The whims of managerial fortune were illustrated in graphic fashion yesterday when Leicester City's Peter Taylor went through all manner of agonies before emerging with a precious draw that might keep him off the dole for another week.
A third successive defeat, following the 5-0 and 4-0 drubbings by Bolton Wander-ers and Arsenal, could well have been the end for the former England coach, and when Muzzy Izzet missed a penalty kick at 0-1, immediately after Ipswich's goalkeeper Matteo Sereni was sent off, prospects were bleak. But in the 90th minute Dean Sturridge's equaliser enabled Leicester who were also down to 10 men by that time to get off the bottom of the table.
Judging by the crowd's supportive reaction at the final whistle, that single goal might even have got the manager off the hook. Ipswich, using Finidi George wide on the right in a five-man midfield, were much smoother than a Leic-ester side living on their nerves. Yet there was more of the spirit from the home side that Taylor had demanded in a poorly refereed match of 56 fouls, two red cards and six yellow. This time quality, not effort, was lacking.
The man famous for Norman Wisdom impressions has not lost his sense of hum-our. "I got a text message from Kate Adie, that's how I knew it was serious," Taylor said. "I'm delighted to get something out of the game and I felt the players deserved to. If I was one of the bosses upstairs, that's the sort of thing I'd be looking for. I felt I'd get a bit of stick from supporters but they were terrific."
"Taylor out" had been heard on the first day of the season, nine months after the manager was widely praised for his handling of the England team in Turin and his Leicester side topped the table for the first time in 37 years. The club's decline thereafter was spectacular, culminating in a run of 10 defeats in the last 11 games to end the season.
He was not happy with the defending that brought Ipswich a goal in the 14th minute yesterday. Even though Matt Elliott, the good old trooper who has epitomised the club's spirit over the past five years, was back as one of the three centre-halves, it was his crass error that brought it about, a feeble header from Jermaine Wright's chip looping up in the air to Matt Holland; the Ipswich captain nodded into the path of Marcus Stewart, who accepted an invitation to score his first goal of the season with a low drive past Ian Walker.
Walker, surprisingly called into the England squad last week after seven months without a first-team game, had replaced Tim Flowers between the posts and made a decent impression on his debut, but Dennis Wise was serving the first suspension unlikely to be the last in this new phase of his career.
Leicester could have done with his presence to help create a greater ration of chances: they were unable to make anything of a free-kick six yards out, awarded for a back-pass, Callum Davidson's shot hitting one of eight Ipswich players on the line, and Izzet poked their only other opportunity before half-time straight at the goalkeeper.
If the constant free-kicks caused the game to be so scrappy, a sending-off and penalty brought it briefly to life 13 minutes into the second half. Sereni, reacting angrily to a challenge by Robbie Savage, appeared to barge into him; the Welshman, theatrical as ever, fell to the ground clutching his face and although the referee, Barry Knight, had seen nothing, one of his assistants had. After consulting both flag-men, Knight produced a red card and, as the ball had been in play, awarded a penalty, which Izzet hit high over the bar. Savage, meanwhile, had gone to the touchline, where the normally equable Ipswich manager George Burley could be seen calling him a cheat.
Keith Branagan, substituting for Sereni, was beaten by Savage's looping header, but John McGreal cleared off the line, and Leicester's hopes of making their numerical advantage count dimmed when Lee Marshall was sent off in the 81st minute after a clash with Martijn Reuser, who was also guilty of over-reacting.
But, right at the death, Sturridge latched on to a quick free-kick and beat Branagan at the second attempt. On such moments do jobs depend.
Leicester City 1
Ipswich Town 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 18,774Reuse content