Taggart uses his head to crack an easy case

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The Independent Football



Leicester City 3 Taggart 24, 36, Cottee 57

Sheffield Wednesday 0

Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 19,046

31 October 1999

Wednesday have pledged their commitment to Danny Wilson in the wake of the Benito Carbone affair but on all the evidence yesterday their manager faces a steeply uphill struggle to lift his side from the bottom of the Premiership. After a tentative start, Leicester came up with their familiar blend of skill, robustness and drive to win with ease. Two goals by the defender Gerry Taggart tipped the balance in their favour, after which the perennially prolific Tony Cottee added a third.

After defeat at Bradford momentarily halted their progress up the table, Leicester needed a rapid recovery, especially against the backdrop of continuing turmoil at the club. It seems bound to affect the team sooner or later, no matter how assiduously Martin O'Neill attempts to keep boardroom matters at arm's length.

For another week, however, the shield their manager has erected around the players remains impervious. Leicester continue to perform above themselves, moving back into fifth place and earning recognition from O'Neill that they are doing "exceptionally well".

But for the warring factions off the field, O'Neill might have strengthened his hand before yesterday by acquiring Andy Booth from Wednesday. The official explanation of a disagreement over the method by which Leicester settle the proposed £2.75m deal probably hides a more complicated picture but an attempt will be made to complete the signing tomorrow.

In the circumstances, Booth watched the action from the stand, having told Wilson he was not physically or mentally ready to perform as a Wednesday player. He was missed. The loss of Carbone has left a considerable void and Gerald Sibon and Gilles de Bilde seem to need time to become acquainted.

It took Wednesday 22 minutes to muster a shot, by which time Leicester fans had already rounded on Barrie Pierpoint, the chief executive perceived in these parts as Public Enemy Number One. However, far from being distracted, their team then took a hold on the game. Two goals in 12 minutes followed, each time from the head of Taggart, the Northern Ireland defender who had been rated a doubtful starter because of a knee injury.

First, his fellow centre-back Matt Elliott rose to head back Steve Guppy's free-kick from the right flank and Taggart, too physical for Pavel Srnicek's liking, nodded Leicester ahead. Then, in a perfectly worked corner routine, Frank Sinclair, at the near post, helped Muzzy Izzet's kick from the left flank loop to the far post, where Taggart struck again.

Moments before half-time, De Bilde climaxed a rare Wednesday raid by hitting the foot of the right-hand post, but this was a lone moment of encouragement for Wilson's side. "I believe we will be safe but there is no doubt that we face a massive task," he said.

On 50 minutes, another Izzet corner swung directly into the net after Taggart again jumped with Srnicek. This time referee Paul Alcock found in the goalkeeper's favour but Wednesday were soon three down, a matter of some embarrassment given that the goal came from the head of little Cottee.

Emile Heskey, who had affronted Des Walker by barging the former England defender off the ball, played an important part, powerfully brushing off two challenges before releasing Andy Impey on the right. Impey's cross arrived nicely for Cottee, who hardly needed to jump anyway to propel the ball on a looping flight beyond Srnicek's reach.