Raven checks Leicester's play-off hopes

Leicester City 1 West Bromwich Albion 2
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The Independent Online
PHIL SHAW

Leicester City 1 West Bromwich Albion 2

A goal in the dying seconds by Paul Raven all but ended Albion's fears of relegation while hitting Leicester's hopes of edging back into the play-off zone at Filbert Street last night. Albion had led through Richard Sneekes' seventh goal in eight matches since arriving from Bolton, only for Leicester to level with Mark Robins's first goal for five months.

Misfortune dogged Leicester literally from the start, as their leading scorer, Iwan Roberts, injured a rib after colliding with Albion's Stacy Caldicott with only seven seconds on the clock. The Welsh striker, being watched by his national manager, Bobby Gould, departed on a stretcher to give Robins a rare "starting'' opportunity.

Robins' first contribution of note was a slide-rule pass to Scott Taylor worthy of any playmaker. Had the roles been reversed, Leicester would surely have gone in front. Instead, Taylor, a midfielder, hooked wide with only Nigel Spink to beat, and his aberration took on added significance in the 18th minute.

There appeared little imminent danger as Ian Hamilton and Andy Hunt combined to set up Sneekes some 25 yards from goal. The lank-haired Dutchman, who has sparked a Gullitesque trend for wig-wearing among Albion's followers, exploited Leicester's hesitation by unleashing a right-footed drive which lodged in the stanchion like a golfer's hole-in-one.

Leicester were seemingly so stunned by the ferocity of Sneekes' finishing that they did not recover their momentum until half-time was almost upon them. Robins then forced Spink to demonstrate his Premiership pedigree with a stinging drive, and Steve Claridge had already miscued from close range early in the second half before Albion were hoist by their own petard.

On this occasion, shortly before the hour mark, Taylor and Robins fulfiled their allotted roles to perfection. The former swung in a centre from the Albion left, which Robins met with an instinctive volley from 10 yards. The ball hit the net like a white blur before Spink could move.

Leicester looked far more purposeful once parity had been restored. Steve Walsh, firing into the side-netting, and Robins heading straight at Spink after Walsh's aerial strength had unsettled Albion, might have improved their wretched home record. But, in stoppage time, Raven climbed unchallenged to head Sneekes' corner past Kevin Poole.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Watts, Walsh, Whitlow; S Taylor, Lennon, Izzett, Heskey; Claridge, Roberts (Robins, 1). Substitutes not used: Carey, Parker.

West Bromwich Albion (5-3-2): Spink; Caldicott (Gilbert, 62), Mardon, Burgess, Raven, Nicholson; Butler, Sneekes, Hamilton; Hunt, R Taylor. Substitutes not used: Angell, Donovan.

Referee: I Cruikshanks (Hartlepool).

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