Leicester rediscover their old tenacity

Southampton 2 Leicester City 2
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The Independent Football

Doomed to relegation they may be, but Leicester's spirit at St Mary's yesterday left nothing of which to be ashamed. Admittedly their awful record of 15 Premiership games without a win in three forlorn months remains intact, yet here they came within four minutes of ending it.

Doomed to relegation they may be, but Leicester's spirit at St Mary's yesterday left nothing of which to be ashamed. Admittedly their awful record of 15 Premiership games without a win in three forlorn months remains intact, yet here they came within four minutes of ending it.

Only then did they offer Southampton the chance to get equal with a penalty. For an hour they had held onto a 2-1 lead – if they did so without serious assurance then at least it was with a tenacity reminiscent of their past.

Although all club managers above them had been saying "anyone in the bottom half could go down'', Leicester knew what they were really saying was that anyone could join them in relegation land, even Southampton, whose climb to mid-table has brought relief after the expense of moving to a new stadium. Unlike Southampton, though, Leicester are already planning for a season in modern new surroundings, but as residents of the First Division.

It cannot have been encouraging for their players to read that Dave Bassett, with his reputation for winning promotion, was just a guy to sell whoever might raise a few quid and bring in "bargain'' replacements. When, or if, he becomes the club's director of football next season, and the present assistant, Micky Adams, becomes manager, that could still happen. All Bassett would add last night was: "Micky was brought in to take over at some stage. Everyone knows that, it's a storm in a tea cup.''

Continuing where they usually leave off, Leicester were soon embattled yesterday. Marian Pahars menacingly filtered in at them from the right, then Brett Ormerod shot onto the post. Yet, in defiance of logic, suddenly Leicester were two goals ahead. Brian Deane scored both. In the 21st minute, he powerfully headed in Paul Dickov's centre that Claus Lundekvam failed to cut out, since he was still concussed after a collision with Deane that later led to his substitution. Two minutes later, Muzzy Izzet hit the crossbar and Deane, unopposed, tapped in the rebound.

Southampton needed a quick riposte and won it when Anders Svensson swung over a centre and Pahars scored with a diving header. Despite this, Leicester rallied again and had a good share of possession.

Ian Walker retained Leicester's lead when leaping along the goal-line to turn aside Matt Oakley's goal-bound shot and Paul Jones did equally well to deflect a blazing free-kick from Izzet.

Southampton's thoughts of a comfortable afternoon had long gone. Indeed, in the second half they rang the changes in the hope that having James Beattie lead the attack would make a difference, but Matt Elliott ruled his defence with defiance while Robbie Savage worked hard to break down Southampton's attacks before they threatened. More of this and Leicester will at least go down fighting.

Southampton were saved because Lee Marshall finally succumbed to the bombardment, grabbing Beattie's shirt. The referee instantly gave a penalty which Pahars carefully and gratefully drove in.

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