Leicester extended their unbeaten league run to sixteen games after coming from behind to beat Blackpool at the King Power Stadium this afternoon.
David Goodwillie gave the Seasiders an unlikely lead four minutes before the interval after Leicester had squandered a number of goal-scoring opportunities in the first-half.
But Nigel Pearson’s men were much-improved after the break, and drew level on the hour mark courtesy of a fantastic strike from Riyad Mahrez.
Blackpool continued to frustrate the Foxes, but Wes Morgan’s close-range header gave Leicester the lead with eight minutes remaining, before substitute Kevin Phillips added a third to complete the turnaround.
It was Leicester’s fourth win in a row, and one that not only extends their unbeaten run to sixteen games, but also widens the gap between themselves and third-placed Derby County to seventeen points.
Nigel Pearson named an unchanged starting eleven to the side that comfortably won at Barnsley, preferring to stick with Jeff Schlupp and Marcin Wasilewski over the now-available Paul Konchesky and Liam Moore.
The Foxes dominated the opening stages of the game, with Riyad Mahrez curling a shot from distance wide of Matt Gilks’ far post, before Marcin Wasilewski found Jamie Vardy in the Blackpool penalty area with an excellent long ball just moments later, although the in-form striker misjudged his header and the danger was cleared by the visitors.
Danny Drinkwater then fired wide as the Foxes started to turn up the pressure on Blackpool, before Jamie Vardy had a goal ruled out by the offside flag after a clever through ball from his strike partner David Nugent.
Anthony Knockaert’s mazy run in on goal allowed the Frenchman to test Matt Gilks’ with a low shot which almost slipped underneath the Blackpool shot-stopper, while, at the other end, Neal Bishop really should have put the visitors ahead after finding himself unmarked in the Leicester penalty area following a corner kick, but his header was well off-target.
On the half-hour mark, Jamie Vardy almost broke the deadlock with a close-range volley from Ritchie De Laet’s cross, but his effort flew wide of the mark and the chance went begging.
Leicester had a glorious chance to go ahead before half-time when Riyad Mahrez put Vardy through on goal with a fantastic through ball, but the former Fleetwood Town striker dragged his shot wide of the far post.
The Foxes were then made to pay for their lack of composure in front of goal with four minutes remaining in the first half, when Kasper Schmeichel’s poor punched clearance from a long throw-in by the visitors led to the ball falling to David Goodwillie, who volleyed in from close-range.
It was a poor goal for the hosts to concede and one which came against the run of play for Barry Ferguson’s side.
Leicester were improved in the second-half, with the majority of the attacking play involving the impressive Mahrez, who almost picked out Jamie Vardy in a dangerous position, but the ball evaded the striker’s outstretched leg in the penalty area.
With players and fans alike becoming frustrated with the way the match seemed to be going and some of the decisions being made by referee Nigel Miller, the Foxes drew level on the hour mark when Riyad Mahrez cut inside from the right wing before firing a superb swerving strike into the far corner of the goal with Matt Gilks absolutely helpless to stop it.
It was a real moment of magic from the winger – his second goal of the game since making his move to the King Power Stadium – and one which provided the impetus for Leicester to push on and take control of the game.
Jamie Vardy came close to instantly putting Leicester ahead after the restart, but was thwarted at the last possible moment by the Blackpool backline, before Matty James’ positive run into the area came to an end after the midfielder took one touch too many.
Matt Gilks had to be alert to keep out David Nugent’s header after Riyad Mahrez picked out the frontman after a set play had broken down, before substitute Gary Taylor-Fletcher came close with a wonderful team move including Nugent and Jeff Schlupp, but the former Blackpool man couldn’t quite hit the target.
Nugent then saw his header cleared off the line with time running out in the match, but, with eight minutes remaining, Riyad Mahrez superbly picked out Wes Morgan at the back post with a pinpoint cross, allowing the Foxes captain to head the ball into the net.
It was an excellent cross from Mahrez and a timely goal from Morgan for his first of the season.
The turnaround was complete three minutes before the end when Danny Drinkwater’s cross intended for Gary Taylor-Fletcher fell to substitute Kevin Phillips, and the veteran striker did well to turn inside the box and fire the ball high into the net.
It was a neat finish from Phillips, who showed admirable respect to his former club with a muted celebration, and a perfect demonstration of why Nigel Pearson brought him to Leicester City earlier this year.
