Leicester City 4 Sheffield United 2: Defeat may drive Warnock to brink

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The Independent Online

A first defeat in nine games and losing further ground to Reading at the top of the Championship table is not how Neil Warnock would have planned his 950th, and possibly last, match in charge of Sheffield United.

Warnock could mark a sixth anniversary at his boyhood club United this week, but he is the favourite to take over at the Premiership strugglers Portsmouth instead. This limp United display might erase any doubt in his mind that top-flight football and wages are too attractive an offer.

The canny Warnock said he did not discuss Portsmouth during breakfast yesterday with Kevin McCabe, the United plc chairman. He knows he has a winning hand; his contract runs out in July, but he is wanted and is keeping his options open.

Refusing directly to deny he would go to Pompey, he said: "You'll have to ask other people at the club whether there has been any contact from Portsmouth. We've got a massive game against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and I'll be in charge for that. The players might use the speculation about me as an excuse, but we lost this game in a poor first half. I was pleased after that and I think we're on a great run."

The win was welcome for a struggling Leicester side. Craig Levein, City's manager, said that the uncertainty surrounding Warnock had helped them. "That was the type of game that makes the difficult ones worthwhile."

Leicester look the lead in the 12th minute when Ryan Smith's cross was headed down by Elvis Hammond and Iain Hume finished from eight yards. Smith, on loan from Arsenal, doubled the lead three minutes later with a header from Hume's cross. The 3,500 Sheffield supporters fell silent as Leicester fans sang "Warnock for Portsmouth".

After the break Warnock sent on his top scorer, Steve Kabba. He soon did his job - sliding on to a low cross for his ninth goal of the season in the 52nd minute. But Hammond, who had missed a few chances, killed off any United comeback after Smith's pass gave him a 74th-minute tap-in. Hume scored his second and Leicester's fourth in time added on before the United substitute Craig Short headed one back with the last touch of the game.

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