Jackett praises Afobe as Wolves target play-off spot

Benik Afobe
Benik Afobe
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Head coach Kenny Jackett has hailed the contribution of striker Benik Afobe in Wolves’ quest to gatecrash the Championship play-offs.

Afobe, who spent three months on loan at Sheffield Wednesday last season, is set to spearhead Jackett’s attack tonight as they seek to halt a three-match winless run.

Since joining Wolves in a reported £2m deal from Arsenal in mid-January, the 22-year-old has bagged seven goals in 11 starts. Afobe claims 17 clubs, including two Premier League sides, tried to sign him in the transfer window.

Before moving to Molineux, Afobe starred on loan at MK Dons, firing 19 goals in 30 outings.

“Benik [Afobe] has brought a lot to us,” said Jackett. “I think we need to trust him – make sure we keep giving him the ball.

“Even when he comes deeper into midfield areas he has the technical ability and strength to roll people and build it up and bring our wide men into play.

“We have to feel confident about bringing him into play to set things up and when we do that we look a good side.”

Afobe failed to make a big impact at Hillsborough but Owls chief Stuart Gray is pleased the Londoner has got his career back on track.

He said: “Benik scored a couple of goals. It was probably a learning curve for him, coming out from a big club and realising that he’s got to stand up on his own two feet.

“In the end, he went back to Arsenal but he didn’t just sit there. He got off his backside, went to MK Dons, scored a lot of goals and put himself in the shop window and Wolves paid a big fee for him. It just shows the loan market works. Benik is in good form and we’ve got to keep him quiet.”

On the challenge of facing one of his old clubs, Gray said: “Wolves are a big club. They had back-to-back relegations but Kenny Jackett has gone in there and got them promoted. They are having a fantastic season.

“Wolves have pace down the sides and are solid at the back. They have an honest bunch of players who work their socks off for the cause. They are three points off the play-offs so Kenny will have them fired up and want them to keep pushing.

“There are no easy games in this league. We have to come out of the traps quickly. We didn’t do that against Reading and Ipswich. We have to start right and impose ourselves on Wolves and I’ve got every confidence we will do.

“Wolves are a strong, physical side but we are in good form away from home.”

Jackett has hinted he may recall former Rotherham United loanee Nouha Dicko. The 22-year-old caught the eye as a second half substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion.

“I felt Dicko came on strongly and I was pleased with him,” said the boss.

“He’s a very good option going into these home games when we’re going to need all of these players. He looked like he was back to full energy and caused problems.

“We’ve played that front four (Dicko, Bakary Sako, Rajiv Van La Parra and Benik Afobe) quite a lot and you need a service to them. That’s the balance and I’m pleased we have those players.”

With nine matches left, Wolves sit in eighth position, three points shy of the top and Jackett is delighted with the progress the team have made as they eye up back-to-back promotions.

“I don’t think this has been a bad season at all so far,” said Jackett, whose side entertain Wednesday and stuttering Derby County this week. “There are a number of clubs in the Championship all looking for promotion and we were one of them at the start of the year.

“With nine games to go it is still open to us. We will need a really good run to do it but it is still open to us.

“We have been pleased with what we have done but from day one of pre-season our target was promotion and many teams in the Championship have similar resources and felt the same.”