Leicester had a number of chances to extend their 3-1 lead in the dying stages of the match, with Phillips firing over the bar from close range and Danny Drinkwater having a dangerous pass across goal parried away by Matt Gilks, but the three points were very much safe by that point, and the final whistle confirmed Leicester’s fourth win in as many games as their quest for automatic promotion continues.
Man of the Match – Riyad Mahrez
Leicester City extended their lead at the top of the Championship to thirteen points with a comfortable win over Charlton Athletic this afternoon at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes were not at their best in the first-half, but took an early lead through Jamie Vardy’s close-range finish after just nine minutes.
Leicester doubled their lead three minutes after half-time through Danny Drinkwater, after David Nugent had initially been denied from close range.
Nugent’s excellent strike after the hour mark put the game well beyond the visitors, who struggled to establish themselves in the match, while the Foxes maintained their impressive fourteen-game unbeaten run dating back to mid-December.
Other results meant that the Foxes remain eight points clear at the top of the Championship, but extend their lead over third-placed Derby County to thirteen points with just thirteen games remaining this season.
It was Leicester’s 23rd league win of the campaign, and, while Nigel Pearson’s side were never really threatened by their struggling opponents, it was further proof that this team has made huge strides, both mentally and physically, following the their end-of-season implosion less than twelve months ago.
Riyad Mahrez was the only change to the starting XI that defeated Ipswich Town at the King Power Stadium last weekend, with Lloyd Dyer out of the match-day squad though injury.
Leicester had the first clear-cut opportunity when Jamie Vardy broke through the Charlton backline following a quick one-two, but goalkeeper Ben Hamer was out in time to save with his feet, in what would be a busy day for the Charlton shot-stopper.
Leicester took the lead just moments later when David Nugent found his strike partner Vardy after good initial work from Anthony Knockaert, before the former Fleetwood Town man rounded one defender before composing himself on the edge of the six-yard box and slotted the ball past Ben Hamer.
It was a well-worked goal by the Foxes and Vardy’s third in as many games, as he continues to look more and more like a player ready for the challenges of the next tier of English football.
Anthony Knockaert’s dangerous ball into the box shortly after the restart forced Ben Hamer to parry the ball away, before Simon Church took advantage of a defensive mix-up and forced Kasper Schmeichel into making a save after Wes Morgan had allowed a long ball to bounce between himself and the goalkeeper.
At the other end, David Nugent headed over from a Riyad Mahrez cross into the box, before the one-time England international saw his shot deflected over for a corner midway a few minutes later.
Leicester were comfortable in the opening 45 minutes but were never required to move out of second gear, as the visitors struggled to find a foothold in the game.
Riyad Mahrez came close for the Foxes five minutes before half-time with a powerful strike across goal from 20 yards, while former Leicester City midfielder Astrit Ajdarević fired high and wide for Charlton in the last real action of the first-half.
Leicester quickly doubled their lead shortly after the interval when Jeffrey Schlupp’s low cross found David Nugent in front of goal, and while his shot was excellently saved by Ben Hamer, the ball fell to Danny Drinkwater who drove the ball into the net from twelve yards.
It was harsh on Hamer, who had done brilliantly to deny Nugent from point-blank range, but a goal that emphasised Leicester’s dominance in the match.
Drinkwater put Hamer to the test shortly afterwards with a fierce strike from distance, but the goalkeeper was equal to it this time as the ball was punched away, and David Nugent’s follow-up was blocked for a corner.
Leicester extended their advantage with a little over 25 minutes remaining when David Nugent picked up a pass from Jamie Vardy before bearing down on goal and rifling a shot past Ben Hamer into the far corner of the net.
It was a superb finish from Nugent for his nineteenth of the season, and a well-deserved goal on top of a good performance for the 28-year old.
The game was now well out of sight for the visitors but the Foxes continued to press for more goals, and Nugent might have had his second and Leicester’s fourth were it not for another superb stop by Ben Hamer from close range.
Anthony Knockaert’s stretched effort flew just wide of the far post with five minutes remaining, by which time it was clear that Leicester were well on course for their thirteenth home league win this season.
The final whistle confirmed this, and, with results around the league going Leicester’s way, the Foxes extended their gap between themselves and third-placed Derby County to thirteen points, as Nigel Pearson’s men continue to look more and more like a Championship-winning side bound for the Premier League.
Man of the Match – David Nugent
Leicester City returned to winning ways with a comfortable win over Ipswich Town at the King Power Stadium this afternoon.
