Town 2-0 Leicester
Sunday, 14th Jan 2001 20:18
Sven-Goran Eriksson got to see two English goalscorers this afternoon as Town comprehensively beat Leicester 2-0. Had it not been for some inspired keeping from former Southend player Simon Royce and one or two bad misses from Town players it could have been even more. Town went back to fourth in the table as Marcus Stewart became the first Town player to top the Premiership goalscoring charts. He now has fourteen League goals and one in each of the cups, his goal today was also his sixth goal in consecutive games.
Leicester came and played the expected defensive spoiling style that they are known for and in the first half it served them well. The Blues left Jermaine Wright on the bench as Jim Magilton and James Scowcroft played in the midfield with Jamie Clapham and Matt Holland. Up front Alun Armstrong returned after missing the Birmingham match having played for Middlesbrough against Macclesfield earlier in the season.
Town dominated vurtually the whole match and started as they meant to go on. It was clear from the off that the game was to be a case of breaking a determined Leicester side down rather than having to take them on at football. The Foxes chased about and harried our players, but Town were getting their passing going better than they had against many sides coming to Portman Road with a similar attitude.
Referee Mike Riley was proving as tricky an opponent for the Blues as Leicester were as he consistantly failed to notice Matt Elliott and his defensive comrades crawling all over Alun Armstrong and James Scowcroft. A number of other puzzling decisions were followed by the referee getting in the way of a Town pass which gave the ball to the visitors. Fortunately for Town and Mr Riley, the Blues won the ball back.
Probably the nearest thing to a goal in the first half was a cross from Fabian Wilnis which looped agonisingly towards Royce's top right hand corner. The keeper got to it well and avoided taking the ball out for a corner.
If the first half had been shaded by Town, then the second half saw a complete domination. Several fans around us suggested that Morecambe's strikers had been a bigger threat to Town than former Norwich-man Ade Akinbiyi and ex-Cambridge player Trevor Benjamin. Both were withdrawn by the end with questions about their suitability to the Premiership being asked by fans of both clubs.
Despite the domination and possession Town just couldn't get the goal which would make it all count. Marcus Stewart hit the bar from close range after a corner from the right. Then the striker hit a volley over the bar, however the chances were being created and it seemed only a matter of time before the goal would come. Matt Holland hit a shot wide as Town continued to pile on the pressure.
Simon Royce was proving an able deputy to Tim Flowers and denied Alun Armstrong a goal with a brilliant right-handed save. The Town striker headed towards the bottom corner of the net and Royce appeared from nowhere to put the ball round the post. From the resulting corner Hermann Hreidarsson had an opportunity when Trevor Benjamin allowed him a free header. The Icelander spurned the chance and headed over.
Next Matt Holland had a header pushed round the post by Royce as Town fans wondered whether a goal would ever come. James Scowcroft turned and shot on goal from close after a throw-in from the right. However, Gary Rowett deflected the ball over, although this wasn't noticed by referee Riley and Leicester were awarded a goalkick.
Finally, as the game entered the last ten minutes, Town did break the deadlock with the move ironically beginning from Leicester's first attempt on goal. Steve Guppy crossed deep from the Leicester left where Andy Impey weakly headed to the under-employed Richard Wright. Wright distributed the ball quickly to Jamie Clapham who passed the ball towards Gary Rowett's left for Hreidarsson to run on to. The Leicester player tried to shield the ball out, but Hreidarsson ran round him and put a short pass into Alun Armstrong just inside the Leicester box. Armstrong took a swing at the ball and tried to send a shot goalwards. Instead he hit it good and solid to Marcus Stewart who nodded home from six yards. It was as much as Town deserved and, much like the Charlton game, it had been a long time coming.
Leicester now had to come out and make a game of it. However, this allowed Town a bit more space and the Blues continued to push for a goal. Titus Bramble was booked for the third game running when he came in to tackle Richard Cresswell. The yellow card appeared to be harsh as the Town defender looked like he had got the ball. Sub Jermaine Wright, on the pitch for Alun Armstrong, hammered a shot which Royce once again saved.
With the ninety minutes nearly up the ball was played to Marcus Stewart on the edge of the area. He laid the ball wide to Fabian Wilnis who whipped an excellent cross to James Scowcroft who headed powerfully home. Scowcroft had gone into attack when Alun Armstrong had been replaced. It was a fine goal from another superb Wilnis cross.
And that was that. The North Stand sang out the rest of the game asking whether any of our canary bretheren happened to be watching on Sky and imploring Sven-Goran to pick Marcus Stewart. The striker couldn't have done himself any harm while Richard Wright couldn't really impress as he had so little to do. What he did have to do, however, he did well.
With forty points now attained, the level generally accepted as the points total which is enough to avoid relegation, the Town faithful celebrated in song our continued Premiership status, before looking to our new target: a European tour.
Photo: Action Images
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