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Saturday, 27 October 2012

Leicester 1 Crystal Palace 2 - 27 October 2012

Eagles end Foxes' winning streak

Leicester fell to second in the Championship following defeat to Crystal Palace

Leicester City were handed their first league home defeat of the season this afternoon at the hands of managerless Crystal Palace.

Damien Delaney put the Eagles in front midway through the first-half after Kasper Schmeichel had spilled a high ball in the penalty area, before Peter Ramage doubled the visitors’ lead five minutes later with a header from a corner.

Andy King pulled a goal back in second-half stoppage time, but it was not enough to prevent Leicester’s 100 per cent home record coming to an end.

The loss sees Nigel Pearson’s side slip to second in the Championship, following Cardiff City’s 4-0 victory over Burnley.

Crystal Palace looked the more organised side, especially in midfield, and could have gone ahead in the first minute when Dean Murray found space at the back post, but the striker dragged his shot across goal.

At the other end, Lloyd Dyer picked out Jamie Vardy down the left-hand side with a clever ball over the top, and while the former Fleetwood Town striker did well to pull the ball back into the penalty area, David Nugent’s shot was directly into the path of Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni.

Andy King and Anthony Knockaert then had attempts which failed to trouble Speroni, while Wilfried Zaha’s speed and ability started to cause problems for the Leicester backline.

Palace were ahead half-way through the first period when Mile Jedinak’s corner-kick was spilled by Kasper Schmeichel, and although it looked like the Dane may have been impeded when collecting the ball, he could do nothing about Damien Delany’s powerful finish from ten yards.

The visitors looked the better side after the goal, and almost doubled their advantage when Zaha’s strike from 25 yards hit the outside netting of the Leicester goal.

The Foxes were 2-0 down soon afterwards when Peter Ramage headed past Schmeichel from Yannick Bolasie’s corner.

The goal capped a six-minute period which would have left Nigel Pearson fuming on the touchline, especially with the way both goals were conceded from set pieces.

Leicester nearly pulled a goal back five minutes before half-time, but David Nugent’s close-range effort was somehow cleared off the line by the Crystal Palace defence.

Andy King then forced a brilliant save from Julian Speroni with a fine curling strike from just inside the penalty area, which might have given the Foxes a route back into the game before the break.

Leicester did improve in the second-half and should have gone ahead before the hour mark when Wes Morgan’s header across goal picked out Jamie Vardy, but his effort failed to test Speroni as it sailed over the crossbar. 

As Leicester pushed forward in numbers, they were left vulnerable in defence and could have fallen further behind if it wasn’t for a strong last-ditch challenge by Morgan on Wilfried Zaha.

The Foxes were denied a possible penalty when David Nugent’s header was cleared off the line by Owen Garvan, and although the Leicester players shouted for handball, no spot kick was awarded and Palace were able to clear their lines.

Leicester did got on the score sheet in second-half stoppage time when Andy King headed past Speroni from Paul Konchesky’s cross, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation as the Foxes fell to their first Championship home defeat of the season.

Man of the Match – Wilfried Zaha  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Leicester City 1 Brighton 0 - 23 October 2012

Sixth win in six leaves Foxes top of the league

Leicester City are now undefeated in seven league games

Leicester City maintained their position at the top of the Championship with a narrow 1-0 win over Brighton at the King Power Stadium.

In front of a home crowd of over 25,000, Andy King scored the only goal of the game ten minutes into the first-half after his initial shot was blocked inside the penalty area by Gordon Greer.

The visitors were awarded a second-half penalty when Zak Whitbread was adjudged to have brought down Will Buckley inside the area, but Ashley Barnes’ spot kick was well-saved by Foxes’ goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Barnes might have rescued a point for Brighton in stoppage time, but was unable to hit the target from the edge of the penalty area with plenty of time to settle his position before shooting.

It was Leicester’s sixth consecutive league win at the King Power Stadium, and seventh game unbeaten – an excellent run of form which has given the Foxes top spot in the Championship with one-quarter of the season played.