Jamie Vardy put the Foxes ahead after nineteen minutes with a cool finish from a tight angle, before David Nugent added a second just after the half-hour mark – his fourteenth goal in thirteen games against the Tractor Boys, and his 50th as a Leicester City player.
The pace of the game slowed after the interval, but substitute Chris Wood scored Leicester’s third in the closing stages to put the game out of reach for Mick McCarthy’s side.
It was Leicester’s 22nd league win of the season, and one which maintains their thirteen-game unbeaten run and ten-point cushion at the top of the Championship.
But more importantly, it was a confident and professional display against a team challenging for the play-offs, and another indication that Nigel Pearson’s men have no intention of letting up or losing focus until their aim of reaching the Premier League as champions has been reached.
The one enforced change from Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest was Jeff Schlupp, who stepped in for the suspended Paul Konchesky, while Riyad Mahrez, who scored Leicester’s equaliser in mid-week, was kept out of the starting XI by Lloyd Dyer.
The Foxes were on top in the opening stages of the first-half, and came close after just four minutes when Wes Morgan’s header hit the target from a corner, but Dean Gerken did well to push the ball away.
At the other end, Cole Skuse could have given the visitors an early advantage when a mix-up at the back for the Foxes gifted the Ipswich midfielder an opportunity to test Kasper Schmeichel, but his shot flew just wide of the right post.
Aaron Cresswell then forced a save with a dangerous cross which needed to be tipped over the bar by the Danish international for an Ipswich corner.
But it wasn’t long afterwards that Leicester were ahead, when Jamie Vardy gambled on a poor back-pass from Jay Tabb, before rounding Dean Gerken and finding the net from a tight angle for his twelfth goal of the season.
It was a neat finish by Vardy, who continues to established himself as a fan-favourite amongst Leicester supporters, and indicative of the strides he has made to becoming a staple in Nigel Pearson’s starting line-up since his arrival at the King Power Stadium a little over eighteen months ago.
Leicester then began to take control of the game, as they have done so successfully for most of this season, with Matty James and Danny Drinkwater enjoying the lion’s share of possession in midfield.
And Foxes fans only had to wait until the half-hour mark to see their side double their advantage when Ritchie De Laet played a pinpoint ball through to Jamie Vardy, whose return pass to the Belgian full-back provided a crossing opportunity, and while the first attempt was blocked, De Laet’s second ball into the box found David Nugent lurking at the back post who finished from close range.
It was a well-worked goal by Leicester City and David Nugent’s 50th goal since joining the Foxes in 2011.
It was also Nugent’s fourteenth goal in thirteen games against Ipswich, as the one-time England international continues his quest to seemingly torment the Tractor Boys.
Leicester were now in control, and could have added a third before half-time through an Anthony Knockaert free-kick from twenty yards, but the Frenchman’s effort flew just wide of the right post.
Marcin Wasilewski then headed just over the bar from close range as the first-half came to a close, much to the relief of the Ipswich Town backline who had struggled to cope with Jamie Vardy’s pace in the opening 45 minutes.
The Foxes began the second-half as they had finished the first, with Lloyd Dyer breaking through on goal, but the visitors were able to clear the danger to keep the score at 2-0.
Anthony Knockaert then fired wide for the home side following an extended period of Leicester pressure, which was created as a result of another surging run from Jamie Vardy.
Meanwhile, Tommy Smith could have given Ipswich a lifeline just before the hour mark, but his header at the back post was high and wide.
Jeff Schlupp tested Dean Gerken with a powerful strike down the goalkeeper’s throat from a tight angle, while, at the other end, substitute Paul Taylor’s header was blocked inside the penalty area as time continued to run out for Mick McCarthy’s men.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Chris Wood put the game out of sight after latching on to Matty James’ through ball before slotting the ball past Dean Gerken to make it 3-0.
It was a deserved third goal for Leicester, with substitute Kevin Phillips also involved in the build-up, and just a reminder to Nigel Pearson that he has options in attack should they be required during the home stretch of the 2013-14 season.
The final whistle confirmed Leicester’s twelfth win in sixteen league fixtures at the King Power Stadium, and maintained their unbeaten run in the Championship dating back to 14 December 2013, as the Foxes continue to look strong favourites for promotion to the Premier League this year.
Man of the Match – Jamie Vardy
Danny Drinkwater’s spectacular stoppage-time equaliser rescued a deserved point for Leicester City who had to come from two goals behind against Watford at a blustery King Power Stadium this afternoon.
