Football: Fry wins brains' battle

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The Independent Online
Southend United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Luton Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

FROM the Premier League to the poorer league need not be a downward step: keen managerial brains and sharp wits are at work below, Barry Fry and David Pleat a particular case in point.

Thirty-three years after they were allies in the same England Schoolboys team the friendship endures, and two summers ago they came close to teaming up at Luton. Now, at opposite ends of the corridor outside the Roots Hall dressing-rooms, they held court after a result which widens the distance between them at opposite ends of the First Division.

They both talk a good game and much of it concerned their complaints about the second-half goals. Fry, never one to underestimate, felt Luton's equaliser was 'a hundred yards offside', though he did commend the excellence of Kerry Dixon's strike, while in more measured words Pleat argued his case against Jonathon Hunt's winner.

'There were several players in an offside position,' he said. 'The officials agreed but felt they were not interfering with play. Of course I'm not happy.'

Pleat has known more illustrious settings than this while Fry, who began his career at Manchester United and is fond of saying how he went from the top to the bottom, continues, post-Barnet, to proceed in an upwardly direction. Rising to fourth, Southend undid Luton from the start and were disappointed not to have gone on to a more emphatic victory.

Only the American goalkeeper, Jurgen Sommer, kept Southend - quicker and with more quality on the flanks where Ricky Otto shook off the effects of flu to supply some delightful cameos of his talent - within touching distance, as he made splendid saves from Gary Jones and Chris Powell.

Neat and nimble in their midfield passing movements, Luton could not carry the same conviction going forward. In Trevor Peake, Alan Harper and Dixon they have players to lend experience and credibility, and, according to their manager, they also have a responsibility for the development of the youngsters around whom Pleat believes Luton's future is assured.

He will hope the weekend talks between David Kohler, the chairman, and the consortium bidding to buy him out will supply the funds to give him a more powerful hand in the transfer market. As numbers 22, 26, 28, 29 and 30 desperately chased the game late on they could not help but resemble a bunch of cast-offs, free transfers and youngsters scrapping for a better future.

Goals: Otto (3) 1-0; Dixon (46) 1-1; Hunt (58) 2-1.

Southend United (4-4-2): Sansome; Poole, Edwards, Bressington, Powell; Hunt, K Jones, Payne, Otto; G Jones, Angell. Substitutes not used: Gridelet, Lee, Royce (gk).

Luton Town (4-4-2): Somner; Linton, Peake, Dreyer, Thomas; Telfer, Harper (Campbell, 84), Hughes (Dickov, 70), Houghton; Dixon, Aunger. Substitute not used: Petterson (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Berkhamstead).