Football: Hislop keeps it clean

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 0

West Ham United 0

Attendance: 20,402

WEST HAM owed a large debt to Shaka Hislop for the gain of a point at Filbert Street, where the former Newcastle goalkeeper frustrated Leicester's ambitions with an admirable sequence of saves in a contest blessed amply with incident but which always fell short of producing the decisive moment it deserved.

Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, bemoaned his side's failure to turn numerous chances into goals but broke with his habitual caution to declare them in effect safe from the threat of losing their Premiership status, even though still a win short of the supposedly relegation-proof platform of 42 points.

"The way we are playing I have no qualms about saying we will see the job through and it was just unfortunate for us that Hislop was in outstanding form," he said. "I lost count of the number of chances we had without being able to put one away.

"The way we are playing at the moment, I'm looking at seventh, eighth or ninth place. This point and the big win last week at Spurs has been decisive," he said.

West Ham have gathered only two points from their last three matches and failed to score in the process but Harry Redknapp remained upbeat, still with an eye on Europe. Having dropped to sixth, their chances of qualifying for the Uefa Cup automatically through the League have diminished, but Redknapp has eagerly applied for entry to the Intertoto Cup and has told his players to be mindful of the possibility of more European places coming England's way because of the crisis in the Balkans - one consequence even Nato's planners may have overlooked.

Leicester generated six genuine goal chances in as many minutes early in the first half, five of them involving their Icelandic import from Bolton, Arnar Gunnlaugsson, who had four shots saved by Hislop as well as delivering a cross that Robbie Savage only narrowly failed to convert. Subsequently, after Steve Guppy expertly propelled a corner to the far post, the centre-back Matt Elliott should really have given his side the lead.

Hislop, whose thwarting of Gunnlaugsson involved three saves from the top drawer, added another at the start of the second half when Frank Sinclair looked poised to give Leicester the advantage. But the West Ham keeper's agility was matched within moments by Kasey Keller when Trevor Sinclair gave Frank Lampard an inviting opportunity.

Forced increasingly into their own territory as Leicester intensified their efforts, West Ham had cause to congratulate Hislop twice more as Neil Lennon's long-range shot was pushed around the post before a dive to the left kept out Guppy's curling free-kick.

In the event, the missed opportunities almost cost Leicester dearly. After 71 minutes, West Ham introduced Ian Wright for his first action of the year and, had the former Arsenal striker not been lacking match sharpness when Lampard found him in free space 11 minutes from time, the move might have brought an unexpected pay-off.