Fernando Forestieri gave the Hornets an early lead, before Sean Murray’s low drive doubled the visitors’ advantage five minutes before half-time.
Matty James pulled a goal back two minutes later, and while the hosts dominated possession in the second-half, it appeared that they were headed for their first loss of 2014.
But Danny Drinkwater’s last-gasp volley ensured that Leicester’s eleven-game unbeaten run in the Championship remained intact.
Leicester remain eleven points clear at the top of the Championship with sixteen games remaining, and, although the result snapped the Foxes’ nine-game winning streak, Nigel Pearson will be pleased with his team’s performance and character after finding themselves two goals down against a team who set out to frustrate the home side.
Pearson named an unchanged starting eleven from last week’s 1-0 win at Bournemouth, but it was the visitors who took a surprise lead when Fernando Forestieri turned in Troy Deeney’s off-target effort.
Kasper Schmeichel and the Foxes’ backline were convinced that Forestieri was offside when he made contact with the ball, but their complaints fell on deaf ears as the goal was given.
Leicester searched for an immediate response and came close when Marcin Wasilewski headed just wide from a Matty James corner.
At the other end, Marco Faraoni hit the side netting after the Foxes struggled to deal with a Watford corner kick, before Troy Deeney fired well wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Leicester were playing into a strong breeze in the first 45 minutes, but the conditions almost lead to an equaliser when the wind carried another Matty James corner kick goal-bound, but the ball was cleared off the line.
Gabriele Angella’s overhead-kick inside the penalty area forced Kasper Schmeichel into making an acrobatic save ten minutes before half-time, but the Danish international could do nothing about Watford’s second goal as Sean Murray collected the ball in the final third and fired a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Leicester needed a response, and demonstrated resilience in finding one when Ritchie De Laet picked out his former Manchester United teammate Matty James in the penalty area, and his low volley found its way past Manuel Almunia for his first goal of the season.
It was a turning point in the match and gave the Foxes real momentum going into the dressing room at half-time, and a sense of belief that they could recover to claim something from the match.
Leicester were more dominant in the second-half, as Lloyd Dyer set out on a trademark blistering run down the left wing, but his cutback into the penalty area couldn’t find David Nugent and the ball was cleared by the Watford defence.
Jamie Vardy almost latched onto Wes Morgan’s long clearance just minutes later, but Manuel Almunia was quick out of his goal to avert any danger.
The Foxes continued to ask most of the questions, but Watford had a glorious opportunity to put the game out of sight when Forestieri broke past the Leicester defence and seemed in on goal, but he opted to square the ball to Troy Deeney at the back post but could not pick out his teammate with an accurate pass.
Nigel Pearson brought on Kevin Phillips and Riyad Mahrez in quick succession with just over fifteen minutes remaining, but Watford were resolute in defence as Leicester’s nine-game winning streak seemed in jeopardy.
Chris Wood replaced Marcin Wasilewski as the Foxes looked to throw everything at the visitors, but when Almunia denied Kevin Phillips at the back post, it began to appear that it just wouldn’t be Leicester’s day.
But in the fourth minute of injury time, Danny Drinkwater fired a stunning volley into the top corner to send the home crowd into raptures.
It was a deserved equaliser for Leicester who had put on a dominant display despite being behind for most of the match.
The Foxes almost snatched all three points when a last-gasp corner kick fell to David Nugent in the penalty area, but his shot flew just wide of the post as the final whistle drew a close to a pulsating end to the match.
The result extended Leicester’s unbeaten streak in the league to eleven games, and gave Nigel Pearson’s men an important point as their chase for automatic promotion continues.
Man of the Match – Matty James
Leicester City will begin 2014 with a four-point cushion at the top of the Championship following an enthralling 5-3 win over Bolton Wanderers at the King Power Stadium.
Danny Drinkwater gave Leicester an early lead, but Bolton fought back and scored twice in five minutes through André Moritz and former Foxes striker Jermaine Beckford.
Anthony Knockaert drew the Foxes level with a back-post header, but Moritz scored just seconds later to restore Bolton’s lead.
Former Leicester City captain Matt Mills scored an unfortunate own-goal which brought an end to an encapsulating opening 45 minutes, and when David Nugent missed a second-half penalty, it seemed that Nigel Pearson’s men would have to settle for a draw.
