Benik has Wolves chas­ing pack

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ian Baker

WOLVES may be out­siders for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive pro­mo­tion but when they have Benik Afobe in their side, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

The 22-year-old signed from Ar­se­nal in Jan­uary for £2m and his ninth goal for Wan­der­ers, and 28th this cam­paign in to­tal, may just be one of his best yet.

He net­ted just 28 sec­onds into the sec­ond half af­ter run­ning from the half­way line while a Bakary Sako penalty 18 min­utes from the end se­cured a third straight three points for Kenny Jack­ett’s side.

“The key goal in a tight game is al­ways the first goal,” said Jack­ett, whose only an­noy­ance was con­ced­ing to Dex­ter Black­stock with vir­tu­ally the last touch of the con­test. “Benik picked it up in a re­ally good area and re­leased it at the right time.

“He has sparked off and helped us. He plays well as an in­di­vid­ual and brought a lot of oth­ers into play as well. He’s added an ex­tra di­men­sion.

“He’s looked a re­ally good player, he’s a good team mem­ber as well. It was a great win, fan­tas­tic. For­est came out with a real good tempo with the crowd right be­hind them. We de­fended well in that pe­riod and then came into the game.

“I’m happy the play­ers were dis­ap­pointed not to keep a clean sheet. It was a real team ef­fort and a big win be­cause For­est are a good side.”

For Jack­ett this was a 50th win in just 86 league matches and he looks the man ca­pa­ble of lift­ing Wolves back into the top flight, if not this term then next.

Wan­der­ers, though, had to weather an early storm from For­est.

Michael An­to­nio came close to ex­pos­ing a hes­i­tant Carl Ikeme, back in goal af­ter in­jury, while Chuba Akpom, on his de­but on loan from Ar­se­nal, ap­peared to be bun­dled over by Danny Batth.

Ikeme then did well to keep out Michael Man­ci­enne’s long-ranger but Wolves grew in stature and could have been ahead be­fore the break.

Afobe’s shot was su­perbly saved by Karl Dar­low and then Eric Lichaj cleared off the line from Nouha Dicko’s fol­low-up.

The game’s defin­ing mo­ment ar­rived less than a minute into the sec­ond half with Afobe do­ing the dam­age, fir­ing home a low shot af­ter a su­perb run.

Then, a ridicu­lously poor chal­lenge by Henri Lans­bury, the For­est cap­tain, handed Wolves num­ber two on a plate as he fouled Sako. And the Mali winger con­fi­dently and com­fort­ably beat Dar­low from the spot.

Black­stock at least fin­ished well af­ter Jamie Pater­son’s ef­fort had been blocked in the penalty area but now is the time for For­est to plan for next sea­son.

“Wolves were a very well or­gan­ised, pro­fes­sional team,” said For­est boss Dougie Freed­man. “That was the rea­son they won. We had our op­por­tu­ni­ties, we were ex­cel­lent in the first half.

“If you don’t take op­por­tu­ni­ties, you are go­ing to pay a price.

“It’s not rocket science this di­vi­sion – the dif­fer­ence was they have a guy scor­ing goals. It’s dif­fi­cult to take but we kept on go­ing. It is my job to pro­duce a com­mit­ted side and we showed good spirit.

“As long as we’re cre­at­ing the chances I can’t be too dis­ap­pointed. I think the fans will be proud of us.

“It was a very finely bal­anced match but we just came up a lit­tle bit short.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

BAK IN THE RACE: Wolves are now level on points with fel­low play-off chasers Ip­swich and Derby af­ter Bakary Sako’s de­ci­sive penalty

DE­LIGHT: Afobe cel­e­brates

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