Football: Speedie double the trouble for Leicester: First Division - Race for automatic promotion hots up

Click to follow
The Independent Online
West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Leicester City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

DAVID SPEEDIE has never been forgiven for denying Leicester a place in the inaugural Premier League in typically controversial circumstances and yesterday he did as much as he could to undermine this season's quest for the same prize, scoring twice, his first goals for West Ham, to inflict the visitors' first defeat in 10 games.

The striker, on loan at Upton Park for the rest of the season, rediscovered the form in front of goal which has brought him employment at four clubs in this campaign. Strangely, he has managed that number of strikes for them all before the start. He went on to reveal familiar profligacy as he passed up three opportunities for his hat-trick, which would also have enabled his team to leap back above Portsmouth into second place.

Speedie was not the only guilty partner as the Hammers, in full flow, had no end of possibilities to make Leicester pay an embarrassing price for a defence seemingly incapable of carrying out their basic duties. 'This was a tough, horrible lesson for us,' said the manager, Brian Little, of his side who had their own designs on the second automatic promotion spot. 'Speedie caused us problems last season at Wembley and he did so again today.'

The first chance went to Leicester, and they claimed the first shot of any note as well. Julian Joachim applied a poor header to a cross from Lee Philpott, who then produced a low drive which had insufficient power to beat a goalkeeper of Ludek Miklosko's quality.

It quickly became apparent that West Ham were merely biding their time and when Kevin Keen and Mark Robson cut loose on the flanks, Leicester were soon cut adrift.

Speedie's involvement in Blackburn's penalty which brought them victory over Leicester last May guaranteed him a heated reception from the travelling fans. The more hostile the atmosphere, the more the little firebrand thrives, and by half-time he had twice found the net to set up an oh-so-comfortable second period.

On his day Keen is a handful for defenders at this level and he had a part in all three goals to fully justify his nomination as the ITV man-of- the-match. After 10 minutes he set the ball rolling for Robson, who cleverly occupied three markers before selecting the pass to make Speedie's finish a simple task.

On the half-hour, the covering in the Leicester ranks was again notable only for its absence, as Keen released Speedie for a solo run which he concluded with an emphatic shot high into the corner of the goal. In between, Steve Walsh thought he had raised his own total to 10 goals in the same number of games since switching to the front, but Miklosko showed equally quick reflexes.

An interval deficit of two was kind to Leicester, with Speedie sending a header wide and Kevin Poole smothering the ball at Robson's feet. The third was delayed only until the 48th minute, as Robson found Keen for a shot which bounced unkindly over the goalkeeper.

Now it was merely a matter of whether West Ham could reach score another to leapfrog over Pompey. Twice Speedie was sent clear, each time he allowed Poole to escape.

West Ham United: Miklosko; Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Gale, Bishop, Robson, Butler, Speedie, Morley, Keen. Substitutes not used: Holmes, Foster.

Leicester: Poole; Coatsworth (James, 56), Mills, Smith, Walsh, Hill, Oldfield, Thompson, Joachim, Lowe, Philpott (Whitlow, 56).

Referee: G Poll (Berkhamsted).