Parker pens the script

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The Independent Online
Barnsley 2

Payton 41, Bullock 69

Leicester City 2

Robins 11, Walsh 83

Attendance: 13,669

LEICESTER, their sights set on an instant return to the cultured company of the Premiership, remained top of the First Division after earning a point at Oakwell by virtue of exactly the high energy and hard graft they will need to realise their ambition.

In control for all but the last five minutes of the first half, under the cosh for much of the second, Leicester seized a 10th-minute lead, saw it overturned in a vibrant recovery by the Yorkshire side and finally clawed their way back to parity seven minutes from time. Brian Carey, Steve Walsh and David Lowe each claimed a part in the goal that keeps their side on top.

Barnsley, in third place on Saturday morning, revealed a trump card in Martin Bullock, a 20-year-old midfield player, whose appearance at the start of the second half transformed the contest. Playing just behind the two strikers, the youngster menaced Leicester and capped his performance with a blinding goal, reacting quickly to an intercepted pass in the middle of the field, taking the ball to the edge of the penalty area and unleashing a rocket into the top corner.

Asked why Bullock had not been on the field from the start, his manager, Danny Wilson, said: "At the moment he is a better weapon used as a substitute. He just runs at them for fun."

Until his appearance, the fun had been in short supply for the home crowd as Leicester stamped an authority on the game that looked enough to take them to three points.

Not the least of Leicester's assets is Garry Parker, the former Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa man, whom the manager Mark McGhee has made both his captain and the fulcrum of his team. It was no surprise when Parker played a key role in the first goal, directing Simon Grayson to play the crossfield ball that found Mark Robins unmarked on the edge of the penalty area. As Barnsley's defenders dithered, presumably hoping for an offside flag, Robins intelligently chipped the ball over goalkeeper David Watson.

Parker was comfortably the more effective of the two playmakers in opposition, the influence of Jan Molby, on loan from Liverpool, no more than peripheral by comparison. Leicester might have extended their lead twice, with Parker involved both times.

But having failed to do so, Leicester were rocked by a Barnsley equaliser, Andy Payton nodding the ball home from Neil Redfearn's deep corner. The Yorkshire side's self-belief was instantly refreshed and the introduction of Bullock reversed the flow of the game.

Bullock's goal produced an advantage that looked well deserved, but just as Wilson might have been considering he had pulled off a masterstroke, Leicester came up with the necessary response. Brian Carey, also a substitute, and Steve Walsh both claimed to have headed in Parker's corner, with David Lowe also feeling he got a touch on the line. Whoever eventually takes the credit, Leicester had a point.