Shropshire Star

Gary O'Neil delighted with Wolves' defensive display in FA Cup victory

Gary O'Neil was pleased with Wolves' disciplined defensive display as they beat Brighton in the FA Cup fifth round.


Mario Lemina's early strike was enough to separate the sides as Wolves showed heart and determination to dig in for the victory.

And with so little time to prepare for the game during a hectic fixture list, O'Neil admitted he had to approach this game differently.

He said: "It was tough, as we expected. We know how Brighton play, they're one of the best sides in Europe with the ball.

"They dominate possession in most games, especially when you go 1-0 up so early you know the flow of the game will be them with the ball a lot. They put huge importance on it.

"They take risks, they're very good at it, the way they press man for man. They're desperate to have control of the ball and the game for as long as they can and they did.

"If we'd opened up the pitch, with them having an extra day (of rest) and the boys being as tired as they were, we'd have maybe come out on the wrong end. It was a conscious decision to make the pitch smaller and accept that Brighton would have more of the ball, to then punish them if there's a mistake.

"We scored an excellent goal and I didn't feel under massive threat. There was a couple of half scary moments, but we were organised, resolute and defended the goal excellently."

Hwang Hee-chan went down with a hamstring injury and had to come off, while Mario Lemina had a smaller niggle.

Joao Gomes also seemed to be uncomfortable late on, but O'Neil confirmed he just had cramp.

"Mario is fine, it was a kick and we're hopeful it will settle down in a couple of days," O'Neil said.

"When I asked him how he was, he said 'I'll be there on Saturday'.

"Channy's was disappointing because in my opinion this game is so big it should be played on a Saturday when we've had a week to prepare and you can pick your strongest team without concerns of how people are. We rotated a few but wanted to take the game seriously.

"Channy felt something in his hamstring. It's small, nothing like Neto or Cunha, a really small one.

"He had a tough spell while he was away. He wasn't fit for much of the camp with South Korea and maybe isn't quite as sharp and fit as he was before.

"I'm disappointed we lost him, but I'm hopeful it's not too serious. I'd be amazed if he plays at the weekend.

"Hopefully it will only be a week or 10 days, but we will see. We'll be desperate for him to be back because the squad is so small, so having two injuries in Cunha and Channy is massive."

Wolves now have a huge opportunity to make the semi-finals and Wembley, as they face Championship side Coventry at Molineux in the quarter-finals.

But O'Neil is desperate to guard against complacency and says Wolves must be at their best to win.

"The fans definitely will be (dreaming)," O'Neil said.

"At the pre-match meeting for the Brentford away FA Cup game I spoke about our aim being to win the FA Cup. I know how far fetched that sounds at that moment, but with every game you win you get a step closer and we've managed to get to the quarter-finals.

"Coventry will be a massive test. They're local rivals, they're a good side who play good football. We'll be expected to roll them over easily by everyone outside the changing room, so that can create a really difficult afternoon for us.

"They need to be respected and we need to take it extremely seriously. Performing at 95 per cent won't be enough.

"Some of the questions I'm being asked around the draw are concerning, with people assuming we'll make it to the semi-finals. It will be a really tough game.

"A home draw is important to us, we love playing here. The fans' part in this win (over Brighton) should not be underestimated."