), Halford (56, foul)
Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton) - the first penalty decision was debatable, but the second was a stonewaller 5
6 Gordon: Had to do something with Richardsons back-pass and was unfortunate with Mensahs own goal
5 Da Silva: Produced plenty of powerful tackles, but his positioning regularly let him down
5 Turner: His second goal in a Sunderland shirt helped atone for some less than accomplished defending
5 Mensah: The own goal capped a shaky performance in his first Premier League start
4 Richardson: Never looked comfortable and plumbed the depths with a horrible backpass
6 Malbranque: Probed effectively from the right flank and produced the pass for the final goal
6 Cana: Covered plenty of ground, was never completely dominant in the central areas
5 Cattermole: Strangely subdued on his return from injury and was withdrawn at half-time
7 Reid: Produced a number of wonderful passes and always looks the midfielder most likely to create something
8 Bent: Made it seven goals in seven matches and provides the killer instinct Sunderland have lacked for some time
9 JONES: Back to his best with a superb display embellished with a wonderful second goal
Henderson (for Cattermole, 46): Made a decent enough impression at the heart of midfield 6 Ferdinand (for Da Silva, 75) McCartney (for Bent, 90) (not used): Fulop (gk), Nosworthy, Healy, Campbell.
WOLVES (4-4-2): Hennessey 6; Halford 5, Berra 4, Mancienne 4, Elokobi 4; Edwards 5, Henry 6, Castillo 4 (Kightly 46, 5), Jarvis 7; DOYLE 8 (Ebanks-Blake 77), Keogh 7 (Maierhofer 77). Subs (not used): Hahnemann (gk), Craddock, Milijas, Foley.
MAN OF THE MATCH
KENWYNE Jones - justified his recall with a dominant attacking display that edged the honours ahead of Bent.