Nigel Pearson named an unchanged starting eleven from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham, and although Leicester began the first-half more tentatively than usual, they were ahead after just ten minutes after some excellent work by David Nugent on the left wing allowed him to break into the Brighton area and lay the ball off to Andy King, and although the midfielder’s shot was initially blocked, he made no mistake in finding the back of the net with the follow-up.

The early advantage seemed to trouble Brighton - especially defensively, as Gus Poyet’s side began misplacing passes under continual pressure from Leicester’s forward players.

Ritchie De Laet then broke into the Brighton penalty area and played a clever ball across goal to Andy King, but the Welshman was unable to add to his earlier goal, seeing his effort go way over the bar.

At the other end, Liam Bridcutt kept Kasper Schmeichel on his toes with a looping free-kick to the back post, forcing the Danish shot-stopper to tip the ball wide for a corner.

The ever-dangerous Anthony Knockaert then tested Tomasz Kuszczak with a shot from 20 yards, but the former Manchester United goalkeeper was equal to it.

Brighton began to increase tempo towards the end of the half, and could have been level when Craig Mackail-Smith latched on to Ritchie De Laet’s poor backpass, but Kasper Schmeichel was alert to make an important stop.

Mackail-Smith continued to try and cause the Foxes’ backline problems after the break with his pace and persistence, but in actual fact, Foxes captain Wes Morgan and Zak Whitbread were able to marshal the threat of Mackail-Smith for the majority of the game.

David Nugent then stung the palms of Tomasz Kuszczak with a powerful curling strike from the edge of the penalty area, but Brighton were given a glorious opportunity to draw level moments later when Zak Whitbread was adjudged to have upended Will Buckley inside the Leicester penalty area.

Ashley Barnes stepped up to take the spot-kick, but could not beat Kasper Schmeichel who guessed correctly – and although the rebound fell into the path of Barnes, the follow-up shot flew high over the crossbar, much to the relief of the Leicester fans.

Brighton seemed to lose momentum after the missed penalty, and Leicester could have doubled their advantage when Martyn Waghorn picked out Lloyd Dyer with a good cross into the Brighton eighteen-yard box, but the connecting header sailed wide of the left-hand post.

Paul Konchesky then had a shot beaten away by Tomasz Kuszczak, before substitute Jamie Vardy headed wide from inside the penalty area as the Foxes looked to tighten their grip on their opponents.

Andy King fired a shot across goal after Anthony Knockaert had done well to pick him out from the right-hand side, but dragged the ball inches wide of the Brighton goal.

For all of Leicester’s chances to put the game to bed, Ashley Barnes had a late chance to salvage a point for the visitors, but was unable to hit the target from the edge of the area despite having time and space to compose himself.

The final whistle blew, giving Leicester a narrow but deserved victory – one that keeps them top of the Championship for at least another few days.

Man of the Match – Wes Morgan

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Leicester City 2 Bristol City 0 – 6 October 2012

Foxes stay perfect at home

Leicester City have won five league games in a row at home this season

Leicester City climbed to the top of the Championship with a comfortable win over Bristol City at the King Power Stadium.

David Nugent netted his fifth goal of the season after latching on to a clever through ball from Jamie Vardy midway through the first-half.

The one-time England international was involved in Leicester’s second when Andy King’s chip into the box was bundled into the visitors’ net by defender Richard Foster, who was under pressure from Nugent inside the six-yard box.

Paul Konchesky and Sean St. Ledger both had to leave the game through injury after the break, but Nigel Pearson will be happy enough that his side maintained their 100 per cent league record at home.

With Cardiff City facing Ipswich Town in this evening’s late Championship fixture, victory for Leicester allowed them to climb above the Bluebirds and into first place.

Pearson named an unchanged starting eleven from the side that won 2-0 away at Huddersfield in midweek, and Leicester looked the sharper of the two sides from the start when David Nugent snuck in behind the Robins’ defence after a clever pass from Anthony Knockaert, but the shot was from a tight angle and directly into the path of goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Lloyd Dyer’s powerful shot was tipped round the post by Heaton after some trickery on the edge of the box, before Knockaert saw his low free-kick parried away for a corner.

