Wolves 0 West Bromwich 1: Baggies back on top after Gera shift puts brakes on Wolves

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The Independent Football

Wolverhampton Wanderers, seeking a fourth victory in six matches, had their moments, only to be cast once more into the role of plucky West Midlands derby losers to the new Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion last night.

They were beaten four times out of five by Albion last season and, through the disappointment of a result that damages their own promotion hopes, could have few complaints. Their visitors also twice hit the woodwork and at times moved the ball beautifully across a sodden Molineux.

"It helps us playing away at present," said their manager, Tony Mowbray. "It was never a fear that we had five of our final seven games away. One-nil is fine but, on chances created, we could have won by a bigger margin."

His Wolves counterpart, Mick McCarthy, begged to differ, arguing: "They took the chance that mattered. It was a terrific game and could have been 4-4, because we gave our last drop."

Mowbray ditched his familiar rotation policy and saw his unchanged side go close five times in the opening 20 minutes.

Wolves were most threatened when the Hungarian Zoltan Gera glanced a header against the angle from Jonathan Greening's free-kick and when the ball cannoned over the bar off Kevin Phillips after Wayne Hennessey half-saved Ishmael Miller's drive following a high-quality move.

Wolves' response was spirited in the driving rain, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake heading over and Michael Gray bringing Dean Kiely to his knees from the edge of the area.

But Hennessey remained by far the busier of the two goalkeepers and tipped over Neil Clement's 22-yard free-kick to deny once again the team against whom he made his debut in last season's play-offs.

Amid the thrilling ebb and flow, Albion's attacking always carried an extra veneer, with Phillips working Hennessey from the edge of the box just after half-time and comprehensively beating him with a low drive that skidded against the outside of the post following another classy build-up.

Luck had been on Wolves' side but the breakthrough for West Bromwich duly came in the 59th minute. The ever-influential Phillips shook off Jody Craddock from Clement's pass and had the time and composure to square across the area for the unmarked Gera to sidefoot the ball home, making amends for a penalty miss when the two sides met in November.

Wolves, having gone close just after half-time through Gray, went closest to gaining an equaliser when Darron Gibson drew a fine diving save from Kiely with a first-timer from 25 yards.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley (Kyle, 81), Craddock, Collins, Elokobi; Gray (Eastwood, 74), Gibson, Olofinjana, Jarvis; Keogh, Ebanks-Blake. Substitutes not used: Breen, Potter, Stack (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kiely; Hoefkens, Barnett, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Koren, Greening, Morrison ( Moore, 90); Phillips (Pele, 85), Miller (Bednar, h-t). Substitutes not used: Martis, Pele, Brunt.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).