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Backing For Bakary


12:49 14th February 2013

Manager praises influential winger

Wolves boss Dean Saunders has tipped Bakary Sako to continue his influential form on the wing, and to add a defensive steel to his game.

The Frenchman has been the victim of two debatable penalty decisions in Saunders' three home games so far, after being adjudged to have fouled Leeds' Sam Byram in the box during the 2-2 draw at Molineux on Saturday.

However, the winger has also established himself as a firm fans' favourite during his Wolves career so far, endearing himself to the Molineux faithful with a string of eye-catching displays.

"He's learning and he listens," Saunders says of the 24 year-old. "He's scored eight times so far this season and a could've had a couple on Saturday but for some good saves for Paddy Kenny, and he had a hand in the first goal.

"He's had an impact for us in most games and scored a great goal against Leicester."

The decision against Leeds on Saturday followed the penalty awarded for a questionable trip on Blackburn's Ruben Rochina in Saunders' first game in charge.

Despite this though, Saunders is keen to praise the midfielder's work rate, and is convinced that Sako is adapting to the style of English football.

"If he want to play in England he'll do that and if it's not me, the next manager will be telling him exactly the same thing," Saunders explains.

"He'll either grasp it or he won't, and that will decide what level he plays at.

"He's doing really well but he's just got to cut those bits out and be more aware that when he's in our box, he can't dangle his leg out. At least he was in the box though and not stood on the halfway line watching," the manager adds.

While Saunders says Sako still has lessons to learn about English football, he also believes that the whole squad need to be ready and able to compete physically during the closing stages of the season.

"The defenders have got to be strong and be able to stand up to Championship football," Saunders explains. 

"We conceded a goal on Saturday from what started as a goal kick - right after Danny Batth's header went over the bar when we should have made it 2-0.

"That ball should have been going back to their goalkeeper, and it would have done, nine times out of ten. You're allowed to lose a header against a big striker, but, in the main, we need to defend that type of football."

Wolves now have fifteen games remaining to ensure that they stay in the Championship, and Saunders believes that similar battles will be coming their way, beginning with Saturday's visit to Derby County.

"The football which was thrown at us on Saturday was just throw-ins, corners and free kicks and flick-ons and we must have a team that can cope with that because there are lots of games like that in this division - we've got another one on Saturday," he says.

"We've got to be a bit like that as well - we can't all play silky football. Sometimes you have to get the right personnel for the right game."

The draw against Leeds meant Saunders has failed to win any of his opening five games in charge, but he says he still has the belief that his squad are good enough to avoid the fate he suffered as manager of Doncaster Rovers last season - relegation to League One.

"The players are good enough to keep us up," he insists. "We've got enough, but they've got to go out and do it. We're not a weak team; we're physically strong enough and there's enough talent to do it.

"But we need to get that one win, and, once we do, I think the players will relax a bit more because at the minute, every goal against kills us.

"Since I've come in, we've drawn three and lost two and I think the two games we lost - 2-1 against both Blackpool and Leicester - could easily have gone the other way."

Saunders is keen to emphasise just how close the division still is, and that if they turn encouraging performances into wins, Wolves could put some much-needed breathing space between themselves and the drop zone.

He says: "We haven't been losing every game - we've got points and we've stopped other teams getting three points.

"Blackburn were a point above us when we played them and they've gone on an unbeaten run and have moved up to eighth. If we win three games on the trot and look at the league table, there will be a complete change.

"We can win three games on the bounce - we can do it. You can do it in a week - Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday - and you can see how much difference nine points makes." 

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