Easy meat for Foxes

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The Independent Football

MAYBE LEICESTER should have a boardroom crisis every season. The two sides - business and football - of the club have been at loggerheads for weeks, with the manager, Martin O'Neill, in the middle of it. All the while the Foxes have moved stealthily up the Premiership table and now lie an admirable fifth, having not lost at home all season and remained unbeaten since early September.

MAYBE LEICESTER should have a boardroom crisis every season. The two sides - business and football - of the club have been at loggerheads for weeks, with the manager, Martin O'Neill, in the middle of it. All the while the Foxes have moved stealthily up the Premiership table and now lie an admirable fifth, having not lost at home all season and remained unbeaten since early September.

All is not so rosy at Southampton, whose manager, Dave Jones, has off-pitch troubles of his own. Jones also had a problem digesting the performance of the referee, Barry Knight, as Kevin Davies was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Gerry Taggart nine minutes after coming on to the pitch as a substitute.

The tackle saw Taggart taken off by stretcher and stitched up, but Jones was insistent the challenge was worthy only of a yellow card, leaving the manager to lament: "The referee has to realise when there is intent".

However, as Jones grudgingly admitted, the referee was not to blame for his side conceding two goals before the break which virtually condemned the Saints to defeat by half-time. Typically, they raised their game when they were reduced to 10 men, as Marian Pahars pulled a goal back with six minutes remaining, volleying in from Jason Dodd's pass.

Jones said: "If we don't defend balls into our box then we'll suffer. We're our own worst enemies sometimes and we can't keep defending like that."

Yet in truth Southampton were a shade unlucky to be two down after 39 minutes, as Leicester, for a side nicknamed the Foxes, never threatened to tear apart their hapless opposition as the Saints made the early running.

However, from their first dangerous cross into the penalty area, Leicester took the lead. With just eight minutes gone, Emile Heskey headed Andy Impey's cross against a defender and the rebound went straight to Steve Guppy. He finished from six yards out, rounding off a memorable week with his first goal of the season six days after winning a first cap for England. Southampton's only response was a shot wide of the post by Trond Soltvedt.

With six minutes to go to the interval, Tony Cottee doubled Leicester's lead. This time the ball ricocheted around the six-yard area from Muzzy Izzet's free-kick, but Cottee was on hand to poke the ball in.

A chirpy O'Neill said afterwards: "We played some fantastic stuff in the first half," and as if to prove his good mood he made barely more than a passing mention of the boardroom conflict, in which he has become so embroiled. "These are heady days for us," he said.

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