Threat to Leicester dream of success

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

How quickly times have changed for Leicester. From the whipping boys of spring to autumn's hot tip for the top they have gone in one jump; one downwards jump, across the chasm dividing Premiership from the rest.

In the big league last season, Leicester were trampled under foot, even at home by teams looking for easy points. Now "Fortress Filbert Street" is the buzz phrase and visiting managers acknowledge City's strengths in respectful tones.

They played well on Saturday and thoroughly deserve to be where they are, with only Millwall ahead in the elite zone of the Endsleigh League. But no one should delude themselves. The players who look slick and sharp in this company are, for the most part, the same ones who a summer's span ago were out of their depth.

No one acknowledges this as readily as Mark McGhee, their candidly honest manager. "Regardless of how well we do we have got to remember that this, in a sense, is second rate. It is not the Premier League and there is a whole lot more needed in the Premier League than there is in this division."

Put in that grim perspective, it made it all seem a bit pointless. More and more the dream of promotion is being spoiled by the underlying suspicion that it is merely a passport to failure and despondency and this cannot do football any good. Sir John Hall is right when he says that, from the next batch of television money, a large chunk should be earmarked for the Endsleigh League.

For the moment, though, they can live in hope. On Saturday's evidence, they are as likely as anyone to be dining again at the rich man's table. By comparison, Wolves, who need hand-outs much less, at times looked ordinary.

McGhee, who made Reading an unlikely force, is moulding his new team in their image, all smooth passing and movement, with Garry Parker calling the shots from deep in midfield.

Both at Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, Parker had the playmaker's gift for delivering an accurate pass but has had to wait until now, almost into his 31st year, to be given the responsibility McGhee has trusted him with.

He was at the hub of every good Leicester move, in fact, including the goal, whipped in from six yards by the full back, Mike Whitlow, following a Parker cross.

Only in the last 30 minutes, when legs began to tire, did Leicester look vulnerable to their opponents' more direct approach. But with Tony Daley still to find his feet after serious injury, and Steve Froggatt and Geoff Thomas similarly handicapped, the service to the front men that might have posed problems was not provided.

Goal: Whitlow (27) 1-0.

Leicester City (4-1-2-3): Poole; Grayson, Willis (Blake, 79) Walsh, Whitlow; Parker; Taylor, Corica; Joachim (Lewis, 89), Roberts, Lowe. Substitute not used: Robins.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Thompson, de Wolf, Richards, Pearce; Daley (Thomas, 73), Emblen (Kelly, 73), Venus, Ferguson; Bull, Goodman. Substitute not used: Froggatt.

Referee: J Lloyd (Wrexham).