Football: Sutton master of class

Blackburn Rovers 5 Dahlin 11, Sutton 25, 45, 47, Hendry 63 Leices ter City 3 Wilson 68, Izzet 80, Ullathorne 81 Attendance: 24,854
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CHRIS SUTTON'S combined mastery of the roles of marksman and targetman, never more evident than in this blinding hat-trick, is certain to provide the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, with more food for thought.

The Premiership's leading scorer took his goal tally for the season to 16 with three differing but equally proficient finishes, as Blackburn climbed into second place. Leicester's late rally might have taken some of the gloss off a classy display by Roy Hodgson's side, but Sutton's polish continues to shine through the storm clouds covering the stand- off between the striker and Hoddle in the build-up to the World Cup in France.

Sutton was involved from the word go as Blackburn weathered some early Leicester bluster to grow in confidence and potency as the opening half progressed, their first three goals oozing slick quality. Martin Dahlin started and finished the opener, his first-time lay-off releasing Damien Duff down the right flank. Duff's cross was knocked down by Sutton for an unmarked Dahlin to volley into the roof.

Duff also instigated the second, a stunning change of pace leaving three Leicester defenders for dead. The winger bided his time before picking out Sutton, whose dragged backheel squirmed through Kasey Keller's hands from close range. Sutton rounded off the half with the finish of a man in top form. Having collected Garry Flitcroft's drilled pass on the edge of the area, Sutton fired a low drive on the turn into the far corner.

The best, however, was still to come. Tim Sherwood's cross cleared both defenders and attackers, but Sutton was first to the loose ball. Having shaped to cross back into the penalty area, Sutton instead floated an exquisite chip over Keller. The Blackburn scoring was completed by Colin Hendry, who blasted through a crowded area after Sherwood's header had been cleared off the line.

As Blackburn eased off, Leicester increased their urgency to turn token consolation into a fleeting threat. Stuart Wilson was first to profit, winning a challenge from Alan Fettis and accepting the invitation of an open goal as the ball dropped into his path. Mustafa Izzet was next to capitalise, meeting Steve Guppy's cross with a firm header. And when Guppy set up Robert Ullathorne's skidding shot a minute later, Martin O'Neill's pulse was in hyper-drive.

The Leicester manager felt a first-half disallowed goal, ruled offside by a late flag, when his side were just one goal down, affected the result. "It sounds daft when we conceded five goals, but it has a bearing on the match. Funnily enough, I'm going to take a lot of positive things out of the game although we defended poorly all afternoon," he said.

Hodgson was sufficiently angry with the three conceded goals to send his No 2, Tony Parkes, to fight Blackburn's corner. "We might get into the Champions' League on goal difference. Roy probably wasn't very happy that Leicester scored three late goals. Chris Sutton has been superb all season. He is probably the best target man in England," Parkes enthused.