But Lloyd Dyer edged the home side ahead with a stunning solo effort with fifteen minutes remaining, before substitute Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored his first goal since joining the Foxes to give the hosts breathing room before the final whistle.
It was a great display of character by Nigel Pearson’s men, who have now won three consecutive games, and, with Burnley and QPR both failing to win today, the Foxes extended their lead at the top of the Championship table to four points.
Dougie Freedman, whose starting XI included former Foxes Jermaine Beckford, Matt Mills and Jay Spearing, has seen his Bolton team suffer a disappointing start to the 2013/14 Championship season – and it didn’t get any better when Danny Drinkwater put Leicester ahead after just five minutes with a fine strike into the bottom left-hand corner from eighteen yards.
It was a dream start for Leicester City, who had struggled to convert goal-scoring opportunities in recent weeks, but Nigel Pearson will have been pleased to see his side take the lead with their first legitimate effort on goal.
Ritchie De Laet and Matty James then tested the Trotters with consecutive attacking runs into the Bolton penalty area as Leicester pressed for a second goal, but it was the visitors who found the back of the net when André Moritz latched onto Lee Chung-Yong’s pass into the penalty area and found the bottom corner of the net with a low shot from twelve yards.
The equaliser came against the run of play, but was the result of some slow defending on the part of the Foxes and demonstrated Bolton’s ability to capitalise.
Things would get worse for the Foxes when Jermaine Beckford was given far too much space on the edge of the eighteen-yard box, and the former Leicester City frontman turned past Wes Morgan and drilled a low effort past Kasper Schmeichel.
It was a bizarre turnaround, but one for which Dougie Freedman must be given credit for the attacking style of play shown by his players.
Both sides looked as though they could score on any given attack, as Mohamed Kamara tested Kasper Schmeichel with a powerful long range strike which was punched away by the Danish international.
The Foxes grabbed an equaliser eight minutes before half-time when Lloyd Dyer picked out Anthony Knockaert at the back post with a deep cross, and the Frenchman headed past Andy Lonergan for his fifth goal of the season.
But, typically of the first-half of this game, Bolton regained the lead just moments after the restart when the Leicester defence were slow to close down the Trotters in attack, and André Moritz fired past Schmeichel for his second – and Bolton’s third – goal of the game.
Just as it seemed that the first-half could not contain any more drama, the Foxes were level once again when Paul Konchesky’s shot from distance took an unfortunate deflection off Matt Mills and past Andy Lonergan, making the score 3-3 before half-time and capping off a breathless six minutes of football.
The second-half had a lot to live up to, but became equally exciting when the match sprung into life again on the hour mark when Jamie Vardy and Zat Knight had a coming together, during which the Bolton defender appeared to grab Vardy by the throat and push him away.
Both players were cautioned by referee Mike Russell, although replays would suggest that Knight was lucky to remain on the pitch.
Leicester came close to taking the lead shortly afterwards when Anthony Knockaert’s curling free-kick struck the crossbar, and with the Bolton goal wide open, Liam Moore’s stretching effort trickled wide of the post.
At the other end, Kasper Schmeichel made a crucial fingertip save to deny Mark Davies from long range as Bolton continued to search for a winner.
With a little over fifteen minutes to go, Jamie Vardy was bundled down inside the penalty area by Andy Lonergan, giving Mike Russell no option but to point to the spot.
But when David Nugent saw his ensuing penalty-kick parried away by Lonergan, it seemed as though Leicester might be forced to settle for a point.
However, the Foxes broke down the left-hand side through Lloyd Dyer following another Bolton attack, and the winger burst past Alex Baptiste before firing superbly into the bottom corner of the net to complete the Leicester turnaround.
It was a moment of brilliance from the winger, who has now scored eight times during this Championship campaign, and one that demonstrated his ability to individually turn a game on its head.
To their credit, Bolton continued to push for a winner, but home side put the game out of sight with two minutes remaining when substitute Gary Taylor-Fletcher latched on to Andy King’s flick-on and volleyed past Lonergan for his first goal as a Leicester player.
It was a composed finish from the former Blackpool striker, who has been impressive coming off the bench in recent weeks, and a goal which confirmed that Leicester would take all three points from the match.
Leicester City will end the calendar year top of the pile at the halfway point in this season, having won 15 of 23 league games, including three straight to finish December.
Man of the Match – Lloyd Dyer
Leicester scored three goals in twelve minutes to complete a late rally at the King Power Stadium against Midlands rivals Birmingham City to claim their first home win of the season in dramatic style.
