Rangers' win over Oxford on Wednesday was their first since Boxing Day. It was no cause to go revelling in Shepherds Bush but Gerry Francis has moved them off the bottom, where he found them four months ago, to the threshold of safety, which is now delayed.
Wolves are also battling, if more healthily, for the play-offs and to save the manager Colin Lee from becoming another victim of ambition exceeding performance. His contract finishes at the end of the season, but yesterday he was more concerned with breaking a run of matches given away as the referee prepared to blow the final whistle.
If a draw would not have been unwelcome to either side, the hope was to see positive intent from two of the First Division's precocious teenagers, Leon Jeanne for Rangers and Wolves' Robbie Keane, who is being scrutinised by Arsenal and Spurs. They quickly justified the rumours of long-term potential.
Jeanne, described by Francis as exciting but "naive" (at 18, who isn't?), made a searching, early run to confirm him as the player to restrict. Keane, frail amid Rangers' burly defenders, turned and left them static. His shot was less impressive and he fluffed a chance to recompense as a back-pass to Rangers' goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko brought him a hurried clearance. But he was always up for chances.
Finishing was not the paramount gift of either side. Keane had the excuse of little support. Rangers supported Jeanne, Rob Steiner and Gavin Peacock more enthusiastically. But Miklosko performed the save of the day after 53 minutes as he fell to deflect from Michael Gilkes.
Not that the game really came alive until three minutes later when Karl Ready, already cautioned, kicked Havard Flo from behind. Although Flo made a three-course lunch of it, the referee had to send off Ready.
Rangers change to four at the back rather than five and looked better. Wolves became more forceful but left space at the back. Steiner, loaned by Bradford and looking to stay, powerfully fended off Dean Richards before sliding the ball along the goalline, just past the far post.
The referee balanced numbers after 84 minutes by dismissing Mark Atkins for pulling Jeanne's shirt and kicking him. A minute later Wolves pulled their depleted forces together. Gilkes attacked on the left and centred, Steve Sedgley bent low and headed in a fine goal that, for a change, was not negated in the last seconds in spite of a penalty appeal by Iain Dowie, who collapsed too dramatically for his and Rangers' own good.Reuse content