Football: Little gets a large favour

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The Independent Online
Leicester City. .4

Blake 3, 53, Roberts 21, Carr 82

Southampton. . . 3

Dowie 78, 90, Le Tissier 90

Attendance: 20,020

STRUGGLING Leicester's demolition of Spurs last month looked suspiciously like a one- off until yesterday, when a performance of similar tenacity and verve ended Southampton's five-match winning streak. Two down within 22 minutes, the visitors never looked genuinely capable of recovery until the last moment, when two goals inside a minute threatened to give the afternoon a bizarre twist.

What it means to Leicester in the broader context remains to be seen. Take out these two results and the impression is that they are living above their station, another side to graduate through the play-offs without the necessary quality to survive on the higher plane.

If yesterday proved anything, it is that a few home truths are worth delivering from time to time and Brian Little, the Leicester manager, had clearly spelled out one or two in the wake of his team's dismal 4-0 defeat at Chelsea last weekend.

Little can usually see something good in the least promising circumstances, so when he describes a performance as having 'no positive things to draw on' you know it must have been bad. 'Our display at Chelsea suggested the assumption that we are red hot candidates for relegation could be right,' he said. Given that this was for public consumption, one can assume that the message put across in private was couched in stronger terms.

The '100 per cent improvement' Little required was duly delivered. Mark Blake, released by the impressive Franz Carr's astute pass, fired them ahead after only three minutes, tucking the ball into the farthest corner from a tight angle on the right, and when Iwan Roberts swept home Lee Philpott's corner, headed on at the near post by Mike Whitlow, Southampton already looked out of it.

Little that Matthew Le Tissier tried was coming off and Gavin Ward did not need to make a save in Leicester's goal until a free-kick from Le Tissier thudded gently into his chest on the half-hour.

It was clear that the third goal would put the issue beyond doubt and the second half was still young when Blake, connecting first time with Roberts' lay-off, beat Dave Beasant, via a post, from 25 yards.

Iain Dowie pulled one back but Carr's first goal for his fifth club, a beautifully curled shot from 20 yards, restored Leicester's advantage. The late flurry in which Le Tissier and Dowie both scored after the stadium clocks had shown 90 minutes gone, distorted the picture.

Alan Ball, Little's opposite number, signed off with a few home truths of his own. 'We've had a magnificent six weeks but we were living off past glories today. The hungriest team won,' he said, adding a voluntary compliment for Mark Draper, whose performance in Leicester's midfield was of the highest order.

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