Football: No sympathy for keeper's gaffe

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1 Everton 2

Things have come to a pretty pass when a Premiership club cannot wait to bring back a goalkeeper from the land that gave us Jorge Campos because of the bizarre behaviour of an Englishman. Kevin Poole's aberration was not without some mitigation, but with Manchester United to face twice in four days, it will not stop Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, ensuring that his first choice, Kasey Keller, returns earlier than expected from World Cup duty.

There can be little doubt that Poole's blunder, when he picked up a back- pass from a free-kick, which Everton promptly punished with a free-kick of their own, cost Leicester the match. The fact that Everton were by far the better side when they needed to be was of no consolation to the normally equable O'Neill. His cynical humour suggested that he was only too aware of what long-term effect a result like this could have upon his club's future. Leicester, as the bookmakers keep reminding him, are still favourites for relegation.

Asked if he had any sympathy for Poole - who maintained that he had got permission from the referee to pick the ball up, presumably so he could take the kick elsewhere - O'Neill replied: "Actually, at this minute, I haven't got an ounce of sympathy for him. They haven't got a bloody ounce of sympathy for me. If you're professional you should know what you're doing, even under pressure."

It is not often that Everton get help from Poole, so to speak, and I am not sure whether they needed any, at least not during the first hour. They looked at least a division better than the home side, who began in nothing like the committed manner that accounted for Newcastle. Despite the absence of Andrei Kanchelskis because of flu, and the return to the starting line-up of Duncan Ferguson, Everton were wonderfully cohesive and fluent in attack, while behind them their industrious midfield suffocated Leicester movement almost at birth.

Nick Barmby's quick thinking when he seized the ball from Poole in that controversial moment for Andy Hinchcliffe to sweep it into the empty net was indicative of Everton's all-round smartness. O'Neill said before the game that he thought their opponents were championship material and there was nothing about their performance in their eighth game without defeat to dissuade him from that view.

At least Leicester finished the match how they should have begun it. Steve Walsh, their inspirational captain, having scored on his 300th League appearance, might even have clinched a fortuitous draw four minutes into injury time but for a marvellous reaction save by Neville Southall.

"We put them under a lot of pressure at the finish," O'Neill said, "and I was pleased to hear Joe [Royle] shouting at the referee - calling him by his first name, Jeff, too - asking whether he had swallowed his whistle."

Goals: Hinchcliffe (12) 0-1; Unsworth (52) 0-2; Walsh (83) 1-2.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Watts (Marshall, 61), Walsh, Whitlow; Parker (Taylor, 61), Lennon, Prior, Izzet; Claridge, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Lawrence, Hill, Hyde (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Grant, Parkinson, Stuart, (Short, 84), Speed; Ferguson, Barmby. Substitutes not used: Hottiger, Branch, Allen, Gerrard (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Cleveland).

Bookings: Leicester: Claridge, Heskey; Everton: Southall, Unsworth, Stuart.

Man of the match: Barmby. Attendance: 20,975.

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