Albert Adomah looked like the only real threat for the visitors, although he dragged his first-half shot well wide and never really troubled Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester continued to push forward in search of an opener, and came close to breaking the deadlock when Andy King played the ball to Jamie Vardy inside the Bristol City penalty area, but the former Fleetwood striker was unable to get the ball from under his feet in time to trouble the goalkeeper.

Vardy was, however, involved in Leicester’s first goal when he played the ball over the defence for Nugent, who showed great power in brushing past the last man and coolly slotting the ball past Tom Heaton.

It was a fantastically well-worked goal by the two strikers, and one that showed the instinctive nature of Nugent and his ability to burst away from defenders.

It was no surprise to see Leicester play with confidence in the first-half, having won their last four league games, and the midfield was particularly impressive in retaining the ball and forcing the opposition into making careless mistakes.

Knockaert tested Heaton with a long-range strike ten minutes before the break, before Wes Morgan’s important block forced Albert Adomah’s effort behind for a corner.

Leicester continued to pepper away at the Bristol City goal in the second-half with shots from Andy King and Anthony Knockaert, although the hosts may be accused of taking their foot off the gas after the break.

The Foxes did double their advantage with just over fifteen minutes remaining when Andy King’s cross into the box was inadvertently headed into the net by defender Richard Foster, with David Nugent putting him under pressure.

It was a deserved second goal for Leicester, who had been the stronger of the two sides for the majority of the match, and had played with confidence and composure throughout.

Bristol City's only real chance of the second-half came when substitute Zak Whitbread was caught in possession by Stephen Pearson, but his attempt to catch Kasper Schmeichel off his line from 40 yards flew well over the bar.

Leicester almost grabbed a third goal in second-half stoppage time, but Anthony Knockaert's curling shot was well-saved by Tom Heaton.

The final whistle gave Leicester their fifth consecutive league victory, and preserved their unbeaten record this season at the King Power Stadium.

While it may seem that the October international break has now come at the wrong time for the Foxes, Nigel Pearson will be glad of the two-week break to assess the fitness of Sean St. Ledger, who was substituted mid-way through the second half after he appeared to pull up with a hamstring problem.

Man of the Match – Liam Moore

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Nigel Pearson countering critics with consistency

Are the Foxes back to winning ways?

Leicester City’s fourth successive Championship victory has come amidst real doubt over the future of Nigel Pearson.  Recent rumours arising that the Raksriaksorns have former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp in line to succeed Pearson have done nothing but bring an air of concern, tension and instability to the King Power Stadium.  Prior to this, suggestions of behind-the-scenes bust-ups between the manager and players who haven’t featured in the side for several weeks (some have gone out on short-term loans) have given critics the impression that Nigel Pearson has lost the dressing room.  In the opening nine games of the season, a fair assessment of Leicester City would be solid, albeit unspectacular.  A lack of consistency has plagued some away performances, but back-to-back wins has the Foxes in the automatic promotion places at the beginning of October.  Two weeks ago, many fans were calling for the manager’s head, claiming that the club were no better off now than they were before Nigel Pearson made his return toward the end of 2011.

The Championship is highly unpredictable.  It would be fair to say that at this point in the season, there are no teams which any objective writer could say are head and shoulders above the rest in the division.  Cardiff City, like Leicester, have won six of their first nine games (impressive, but not a mind-blowing record).  So, why is it that grass always seems greener to Foxes fans?  That the next new manager could win promotion, or the unused substitute is the game-changer?

Nigel Pearson is a well-respected manager, and person, among his peers.  Very rarely is a bad word said about him in the footballing world.  His calm and pragmatic demeanour may be hit-and-miss with journalists and may never make him that much of a character in post-game interviews, but his unwillingness to be fazed by concern that the owners have lined up his replacement, or by rumours that he is just one bad result away from losing his job, speaks volumes of his character.  More importantly, Leicester fans should know that the revolving-door to the managerial hot-seat in recent years has very rarely resulted in anything positive (it should be remembered that during his first two seasons with the club, Pearson almost achieved back-to-back promotions).  Those who critique him are not managers, yet they are the first to complain when something isn’t working, and those who circulate rumours are the least likely to fully understand the goings-on behind the scenes.

