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Kenny balances promotion aims

28 November 2012

By Tony Leighton

Millwall supporters are dreaming of promotion to the Premier League after a 12-match unbeaten run that has seen Kenny Jackett's Lions roar up the npower Championship table to firmly establish themselves in the Play-Off places.

Seven of those 12 games have been won, the last four in succession to complete a meteoric rise from the relegation zone in early October.

Not many fans saw the run coming but manager Jackett, who shares the promotion dream, though with a big slice of pragmatism attached, knows exactly why his team are now sitting in fifth spot and just five points below the automatic promotion places.

"It's the balance of the team," he explained after Tuesday evening's 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose old boy Andy Keogh hit the winner.

"At the start of the season," added Jackett, "we felt that we had more players who could score goals than we've had since I've been at the club - Keogh, [Chris] Wood, [Darius] Henderson, [Liam] Trotter, [James] Henry, [Chris] Taylor - quite a few with goalscoring records.

"Defensively we were quite poor, but we've worked on that and we've managed to hang in games. By being strong defensively we've had some very good performances, but there have been others where we've had to ride the storm and we've done that.

"Early on [in the season] we came up against some good sides like Hull, Cardiff and Brighton - big-spending teams - and we were in and around the relegation area, but we've come out of that situation very well."

If the Lions can maintain their current form then they should undoubtedly be able to sustain a promotion challenge which, if successful, would take them into the top flight for the first time since the 1989/90 campaign.

They fell to npower League 1 level in 2006 but, following Jackett's 2007 appointment, they re-claimed their npower Championship place via the Play-Offs in 2010 and after finishing ninth in their first year back ended last term in 16th place.

Now they could be set for their best season since 1993/94, when they finished third in the Championship but failed to make it through the Play-Offs.

And although Millwall are not among the most cash-rich of the Championship's 24 clubs, they are not without ambition: "We're talking about trying to establish ourselves in the top 10 of this division," said Jackett.

"That's a big ask for Millwall, but that's our aim and if we're in the top 10 then we're always around those Play-Off places and that's where we ultimately want to be."

Around the Play-Offs is where Millwall "ultimately want to be" - surely the ultimate is realising that dream of reaching the Premier League? Jackett refuses to talk up his team's chances but admitted: "That's our ambition.

"We recognise that there are some very big clubs who've spent a lot of money in this division, but have we got that dream, that ambition? Yes - we definitely have."

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