Taylor back in home office

FA Premiership: England's new man stays focused on Foxes as Icelandic striker's goal keeps Derby bottom
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The Independent Football

The examination of Maldini, Nesta, Inzaghi and Co must wait. It was back to the day job yesterday for Peter Taylor, whose rather more pressing tactical responsibilities involved sending out a Leicester team with a sharpened eye for goal after three games without one, and five matches without a win.

The examination of Maldini, Nesta, Inzaghi and Co must wait. It was back to the day job yesterday for Peter Taylor, whose rather more pressing tactical responsibilities involved sending out a Leicester team with a sharpened eye for goal after three games without one, and five matches without a win.

They achieved both, to Taylor's undoubted relief, by dint of two marvellous examples of accurate shooting, from Muzzy Izzet and the substitute Arnar Gunnlaugsson - his within two minutes of being introduced - which cancelled out Rory Delap's early goal for Derby County.

Taylor's modest programme notes did not mention international matters until halfway through, and then he prefaced his involvement with the words, "You will no doubt be aware that I have been approached to take charge of the England team..." Well, yes, it hadn't gone unnoticed, and while the Leicester faithful will regard Taylor's honour with some pride, they will also treat it with healthy suspicion. It was not the most convincing of performances yesterday but sufficient to persuade the cynics that a coach can entertain two roles simultaneously. While his side continue to put away opportunities with such aplomb the doubters can have no complaints.

Taylor met up with his England assistant Steve McClaren on Thursday night and plans to do so again soon. His squad to face the Italians will be named on Thursday week. Apart from that Leicester will be his sole concern. "I accept I'm in the spotlight but for me the priority is City," he said. "I'm very much looking forward to the Italy game and we gave some thought to the team last week, but I can assure all the fans that I'll be concentrating on Leicester until then." He added ruefully: "I worked seven days a week at Dover and Gillingham and this was no different."

While Leicester took the lift back to a Premiership penthouse suite with this triumph - they are now third - for Jim Smith's Derby players, locked in the basement and still looking for their first win-bonus of the season, there is no respite to their season of abject misery. Ironically, it was a decline that began with the departure to Manchester United of McClaren. The Rams are seriously in need of new coaching impetus, but Colin Todd's move to Pride Park as Smith's No 2 and his probable successor, has been held up by contractual problems with Swindon.

The former Derby and England man has been forced to return to the County Ground while the issue is resolved. "It will happen eventually," Smith said of Todd's proposed move. "It's a crazy situation and in the hands of solicitors, but I anticipate it being sorted out reasonably quickly."

In a gusting wind and a heavy rain, this was always going to be won more by the attrition of trench warfare than military precision, although it must be said that both first-half goals were the result of incisive strikes. Smith's view was that his team had deserved a draw, but, frankly, they fashioned precious little and always appeared vulnerable in retreat.

Only a gallant performance by Delap gave them hope and it was the former Carlisle midfielder who drove them into an 11th-minute lead during a rare first-half sortie. Deon Burton was the instigator with a fine ball to Delap on the right, who was about 25 yards out and at a relatively sharp angle to goal. Lacking other options, he placed a fine shot between Tim Flowers' flailing hand and the corner of the net.

Overall in the first half, though, it was City who were increasingly in the ascendancy. Their build-ups were enterprising enough, but that old failing, the absence of an abrasive edge among the forwards again looked likely to be their downfall as it had against Liverpool, Manchester United and Sunderland in recent weeks.

It took a midfielder, Izzet, to wrest his side back into contention and, significantly, in scoring the 32nd-minute equaliser, the Turkish international established himself as Leicester's top scorer, albeit with the grand tally of three. He had already forced Mart Poom into a splendid save with a volley, and when presented with another opportunity a few minutes later he gave the Estonian goalkeeper no chance. In many ways, it was a similar to Delap's opener, being struck with venom across the goalkeeper into the far corner of the net.

Smith brought on Malcolm Christie for Stefano Eranio at the interval, but neither he nor Burton saw enough of the ball to suggest that the Rams could claim that elusive first victory. It was always going to be a second half rearguard action, and Richard Creswell was unfortunate to see his attempt blocked by a defender after a clever free-kick in the area had been worked to him, following referee Poll's application of the 10-yard rule.

But survival appeared unlikely for Smith's team, and so it proved when Gunnlaugsson, emerging as a substitute in the 74th minute, found himself in space on the right, little more than a minute later. The Icelander then curled the sweetest of shots round the despairing Poom. Derby rallied, but without real threat, Delap forcing Flowers to a fingertip save. But otherwise Leicester's lead was never threatened.

Matches against Crystal Palace (Worthington Cup), Manchester City and Newcastle follow before Taylor can concentrate on Turin. "The proudest moment of my life," he says of his England appointment. He will need a few more displays like yesterday's to show the Foxes' fans he still has his eye on the Leicester ball.

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