Other sides in this division would love the type of consistency being installed at Leicester City.  Recent performances suggest that Nigel Pearson is picking a side not only that he thinks can win games, but picking the players who have shown that they want to be a part of that.  Martyn Waghorn has enjoyed a lot more playing time recently, as has formerly out-of-favour centre-back Sean St. Ledger.  Both have been impressive.  Even if the result doesn’t go our way, it’d be difficult to pick out anyone who hasn’t given everything when given that opportunity – and left everything on the pitch at the final whistle.  That’s the team being put together here; one that never quits. 

Perhaps, this season, we should all have a little more faith.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Leicester City 3 Hull City 1 – 23 September 2012

Nugent nets hat-trick as Foxes tame Tigers

© isriya, Flickr

David Nugent scored his second, third and fourth goals of the season as Leicester's fine home run continues

David Nugent scored a hat-trick as Leicester won their second game in five days to give Nigel Pearson a win over his former employers.

Nugent opened the scoring after seven minutes with a fine curling strike after Danny Drinkwater’s shot had fallen kindly into his path.

Jay Simpson equalised for the visitors midway through the first-half, but Nugent grabbed his second goal five minutes before the break with a fine header into the bottom corner from Anthony Knockaert’s cross.

Hull manager Steve Bruce was sent to the stands in the second-half after an altercation with an assistant referee before Nugent completed his hat-trick in stoppage time after the Foxes caught the visitors on the break.

Leicester’s second win in five days pushes them up to seventh in the Championship, while they remain undefeated in league games at the King Power Stadium so far this season.

Nigel Pearson started with the same eleven that defeated Burnley on Wednesday night, and he only had to wait until the seventh minute to see his side go ahead as Danny Drinkwater’s ambitious strike hit Nugent inside the penalty area, before the frontman regained his composure to curl the ball past Hull goalkeeper Ben Amos.

It was the first time Leicester had scored in the opening half of a league game so far this season, and a sign that Nugent was back to his best after ending a baron run of not scoring in the Championship with his second goal in as many starts.

The home side continued to pressure Hull and could have doubled their lead when Jamie Vardy latched onto Anthony Knockaert’s through ball, but his shot was pushed behind by Ben Amos.

From the ensuing corner, the former Fleetwood Town striker saw his effort cleared off the line before David Nugent almost latched onto a Vardy cross as both forwards continued to cause the Hull defence problems.

However, the visitors grabbed an equaliser against the run of play when Sone Aluko fired the ball across goal and directly into the path of teammate Jay Simpson, who stuck a foot out to guide the slam the ball into the net.

Hull could have gone ahead moments later when Wes Morgan was caught in possession at the back by Jay Simpson, but Matty James was on hand to prevent the danger.

Anthony Knockaert’s quick footwork allowed him to pick out Ben Marshall on the flank who fired a dangerous ball into the area intended for Jamie Vardy, but the ball broke for Nugent who could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.

Leicester managed to restore their lead three minutes before half-time when Knockaert picked out David Nugent inside the penalty area with a fantastic cross, and the one-time England international leapt above his marker to head the ball past Ben Amos.

It was a well-worked goal that gave Leicester a deserved advantage before half-time after a first 45 minutes in which both sides had a number of good opportunities.

Jamie Vardy really should have made it 3-1 after the break after he found himself unmarked with the ball at his feet inside the penalty area, but his shot was somehow turned away by Amos.

Wes Morgan headed just over from a corner, while, at the other end, Sone Aluko kept Kasper Schmeichel alert with a decent strike from 25 yards.

Knockaert tested Amos from distance, before Ben Marshall dragged a shot wide as Leicester continued to knock on the door – and the task became much greater for Hull when their manager Steve Bruce was sent to the stands after a reacting angrily to a decision made by the assistant referee who had judged the ball to have gone out of play with Hull on the attack. 

