Albion stall Akinbiyi's search for home win

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LOCAL BRAGGING rights can amount to a great deal when West Midlands clubs come to assess the First Division promotionequation. Failure in a highly-charged derby such as yesterday's can mean so much more than the loss of the points: markWolves's inability to overcome a morale-sapped West Bromwich Albion in last April's corresponding fixture. They stumbledthrough to the end of the season without another victory and missed the play-offs by a single placing.

LOCAL BRAGGING rights can amount to a great deal when West Midlands clubs come to assess the First Division promotionequation. Failure in a highly-charged derby such as yesterday's can mean so much more than the loss of the points: markWolves's inability to overcome a morale-sapped West Bromwich Albion in last April's corresponding fixture. They stumbledthrough to the end of the season without another victory and missed the play-offs by a single placing.

Now the roles have been reversed somewhat and while a draw allowed Wolves to climb out of the division's drop zone, Albionequalled their longest unbeaten start to a season, set in 1953, of nine league games.

That seven of those have been drawn has prevented Albion from taking up an early-season play-off placing of their own, but atleast both teams can set about their contrasting challenges without the albatross of a Black Country derby defeat hanging aroundtheir necks.

Wolves have not won at Molineux this season, indeed not for six months to the day, but started yesterday's affair at break-neckpace and with a commitment to match.

Amidst a downpour of biblical proportions, and with Neil Emblen inspirational as a makeshift centre-forward, the home sidesteamed into visitors who, with a new resilience since Brian Little took charge, defended manfully.

Wolves' £3.5m record purchase, Ade Akinbiyi, mystified at why his 40th- minute effort was disallowed, wasted barely twominutes in making amends. Emblen weaved away into Albion's penalty area, cut back on to his right foot and forced Alan Millerinto an instinctive parry. The ball rebounded, crazily, for Akinbiyi to turn in his second goal in successive games.

Albion, organised and disciplined under Little's guidance this term, came back to control the second period. "We couldn't maintainthe energy factor in the second half," admitted Colin Lee, the Wolves manager. "The game became very long and difficult for themidfielders."

Lee is reportedly on the point of signing Bradford City's Dean Windass for £750,000 to add muscle and goal power in thefinal third.

In an absorbing game short on chances and high on competitiveness, Lee Hughes was fortunate not to be dismissed for his rolein an on-going tug- in with Ludovic Pollet, Wolves' French defender.

But Hughes was left dancing with delight after Matt Carbon headed in Albion's only corner of the day, delivered by Kevin Kilbane,14 minutes from time. "We knew we had to raise the tempo and be braver in the second half and we did that. This is a good point:it was a hard game in difficult conditions," said Little, returning to the club where he briefly started his managerial career 13 yearsago.

Goals: Akinbiyi (41) 1-0; Carbon (76) 1-1.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Stowell; Pollet, Sedgley, Curle; Muscat, Taylor, Osborn, Robinson, Bazeley; Akinbiyi, Emblen.Substitutes not used: Simpson, Sinton, Naylor, Corica, Mautone (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Miller; Sigurdsson, Raven, Carbon; Gabbidon, Sneekes, Flynn, Van Blerk (Maresca, 61), Kilbane;De Freitas (Quinn, 61), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Burgess, Potter, Whitehead (gk).

Booking: Albion: Sneekes.

Referee: W Burns (Scarborough).

Man of the match: Emblen.

Attendance: 25,500.

Wayne Allison, recently signed from Huddersfield, scored twice in the last 16 minutes yesterday to give Tranmere Rovers a 2-0win at Crewe, ending a run of four straight away defeats for the Birkenhead side.

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