LEICESTER, gaining a reputation as one of the Endsleigh League's more stylish attacking teams, struggled to see off a Watford side who belied their lowly league position with some impressive play. Iwan Roberts's 13th-minute goal won the match, but equally important was a last-gasp save by Kevin Poole, restored to Leicester's goal in place of the pounds 750,000 Australian international Zeljko Kalac.
This Leicester side is well schooled in passing and possesses two particularly useful exponents of the art in Garry Parker and Scott Taylor, each of whom created early chances for Mark Robins. Parker's long diagonal ball was just beyond the former Norwich striker's reach but Taylor's, drilled through the middle, was weighted ideally and only David Holdsworth's tackle prevented his shot.
The pace of Robins unsettled Watford's three centre-backs, and it was in trying again to exploit it that Leicester went ahead, although it was his striking partner, Iwan Roberts, who benefited. David Lowe delivered a ground-skimming pass from the right flank, Robins again failed to get a touch but distracted the yellow shirts around him sufficiently for Roberts, the Welsh international, to find himself with a simple opportunity at the far post.
Watford are not the worst team in the First Division, at least in the qualities Glenn Roeder strives to attain. Their results are poor, however, and a team with Leicester's ambitions ought not to be troubled to beat them. That said, Leicester have been curiously vulnerable at home, losing three times before this game, and there were clear signs of anxiety among their supporters at their failure to build quickly on the early goal, especially when Lowe, picked out by Parker from a free-kick, cleverly kept the ball from the goalkeeper Kevin Miller's grasp, only to send it clear of the bar when he turned to shoot at an empty goal.
Watford demonstrated in the second half that they, too, could move the ball around sweetly and looked capable of making inroads. Poole probably had his right-hand post covered when Tony Mooney's effort from 25 yards went narrowly wide but was fortunate when Kevin Phillips scooped the ball into his arms from close range.
But there was a need still for vigilance in the visiting defence as Leicester sought to ease the pressure on themselves with a second goal. It might have come when Roberts, strong in the air, met Simon Grayson's cross with a firm header. Miller saved that effort and then Keith Millen made a vital challenge to deny Taylor, released clear on goal by Mark Blake's pass.
There then followed two bad misses, one at either end. Phillips swung his shot wide with the goal at his mercy and Roberts, again jumping splendidly, seemed equally sure to put away Leicester's second only for his header to drift outside the woodwork.
Leicester sent on the pacy Julian Joachim in place of Grayson, presumably to give the Watford defence something to worry about, but instead were inclined to invite their opponents to attack by defending deep.Their lead was preserved only when Poole made a brilliant reflex save in the last minute, pushing Phillips's header on to the crossbar.