Football: Watford floored by Izzet punch

Leicester City 1 Watford 0
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The Independent Online
MARTIN O'NEILL will no doubt claim it as simply another three points towards beating the drop, but last night's hard-fought victory at Filbert Street elevated Leicester to the dizzy heights of fifth place in the Premiership. Emile Heskey, who twice hit the woodwork with headers, softened up a workmanlike but witless Watford and Muzzy Izzet landed the sucker punch late in the first half.

Leicester thus joined a clutch of more fancied clubs on 10 points, and had it not been for Frank Sinclair's own-goal aberrations against Arsenal and Chelsea they would have been sitting in second place going into the season's first mini-break. Sinclair made a positive contribution this time, not only supplying the centre which led to the winner but also making a vital headed clearance as Watford strove for an undeserved late equaliser.

When the campaign resumes, O'Neill's team have a good opportunity to cement their place among the pacesetting pack, with Sunderland, Southampton, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday among their opponents before they visit Manchester United at the start of November. In contrast, Watford's next five fixtures pit them against United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds and West Ham. On this evidence, it is hard to envisage their picking up more than the odd point.

One might have expected Watford to view a trip to Leicester as one of the better opportunities to improve their position. They may well have done so, but as Graham Taylor admitted afterwards, they lacked any semblance of a cutting edge, whereas the home side had Heskey and Steve Guppy in the kind of form that makes their exclusion from Kevin Keegan's England squad somewhat surprising.

Heskey was not quite "unplayable", as O'Neill described him, but apart from scoring four times in the opening six games, the striker rather unimaginatively nicknamed "Bruno" is at last punching his weight.

Guppy offers virtually unrivalled crossing ability as well as extraordinary consistency. "No one delivers better from wide on the left," drooled his manager. When Guppy and Heskey work in tandem they can be an awesome combination. The latter is almost as dangerous attacking from the wing as down the middle, and on two occasions in the second half Heskey turned provider for Guppy to fire narrowly wide.

Watford's Mark Williams did well to block one booming Heskey drive early on, the ball looping on to the roof of the net. Williams, however, was nowhere to be seen when the same player rose to direct Sinclair's 35th- minute cross against a post.

Heskey really ought to have scored, and it was left to a midfielder to show him how it was done seconds before half time. Chris Day could only palm another Sinclair cross to Guppy, whose volley was passing wide until Izzet arrived to score via a deflection.

Heskey, climbing to meet yet another Guppy cross, threatened to have the final word. Watford were relieved to see the ball rattle Day's crossbar but must be concerned that it seems to take only a single goal to beat them.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Arphexad; Sinclair, Elliott, Taggart; Savage, Izzet, Lennon, Oakes (Zagorakis, 68), Guppy; Heskey, Cottee (Marshall, 87). Substitutes not used: Gilchrist, Wilson, Hodges (gk).

Watford (3-5-2): Day; Page, Williams, Robinson; Lyttle, Hyde, Palmer, Easton (Gudmundsson, 71), Kennedy; Ngonge (Bakalli, 71), Mooney. Substitutes not used: Bonnot, Foley, Walker (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

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