The visitors’ best chance to equalise came from a Robert Koren free-kick which was tipped over the bar by Schmeichel, but as Hull continued to push forward, Leicester caught them on the counter-attack in stoppage time with Lloyd Dyer teeing up Nugent inside the penalty area to complete his hat-trick and give the hosts all three points.

The win meant that Leicester’s 100 per cent home record in the Championship remained intact, as Leicester now turn to two consecutive away games as they look to pick up their first points of the season on their travels.

Man of the Match – Anthony Knockaert 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Leicester City 2 Burnley 1 – 19 September 2012

Foxes fight back to take three points

Leicester are undefeated at the King Power Stadium in Championship games this season

Second-half goals from David Nugent and Jamie Vardy gave Leicester City all three points after falling behind at home to Burnley last night.

The visitors took the lead against the run of play through Dean Marney after just ten minutes, but David Nugent equalised for the Foxes less than two minutes after the restart.

Jamie Vardy put the home side ahead after his shot took a wicked deflection to deceive Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant just before the hour mark, which turned out to be the winning goal on the night.

It was a third consecutive Championship home win for Nigel Pearson’s men, who have taken all of their league points at the King Power Stadium so far this season, and was a good response to a disappointing defeat against Wolves on Sunday.

The first-half was one of very little action, although Leicester looked the more positive side as Ben Marshall and Anthony Knockaert both tested Lee Grant in the Burnley goal with early strikes.

But it was the hosts who were outfoxed out after just ten minutes when Martin Paterson picked out Dean Marney on the right-hand side of the Leicester penalty area with a low pass, and the midfielder smashed the ball past Kasper Schmeichel at the near post to put Burnley ahead.

It was a well-created goal by Eddie Howe’s side, although Sean St. Ledger appeared to give Paterson far too much space on the flank to pick out his teammate.

Leicester seemed sluggish for the remainder of the half, the only notable chance coming five minutes before the internal when David Nugent’s effort from distance struck the top of the crossbar.

As expected, the hosts were much improved in the second-half and they were soon level when Burnley failed to deal with the presence of Jamie Vardy on the edge of the box – and when the ball somehow fell to David Nugent inside the area, his scuffed volley into the ground from ten yards just crept into the bottom corner.

It was hardly a glamorous goal for Nugent’s first of the season, but one that Leicester will certainly have taken after a lacklustre opening 45 minutes.

The equaliser sparked life into the hosts, as Ben Marshall and Jamie Vardy then linked up nicely for the former Fleetwood Town striker to test Lee Grant from close range, but the goalkeeper was equal to it and the chance went begging.

Leicester were ahead just before the hour mark when Anthony Knockaert’s quick feet allowed him to find Vardy on the right-side of the penalty area, and his shot took a huge deflection off Burnley defender Jason Shackell, resulting in the ball flying over the goalkeeper and into the net.

It was another ugly goal, but just the slice of fortune Leicester needed to get ahead in the match – and in truth, was a lead they just deserved after a positive start to the second-half.

Ben Marshall nearly doubled Leicester’s lead with a free-kick on the edge of the area that sailed just over the crossbar, before Cameron Stewart’s shot across goal at the other end kept the Leicester defence alert.

With just under twenty minutes remaining, David Nugent found Danny Drinkwater on the heels of the last defender, and the former Manchester United midfielder did exceptionally well to hold the ball up and test Lee Grant, but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper and the chance came to nothing in the end.

Burnley substitute Sam Vokes struck the outside of the post in the final ten minutes of the game as the visitors pushed for an equalising goal, while at the other end, Anthony Knockaert almost put Leicester out of sight with a fierce strike which was turned away by Lee Grant.

Leicester squandered two glorious counter-attacks to put the game to bed with Lloyd Dyer, Paul Konchesky, and substitute Martyn Waghorn all pushing forward in numbers, but nevertheless, the home side were able to see out the remaining minutes and claim an important three points.

Leicester still boast a 100 per cent at home in the Championship this season, a record Nigel Pearson will be looking to continue this Sunday when his former club Hull City come to town.

Man of the Match – Anthony Knockaert