Wolves urged to maintain focus

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Gillingham 0
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The Independent Online

With 10 minutes to go of this straightforward victory the crowd were doing a Mexican wave and the centre-back Joleon Lescott was executing an extravagant turn outside Gillingham's penalty box. That was proof of the ease and confidence currently in the Wolves side that maintained its 10-point cushion over West Bromwich in third place and meant they moved ever closer to the prospect of automatic promotion to the Premiership at the end of the season.

Dave Jones, the Wolves manager, was not unhappy with his team's solid performance but stressed afterwards he was not too keen on letting his players get carried away with their run of seven consecutive wins.

While Jones preaches that sermon from the sidelines, on the pitch he has a like-minded lieutenant in Alex Rae. The Scot was man of the match at Molineux on Saturday, scoring the first goal which was set up by Mark Kennedy's shot that Vince Bartram fumbled, and he put in the cross for the second goal headed home by Nathan Blake just before half-time.

In a Wolves team that have been outside the top flight of English football for 18 years – a statistic dragged out now each week but becoming less and less of a millstone – Rae arguably has the biggest incentive to return to the Premiership. For him, six months out of the top flight is too long. The powerful midfielder was part of the Sunderland team that won promotion in 1999 but he was sold by Peter Reid last autumn and is now desperate to return whence he came.

"I won a championship medal with Sunderland three years ago and I'd really like another one with Wolves," he said. "I am desperate to get back up there and then it would be good to play again at Sunderland. There is lots of experience here and the desire to get out of this division is huge."

But asked as to whether the show-boating witnessed here – including waving back to the fans when requested – would distract them from the job in hand, the answer was a predictable and firm "no".

Wolves are now five points ahead of Manchester City, although Kevin Keegan's men still have two games in hand. The two teams meet on April Fool's Day in what could be a crucial power summit to resolve the promotion issue, although it is Jones' wish that it will only be about sorting out the niceties of who wins the league. "It would be ideal if we were both up by then and it was just about who comes top," he said.

Gillingham's player-manager, Andy Hessenthaler, a disappointed man after this game, is still seeking the three points he thinks will guarantee safety for another season.

Meanwhile, Jones has already worked out that six wins in their last nine games will guarantee promotion, whatever anyone else does. Moreover, to go up to the exclusion of their West Midlands neighbours, West Bromwich, would make it all the sweeter – and then maybe even Jones could tolerate those Mexican waves.

Goals: Rae (26) 1-0; Blake (45) 2-0.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: (4-4-2): Oakes; Muscat, Butler, Lescott, Camara; Kennedy (Ndah, 76), Rae, Andrews, Newton (Miller, 76); Blake, Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Murray (gk), Cameron, Pollet.

Gillingham (4-5-1): Bartram; Edge, Ashby, Nosworthy, Hope; Shaw, Osborn (Gooden, 75), Hessenthaler (Saunders, 75), Smith, Browning (Ipoua, 56); King. Substitutes not used: Butters, Perpetuini.

Referee: A Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield).

Booked: Gillingham: Ashby, Hope.

Man of the match: Rae.

Attendance: 25, 908.

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