Football: Away day break for Everton

Leicester City 0 Everton 1 Speed pen 89 Attendance: 20,628
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The Independent Online
A Last-Minute penalty converted by the Everton captain Gary Speed ended a Premiership goal famine of almost nine hours for the Merseysiders, whose victory was their first away from home for more than a year.

In an ugly, ill-tempered contest conspicuously lacking any seasonal goodwill, seven players were booked by the referee, Jeff Winter, who was confronted by the Leicester skipper Steve Walsh and manager Martin O'Neill after ruling that Kasey Keller had brought down Everton's Danny Cadamarteri.

Walsh had to be restrained by security staff after a finger- wagging exchange with the Stockton official as the teams left the field after the final whistle. O'Neill was upset by Winter's overall performance, particularly in relation to his booking of Emile Heskey for diving - the Leicester camp insisted he had been the victim of a head-butt.

"It may or may not have been a foul," O'Neill said. "When a player goes down in the box my reaction is just to offer up a prayer and hope there's a sensible decision. But I did not think Jeff had his best game today."

Even Howard Kendall, the Everton manager, accepted that the result owed more to good fortune than his team's performance, but was nevertheless overjoyed with the result. "We have had to wait a long time for this day, and I'm delighted that it's finally arrived," he said. "Maybe we have deserved more on our travels but we have kept going and had a couple of bits of luck on our side today."

Apart from the penalty, the home goal had been rarely threatened. Everton, without the suspended Duncan Ferguson and with few options up front apart from Cadamarteri and Nick Barmby, created little more than one chance in each half.

Not that Leicester, whose early fizz is beginning to go flat, did much better after a bright beginning. The new Everton goalkeeper, Thomas Myhre, has yet to concede a goal since taking over from Neville Southall, although the Norwegian might have seen that record fall twice in the first two minutes. He needed to move sharply to save a powerful Heskey header and was lucky when he dropped a cross from Heskey only for Graham Fenton to stab the loose ball wide of goal.

There was a nasty edge to the game throughout, however. Speed, reportedly a target for Newcastle, and the defender Carl Tiler were cautioned for over-zealous tackling before half-time and the break did nothing to improve the mood of players. Three more found their names in Winter's book before the hour mark, Heskey among them, although the young forward was by no means the only individual inclined to collapse at the slightest contact.

Heskey clasped his hands to his head in apparent disbelief, while Winter was roundly booed by the home crowd, but the official was quite justified in taking action with tempers threatening to spark real trouble.

Steve Claridge, a half-time substitute for Fenton, almost ended the stalemate with a glancing header from Steve Guppy's 71st-minute cross, but Leicester would have been no more deserving of three points than their opponents.

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