O'Neill close to happy ending

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 2 Huddersfield Town 1

Whatever the future holds for Martin O'Neill's career as a manager, it is reasonable to assume that he will not see another season quite like this one.

It is ending in the way he had hoped, with promotion a possibility. But that is a rare redeeming feature. Having escaped one cauldron of discontent at Norwich, he stepped straight into another at Leicester, whose chairman, Martin George, is scarcely more popular than Robert Chase.

O'Neill was always reluctant to abandon the success he created at little Wycombe Wanderers and must many times have thought he was right to be so. At Leicester, supporters led to believe they would waltz back into the Premiership under Mark McGhee have been impatient with O'Neill's attempt to rebuild shattered dreams. When Leicester dropped to ninth at the end of March, they wanted O'Neill's head too.

To win promotion now, then, would be one in the eye for his detractors. And Leicester have a strong chance after winning four matches in six. Should they beat Birmingham at home next weekend and then win at Watford in the last round of regular fixtures, only Ipswich, with their high goals count, could deny them a place in the play-offs.

"It has been a traumatic year for me, to say the least," O'Neill said. "Character-building, I think, is the expression people use. But with Ipswich losing, this victory gives us a fighting chance of making the play-offs and I think it was deserved. I'm thrilled to bits."

Huddersfield, who now need teams above them to drop points, paid the penalty, probably, for being too cautious against a team they had beaten well at home in November. But that is not to say they were wrong to treat Leicester with respect.

O'Neill's team was positive from the outset and there were eye-catching performances within a strong collective framework. Emile Heskey, in particular, stood out as an outstanding prospect.

Goals: Walsh (40) 1-0; Bullock (47) 1-1; Claridge (62) 2-1.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Watts, Walsh, Whitlow; Izzett, Lennon, Taylor, Heskey; Robins (Parker, 82), Claridge. Substitutes not used: Carey, Hill.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Francis; Jenkins, Scully, Gray, Cowan; Edwards, Bullock, Ward (Collins, 75), Makel (Baldry, 64); Booth, Jepson (Rowe, 75).

Referee: C Wilkes (Gloucester).

Bookings: Leicester: Claridge, Heskey; Huddersfield: Jenkins, Booth, Ward.

Man of the match: Heskey.

Attendance: 17,619.

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