Cottee brace holds hostility in check

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The Independent Online

Some of the stares exchanged in the hospitality rooms must have been as icy as the wind whipping across Filbert Street as another explosion of hostilities rocked strife-torn Leicester. Tony Cottee continues to warm the cockles, though. Two goals from City's evergreen striker, who narrowly missed notching a hat-trick in stoppage time, ended Wimbledon's unbeaten run and maintained Leicester's position on the heels of the Premiership leaders.

Some of the stares exchanged in the hospitality rooms must have been as icy as the wind whipping across Filbert Street as another explosion of hostilities rocked strife-torn Leicester. Tony Cottee continues to warm the cockles, though. Two goals from City's evergreen striker, who narrowly missed notching a hat-trick in stoppage time, ended Wimbledon's unbeaten run and maintained Leicester's position on the heels of the Premiership leaders.

It remains mildly astonishing that Leicester stay a credible Premiership force given the feud that continues to rage behind the scenes. The break in fixtures has done nothing to advance the cause of resolution, which neither side in a bitter boardroom dispute appears eager to embrace in any case.

More shots were fired even as their manager, Martin O'Neill, prepared for this match. First, John Elsom, the incumbent club chairman, revealed the make-up of the board of directors he hopes to see in place after an extraordinary general meeting planned for next month. Then it was announced that Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of Leicester City plc, had received notice from the plc chief executive, Barrie Pierpoint, that he had been declared persona non grata.

The letter from Pierpoint, who is also a director of the club, was reportedly worded in unequivocal terms. "You would not be welcome on this occasion or on any other occasion in the future," Sir Rodney was told.

Sir Rodney responded by staying away, declaring that he did not want to take "any action that results in an unsavoury incident prior to the match". Elsom disassociated himself from the letter, which he described as "outrageous and petty".

Pierpoint, whose removal is periodically demanded by fans at Leicester's home matches these days, is a member of the so-called "gang of four" on the board. He has been at the centre of a power struggle for many months but matters came to a head at a plc board meeting on 10 September at which Pierpoint claims that Elsom and Sir Rodney verbally resigned, a claim they fiercely deny.

The battle will be won or lost at the EGM but, given that it is unlikely to take place before 20 December, there is plenty of scope for more exchanges. Pierpoint faces a hard task if he is to gain the support of the shareholders needed to oust Elsom, given that O'Neill has made it clear that he will work only with Elsom in the chair.

O'Neill, remarkably, has kept the minds of his players on football, as they demonstrated again yesterday when they responded to Wimbledon's opening goal by equalising within seconds.

In an appropriately low-key contest, the London side went ahead after 20 minutes when an aimless-looking ball from Jason Euell dropped nicely for Marcus Gayle to volley home his fourth goal of the season.

But, almost from the restart, O'Neill's team drew level, Robbie Savage stretching himself to keep Emile Heskey's deep cross in play and in doing so setting up the ever-alert Tony Cottee to squeeze his seventh of the campaign past Neil Sullivan.

A mistake by Dean Blackwell on the left, failing to cut out Steve Guppy's pass in a swirling wind, allowed Heskey to create Leicester's second goal 13 minutes into the second half, the England forward flicking the ball across goal before Sullivan could reach it. Again Cottee was in the right place.

After Gerry Taggart's interception of Carl Cort's cross preserved the advantage, Heskey came within a bootlace length of adding a third when he attempted to deflect Guppy's low cross. Then Blackwell earned a booking for clattering into Guppy on the half-way line as time began to work against the visitors, for whom Cort then skewed over the bar from an inviting position.

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