Problems mount for speechless Souness

Leicester City 2 Blackburn Rovers 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Having seen his side put an end to their five-match losing streak with a result that lifted them two places off the bottom of the Premiership table, Leicester's manager, Micky Adams, looked as relieved as you might have expected.

However, his assessment of the match was unusual. "Blackburn were the better team," he said. "Not just in the first half. I would say in the whole game." Adams went on to predict that Blackburn, who now have just Leeds United beneath them in the relegation zone, would be out of trouble "sooner rather than later" because they had too many good players to go down.

That judgement was often made of another team last season. The platitude did not hold good for West Ham, and Blackburn - who have now matched Leicester's run of five Premiership defeats in a row - will need to work a lot harder to make sure they do not go the same way. The signs are ominous for a side who finished sixth last season, with their new signings failing to cohere.

The Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, still awaiting the FA's judgement over his fracas with the Southampton assistant coach, Dennis Rofe, from their previous Premership reverse, left the venue stony-faced and without comment. "Graeme couldn't bring himself to speak to anyone about this," said Blackburn's assistant and sometime stand-in, Tony Parkes. "I've never seen him so low. There are big problems in the dressing-room."

There were big problems on the pitch, too. Despite having the bulk of possession, the visitors failed to turn their territorial superiority into goals and were then caught out by two Leicester set-plays in the final quarter of the match, Marcus Bent and Steve Howey scoring the crucial goals.

It will be scant consolation for Souness, but Blackburn's failure to profit was not solely their own fault. Admittedly, Dwight Yorke should have done better with a lay-off from his strike partner, Andy Cole, in the 31st minute which offered him a clear shot on goal, but he took an extra touch before firing over the bar.

But they were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty in the 37th minute when Vratislav Gresko's cross appeared to be handled by Andrew Impey, whose arms went up to the ball and seemed to deflect it. Strangely the referee, Dermot Gallagher, despite being no more than 10 yards away, failed to spot the infringement.

Blackburn could do nothing either about the inspired 63rd-minute save by the Leicester keeper, Ian Walker, who blocked a close-range shot from Cole with his leg to keep the home side's fragile hopes together.

Adams described the incident as the turning-point of the match, and within 10 minutes it was heading firmly in a different direction as Paul Dickov, on as a substitute for the tiring Les Ferdinand, won a free-kick on the edge of the box after being blocked by Markus Babbel. From Muzzy Izzet's low cross, Bent - sticking a toe around his marker Gresko - diverted the ball home for the opening goal.

Leicester's supporters, faultlessly enthusiastic to the cause throughout a first half in which their team failed to muster a shot on goal, were in raptures, and their satisfaction went off the scale eight minutes from time when a corner by Izzet produced a second goal. When James Scowcroft nodded the cross back to the far post, Matt Elliott - brought on for the injured Frank Sinclair - rose unchallenged to nod the ball down to the equally free figure of Howey, who bundled it over the line with his shin.

Adams admitted afterwards he had been screaming at Howey not to go up. Perhaps the centre-half did not hear him, but if he did, his manager was not about to tell him off about it.

Goals: Bent (75) 1-0; Howey (82) 2-0.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Walker 7; Impey 4, Howey 7, Sinclair 7 (Elliott 7, 72), Stewart 5; Gillespie 4 (Thatcher 5, 60), Izzet 6, McKinlay 5, Scowcroft 4; Ferdinand 4 (Dickov 7, 67), Bent 6. Substitutes not used: Coyne (gk), Hignett.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 6; Neill 5, Todd 7, Babbel 5, Gresko 6 (Reid, 81); Thompson 6, Flitcroft 5 (Tugay, 78), Ferguson 5, Emerton 6; Cole 6, Yorke 6. Substitutes not used: Yelldell (gk), Jansen, Taylor.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury) 6.

Bookings: Leicester: Howey, Dickov. Blackburn: Emerton.

Man of the match: Howey.

Attendance: 30,975.

Comments