Jones feels the pressure as Wolves fail to win again

Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 - Wigan Athletic 3
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The Independent Football

Wolves and Wigan both have multi-millionaire benefactors and managers whose characters were formed as fringe players on Merseyside. Each club has graduated from cinder banking to a state-of-the-art stadium. On the pitch, too, it was impossible to separate them on Saturday. Sometimes, though, common ground can be as deceptive as quicksand.

Wolves and Wigan both have multi-millionaire benefactors and managers whose characters were formed as fringe players on Merseyside. Each club has graduated from cinder banking to a state-of-the-art stadium. On the pitch, too, it was impossible to separate them on Saturday. Sometimes, though, common ground can be as deceptive as quicksand.

In terms of tradition, fan base and expectations, the factors that set Wolves and Wigan apart far outnumber those that currently bind them. Saturday's tit-for-tat melodrama at Molineux was the collision of one of the English game's great old institutions and a member of the nouveau riche; the pioneers of European combat against a club elevated from the Northern Premier League only 26 years ago.

The huge historical disparity would have made success all the sweeter for Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager. His chairman, the sportswear magnate Dave Whelan, might also have savoured a win more than most, having suffered a broken leg playing for Blackburn Rovers when they lost to Wolves at Wembley in the 1960 FA Cup final. Entering stoppage time, their wishes appeared likely to be granted.

Wigan led 3-2, the scoreline by which Jewell's Bradford City won at Wolves to reach the Premiership in 1999, as the ball found Colin Cameron in what looked an offside position. The late substitute angled the ball into the far corner of the net to leave Jewell "upset, angry and disappointed", even though his side had moved a point clear at the head of the Coca-Cola Championship.

As the reprieved manager, Dave Jones might have been expected to express the opposite emotions. Any satisfaction he felt, however, was tempered by the knowledge that Wolves have failed to win in seven attempts since returning from the Premiership. Sir Jack Hayward, the Bahamas-based owner, would be loath to part with Jones, but further frustration for the pre-season promotion favourites at Brighton tomorrow and Plymouth on Saturday would crank up the pressure.

Last month, Jones pleaded mitigating circumstances when he had only one fit forward. Yet this game looked like the answer to the prayers of fans who once chanted "Bring back the Fifties" during a demonstration against a Wolves manager. Their squad contained five strikers, and normal service seemed to have been resumed when one of them, Kenny Miller, scored a fine individual goal.

Wigan's response was a triumph of quality over quantity. Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts tormented Jody Craddock and Joleon Lescott with their movement, pace and understanding. After Matt Jackson's free header made it 1-1, Ellington exploited a mix-up between the centre-backs to thrash a 25-yard drive in off the bar. "The Duke", not "The Guv'nor", Paul Ince, was calling the tune.

Had it gone to 3-1, Wigan might have cruised home, but a post kept out another effort by Ellington. Continuing the battle of the bandleaders, Miller soon had a penalty saved by John Filan, before restoring equality with a header. Roberts won and converted another spot-kick to ensure a swing back to Wigan, but Cameron, at the death, prevented Wolves ending the afternoon in second-bottom place.

Jones complained of "people not doing their jobs properly", of "individual errors" and "a lack of discipline", though he still saw the present run as "a big hiccup" that would be cured once they "remember how to win games". Easier said than done when you won as rarely as Wolves did last season, and when your best match-winner, Henri Camara, and defensive leader, Paul Butler, have gone.

Ince acknowledged that Wolves "need to start winning games quickly" and stop making "ridiculous mistakes". Surprisingly, the former England captain suggested that a big, expectant support was a double-edged sword. When Wolves were on top, the crowd were "like an extra man", panicking their opponents; when Wigan scored, they "went into shell - and so did we".

How Wigan, drawing an average of just 9,900 in what is still a rugby league stronghold, would love such a problem. Fortunately for Jewell, Whelan appears unperturbed by public ingratitude and continues to fund some impressive squad-strengthening. "The whole team's on fire," said Ellington, who has six goals in seven games and, like his manager, seems destined for the Premiership with or without the Lancashire club. "We're just angry that we didn't win here."

Jewell put Wigan's displeasure into perspective. "It's a sign of how far we've come that we're very, very disappointed," he said. "But it's early days, there's 39 games to go, starting with Burnley and Sheffield United in the coming week.

"Next May, this may look a good point. It doesn't feel like it now, though I've no doubt Wolves will be there or thereabouts at the end."

The longer Jones's side go without a win, the more even that barely acceptable "thereabouts" will begin to look fanciful.

Goals: Miller (15) 1-0; Jackson (23) 1-1; Ellington (28) 1-2; Miller (65) 2-2; Roberts pen (75) 2-3; Cameron (90) 3-3.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jones; Clyde, Craddock, Lescott, Naylor (Cooper, 59); Newton, Ince, Olofinjana (Cameron, 85), Seol Ki-Hyeon (Sturridge, 85); Cort, Miller. Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Clarke.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Wright, Jackson, Breckin, Baines; Teale (Eaden, 63), Bullard, Frandsen, McCulloch; Ellington (Thome, 87), Roberts. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Graham, Mahon.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Bookings: Wigan: Breckin, Roberts.

Man of the match: Ellington.

Attendance: 26,790.

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