AN ICY afternoon at Molineux proved to be another important building block in Chris Coleman’s Sunderland salvage project.

Now the new manager knows he cannot waste the chance to make rapid progress on the foundations already laid.

With four points from four games, three of which have been away from Wearside, and a second clean sheet in their last four fixtures against a free-scoring Wolves side, there seems little doubt that Coleman is having an impact.

Loading article content

Next, though, come back-to-back home games and the kind of opportunity to kick-start his reign that will not come around very often.

“We need to win 1-0 at home,” admitted Coleman, whose side face Fulham, his former club, and fellow strugglers Birmingham City in their next two games.

“If it is swashbuckling football and we win 3-0 or 4-0, then fantastic.

“But if we win 1-0 and it’s a controversial goal, I couldn’t care less.

“There is only us that is going to put a smile on everyone’s face and that means we have to win at home.

“Next week will be just as hard as this week but it will be the psychological factor and it is only us who can get over that.

“The early signs are okay. It’s game by game, step by step, and we have got to keep building.

“It’s all about what happens on the training ground. I don’t care what team you are, you get your success on the training ground.

“It’s resilience, diligence, all those nasty words, accountability, and the better you get at those things, the better results you get.

“I haven’t got a magic wand but I know how to motivate and organise a team.

“We need that platform. We are not going to win games 5-3, 4-3 every week.

“Wolves may do with the wealth of riches they’ve spent on fantastic players at this level.

“They are going to score a lot of goals.

“We may have to win 1-0 and to do that you are going to need to keep a clean sheet, sometimes playing ugly, not looking the best, but I don’t care about that.

“All I care about is getting results and making sure we get away from the relegation zone.”

Saturday brought a draw on the field but a victory for Sunderland’s powers of bloody-mindedness.

They kept the Championship leaders at arm’s length for most of the game then withstood a late barrage once Lee Cattermole, the Sunderland midfielder, had needlessly picked up the ninth red card of his career with 28 minutes remaining.

Wolves’ first chance came in the fourth minute when a fabulous volleyed pass from Ruben Neves gave Ivan Cavaleiro time to cross.

His centre was cleared as far as Romain Saiss, whose powerful shot was blocked inadvertently by team-mate Leo Bonatini.

But Sunderland contrived to hand their hosts another chance when a slack pass presented possession to Cavaleiro, who dragged a shot just wide.

After surviving those early scares, however, Sunderland began frustrating the leaders, with the massed ranks of Coleman’s defence stifling the probing of Neves and snuffing out the runs of Cavaleiro and Diogo Jota.

When Neves did find the space to pick out Jota, the winger dragged his effort well wide, then Sunderland captain John O’Shea made a solid block to keep out a shot on the turn from Bonatini.

In first-half stoppage time Cavaleiro carved Sunderland open on the Wolves left and crossed for Bonatini, but the Brazilian lashed at his shot and screwed it wide.

The first effort on target from either side came just before the hour mark, when Lewis Grabban seized on some poor passing from Wolves and fired straight at home goalkeeper John Ruddy.

But Cattermole gave his side a mountain to climb when he picked up two yellow cards in 54 seconds.

His first challenge was on Saiss and the second, on Jota, was entirely predictable.

That brought even more dogged defending from the visitors, with Jota’s deflected shot saved easily by goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter 17 minutes from the final whistle.

And with 11 minutes left, Neves drilled a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the area as Wolves laid siege to the visitors’ goal.

In the dying moments, Ruiter made an unconvincing save from Jota’s powerful effort but the ricochet flew to safety.

The celebrations at the final whistle said much for the magnitude of Sunderland’s achievement and Coleman was quick to hail the impact of O’Shea, whose blocks and promptings were key to the organisation that delivered a point.

“He has had over 100 caps for his country, he has played at the top level all of his career,” said Coleman

“Everyone else sees the finished article on the pitch.

“But I see him during the week, in training, and in the dressing room, with the younger players.

“He is very calm, he is an intelligent boy and we will need that calmness and that professionalism.

“No-one is better at that than John O’Shea, I promise you.

“He has been fabulous from the first day I walked into the club.”