Football: Sutton stakes England claim

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1

Blackburn Rovers 1

As England's road to Rome looms into view, Glenn Hoddle is not so well off for strikers that he can continue to ignore Chris Sutton's current vein of form.

Blackburn's pounds 5m front-runner, overlooked by the national coach against Moldova, took his tally for the season to nine with an outstanding goal at Filbert Street last night. Stan Collymore, who did make England's squad, has mustered a solitary goal from nine matches.

Then, after Leicester had drawn level through Mustafa Izzet's first of the campaign, Sutton demonstrated that Hoddle could count on his versatility as well as virtuosity. Forced to fill in as a central defender for the entire second half because of injury to Stephane Henchoz, the former Norwich player formed a formidable barrier with Colin Hendry.

Strictly speaking, a draw did not suit either side, given both had a theoretical chance of going top of the Premiership - Leicester for the first time since 1963. But the home manager, Martin O'Neill, doubtless spoke for his new counterpart at Blackburn, Roy Hodgson, when he remarked that 15 points from eight games was a more then satisfactory start.

The contest only occasionally lived up to the promise of the clubs' exulted positions. Blackburn set out as if a repeat of Saturday's goalless draw at Tottenham would be ideal, with only a wickedly lobbed cross by Izzet catching out Tim Flowers in the early stages. Not for the last time, Hendry headed off the line.

When Blackburn countered, Martin Dahlin wasted two opportunities before his partner pointed the way after 36 minutes. Izzet supplied an unwitting assist, Kevin Gallacher's cross breaking off him for Sutton to fire home from 22 yards.

Leicester took only seven minutes to restore parity. Hendry, who later claimed he had been impeded, did not clear Steve Guppy's lay-back with his customary clout. Izzet dispatched a diagonal drive beyond Flowers for instant redemption.

Henchoz, suffering a broken nose and strained back, could not resume after half-time, though it seemed immaterial as Sutton slotted in alongside Hendry, himself a converted striker.

Blackburn looked comfortable until the match entered its final quarter. Hendry, laying prostrate, then managed to divert Rob Savage's goalbound volley behind.

From Guppy's corner, yet another player who alternates between attack and defence, Ian Marshall, saw his header founder against the massed orange shirts. To no one's great surprise, it was Hendry who bravely blocked Spencer Prior's follow-up from all of three yards.

Leicester City (3-5-2) Keller; Prior, Elliott, Marshall; Kamark, Parker (Savage, 65), Lennon, Izzet, Guppy; Heskey, Fenton (Cottee, 77). Substitutes not used: Campbell, Claridge, Andrews (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Valery (McKinlay, 87), Henchoz (Bohinen, ht), Hendry, Kenna; Gallacher, Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox; Sutton, Dahlin. Substitutes not used: T Pedersen, Duff, Fettis (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Lincoln).

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