Matt Doherty’s 93rd-minute equaliser on the road at Shrewsbury sealed Wolves a draw on Saturday afternoon and put a cap on the thrilling FA Cup Fourth Round tie. It also set up a replay that Wolves simply don’t need.
Down 2-0 after 71 minutes against an opponent they never should have trailed to, Wolves clawed their way back with goals from the Raul Jimenez and later Doherty that kept their contention in the competition alive. For a side that’s shown resilience and a knack of fighting back into matches all season long, it was just another example of what Nuno Espirito Santo and his squad are capable of.
As impressive as Wolves’ comeback at New Meadow was though, and the importance the draw holds for keeping them in the domestic competition, it’s now put them in a compromising spot in the Premier League.
Headed into Tuesday’s meeting with West Ham at Molineux, Wolves are still in contention for Europa League qualification, assuming it will once again be lowered to seventh place. Behind Wolves though is a pack of clubs from 9th to 12th – Leicester, West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth – separated by just two points and poised to make the race for seventh as riveting as the title chase and relegation battle.
In the middle of the table from here on out, every point and every match will matter, and it’s why Wolves’ replay with Shrewsbury is a massive disadvantage for the side from the west Midlands.
The FA Cup replay is set to be played on February 5th, right in the middle of a four-match league stretch in which Wolves play three teams trailing them by a maximum of two points. Home for West Ham and away for Everton and Bournemouth over the next four top-flight match days, Wolves are set to jump into what might be their most important run of the season.
It’s a stretch that could catapult them upward or send the season into a spiral, and they’ll now be forced to run through it with the added challenge of an FA Cup match stuck in there as well.
When Wolves reach the replay on February 5th, it will be their third match in eight days. If they win and reach the Fifth Round, they’ll advance to play again midway through the month before what will likely be a crucial match in the seventh-place race at the Vitality Stadium. The road ahead for Wolves is not a pretty one.
Wolves’ upcoming stretch will be rigorous but not unprecedented; they very well may make it through unscathed. But Wolves have simply made things harder for themselves, and if they stumble in the league over the next month, they’ll regret Saturday’s draw and the subsequent replay that comes with it.