Football: Leicester in the light

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The Independent Online
Leicester City. .0

Bristol City. . .0

BRIAN CLOUGH casts a mighty shadow and Leicester have lived in it long enough to take a view of his passing in which sentiment figures only minimally. With Nottingham in decline, is it time now for a new order in these parts?

If cheque-books determined matters, Derby would be the ascendant force in the East Midlands. Thanks to pounds 10m worth of mismatching at the Baseball Ground, at least Clough's ending will be spared that twist of irony. However, there may be another.

Leicester, who secured a First Division play-off place yesterday despite failing to breach Bristol City's stubborn defence, cannot play their home semi-final at Filbert Street because of ground redevelopment. Instead, the venue, after an agreement made long before Forest's status was seriously in doubt, will be the City Ground.

Whether Leicester, beaten by Blackburn at Wembley in last year's eliminators, can make the grade this time remains to be seen. Yesterday, they looked some way from being convincing Premier League candidates.

Perhaps they were mindful of the banana skins that cost them automatic promotion last season, a memory painfully jogged by a

3-0 defeat at Peterborough last weekend. Or maybe it was the thought of needing to spoil Newcastle's party on Tyneside a week today, which might have been necessary had Millwall not crashed at Wolves. Whatever the reason, there was little fluency about Leicester's play.

Bristol, needing a point to ensure their own safety, made no pretence about their tactical intentions, loading their own half with bodies. David Lowe drew a splendid save from Keith Welch; then Lowe headed wide, Steve Thompson volleyed over, Richard Smith saw a shot blocked on the goal-line and Walsh headed Julian Joachim's cross just too high.

Curiously, amidst all that, Bristol actually went closest to a goal, Gary Shelton's drive hitting the underside of the bar.

Leicester's plans were disturbed when Thompson sustained a cut eye early in the second half and thereafter one sensed the visitors might have punished the home side's uncertainty. They almost did when Wayne Allison rounded Kevin Poole only for Mike Whitlow to intervene on the goal-line.

Lowe then embarrassed himself by hitting the bar with the goal at his mercy but events elsewhere meant that the result was good enough for both sides to join in a smiling lap of celebration.

Leicester City: K Poole; G Mills, M Whitlow, R Smith, S Walsh, C Hill, D Oldfield, S Thompson (T James, 47 min), J Joachim (N Lewis, 88 min), D Lowe, L Philpott. Manager: B Little.

Bristol City: K Welch; R Osman, S Munro, M Aizlewood, M Shail, R Atteveld, G Shelton, M Gavin, W Allison, L Rosenior, B Tinnion. Subs not used: G Harrison, J Bent. Player-manager: R Osman.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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