Football: Sutton puts his critics firmly in their place: First goal for pounds 5m striker

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CHRIS SUTTON showed why Kenny Dalglish was prepared to pay a British record pounds 5m for his services with his first Premiership goal for Blackburn on Monday night. Sutton and Alan Shearer, who cost a combined total of pounds 8.3m, were involved in all three goals as Blackburn went to the top of the table with a 3-0 victory over the newcomers Leicester.

Sutton was quick to pay tribute to Shearer. 'Alan's the best in the country. There's no doubt about that, and I can only learn from playing alongside him,' he said.

'We've still got a lot of things to work on, but it's just a pleasure to be there playing with him. He's such a big help to my game. Just watching some of his runs makes me realise I must try to put them into my own game, and he's talking to me and helping me all the time.'

Sutton's first-half header put Blackburn on the way to victory, and second-half goals from the Norwegian defender Henning Berg and Shearer completed the job. Sutton looked to have scored a second goal but the referee, Keith Burge, disallowed it for a foul on the Leicester goalkeeper Gavin Ward. The decision astonished both Dalglish and Sutton, who said: 'I know for a fact that I didn't touch him.'

Sutton admitted that scoring on his home debut had taken a weight off his shoulders. He said he hoped his goal would put an end to the unjust criticism he felt he had received after drawing an opening- day blank at Southampton.

'I was disappointed that people tried to knock my confidence after Saturday, and I didn't think it was fair,' he said. 'It's a long season and I'll have some more bad games - but hopefully some good ones as well. As long as I give 100 per cent every time I'll be happy with myself, but it was a nice feeling to score.'

For the Leicester manager, Brian Little, the defeat, his side's second heavy reverse in three days after Sunday's 3-1 defeat by Newcastle, was disappointing, but not disastrous. 'When we worked hard and tried to get at them we did quite well, and we were the better team for the 20 minutes before half-time,' he said.

'We've learned another harsh lesson that you can't give chances to people at this level, but we did put them under pressure. Although they were the better side, we played better than against Newcastle, which is important.'

While Sutton was happy, David Seaman, the Arsenal goalkeeper, had double cause to regret his slip that allowed Noel Whelan to score for Leeds in the 89th minute at Elland Road.

Not only did it allow the Leeds substitue to snatch a dramatic victory with a 35-yard drive, but Seaman's error was witnessed by the England coach, Terry Venables, who was watching candidates for his squad for the friendly against the United States.

Wimbledon, not normally known for their generosity at Selhurst Park, also allowed their match to slip away from them. They let Ipswich fight back and earn their first Premiership point of the season.

Dean Holdsworth gave Wimbledon a deserved 19th-minute lead with a 20-yard drive, but a miskick from Scott Fitzgerald allowed Simon Milton in for a 61st-minute equaliser on his 31st birthday.

In the Coca-Cola Cup, Richard Hancox scored a hat-trick to send Second Division Cardiff out 4-3 on aggregate at Third Division Torquay after losing 4-2 on the night. His performance was all the more remarkable because he had only just returned after missing the whole of last season with glandular fever.

There was another giantkilling at Blundell Park, where First Division Grimsby lost 2-1 to Second Division Bradford and went out

4-2 on aggregate. But First Division Port Vale ensured there was no shock at Vale Park by drawing 1-1 with Bristol Rovers to win 4-2 on aggregate.

Carlisle produced a memorable fightback with three goals in 17 minutes to beat Rotherham 3-1 and go through 3-2 on aggregate. Andy Hayward had put Rotherham, who led 1-0 after the first leg, further in front, only for David Reeves to score twice and Dean Walling to also score.

Watford ended 294 minutes of goal famine to beat Southend 1-0 and progress with the same aggregate score despite having their emergency full-back Gary Porter dismissed for tripping Southend's Gary Poole.

But the performance of the night came from Hartlepool, who overcame a two-goal first-leg deficit, hammering Bury 5-1 in extra time at the Victoria Ground.