The visitors took a first-half lead from Matt Green’s close-range finish, but the Foxes improved after the break and drew level through a fine strike from Jamie Vardy.
Andy King put the hosts ahead five minutes later with an equally good finish in his 250th appearance for the Foxes, before David Nugent converted a penalty in stoppage time to complete the turnaround.
Substitute Chris Burke made it 3-2 with a sublime last-second goal, but it was not enough to stop Leicester continuing their unbeaten start to this Championship campaign.
Nigel Pearson will have been disappointed with his side’s first-half performance, who were without injured captain Wes Morgan, but did see huge improvements when Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert replaced Chris Wood and Danny Drinkwater at half-time, giving the Foxes more width in attack which caused Birmingham problems.
Jamie Vardy, who has enjoyed a superb start to the season, nearly opened the scoring in the second minute after breaking through the Birmingham backline and latching onto a long through ball, but goalkeeper Darren Randolph was out quickly to thwart the danger.
The visitors then took the lead ten minutes later when Shane Ferguson found space on the left wing to send a deep cross into the Leicester six-yard box, and Matt Green escaped his marker to poke the ball past Kasper Schmeichel from point-blank range.
It was a poor goal to concede from a defensive point of view, and perhaps highlighted a lack of leadership at the back without Morgan on the pitch to lead the line.
Leicester almost struck back instantly through Chris Wood, although the New Zealander’s shot was deflected wide of the mark.
The hosts, while arguably in control of the match, then struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities until the latter stages of the first-half when Jamie Vardy won the ball back in an advanced position before turning and testing Randolph at his near post, winning his side a corner in the process.
The Foxes did find themselves a goal down at half-time, but were much better after the break after reverting to a 4-4-2 formation and introducing Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert into the match, who replaced Danny Drinkwater and Chris Wood respectively.
The instant improvement was clear to see as Jamie Vardy continued to cause Birmingham problems at the back, chasing down a loose ball before forcing a close-range save from Randolph.
Lloyd Dyer then tried to pick out Anthony Knockaert at the back post as the two substitutes combined in attack, but his cross just eluded the Frenchman.
David Nugent tested Randolph with a shot on target, but Leicester could not draw level despite an extended period of dominance in the match.
At the other end, Neil Eardley almost doubled Birmingham’s lead with a free-kick from 25 yards, but Kasper Schmeichel was on hand to tip the ball around the post as the visitors looked to turn the screw.
It appeared as though Leicester were going to be handed their first loss of the season until twelve minutes from time when Lloyd Dyer burst down the left wing and found Jamie Vardy on the edge of the penalty area, and the former Fleetwood Town man powered the ball past Randolph to draw the Foxes level.
It was a fantastic finish from Vardy who has enjoyed a wonderful start to the season following a mixed 2012/13 campaign which saw the striker feature mainly as a substitute.
Leicester would not settle for a point, and just minutes later Andy King put the Foxes ahead with a fantastic curling strike from the edge of the penalty area after clever build-up play from Anthony Knockaert and David Nugent.
It was King’s 250th appearance for his hometown club and the Welsh international could not have marked it in any better fashion.
Birmingham looked shell-shocked as the home side were now fully in control, but there was still time for more drama as Kyle Bartley was adjudged to have brought down Lloyd Dyer in the penalty area in second-half stoppage time.
David Nugent stepped up to fire the ball down the middle of the goal from twelve yards, making it 3-1 to the Foxes, although Lee Clark’s men were unhappy with referee Eddie Ilderton’s decision to award the initial spot kick.
Chris Burke gave the visitors a late lifeline with a sublime curling finish, but the goal came too late as the full-time whistle blew almost immediately after the restart.
Leicester now sit second in the Championship, having taken ten points from a possible twelve, following an encouraging start to this season.
Man of the Match – Jamie Vardy
Leicester City played out an uneventful goalless draw at the King Power Stadium this afternoon against fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United.
It was a match of very few clear-cut opportunities although the Foxes came close to breaking the deadlock in the second half when substitute Chris Wood struck the foot of the post with a powerful 20-yard strike.
Matt Smith worked former Leeds goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel with a near-post header in second-half stoppage time, but neither side did enough to claim all three points.
Nigel Pearson recalled Jamie Vardy into the starting XI after Leicester’s 2-1 mid-week league cup win at Wycombe, while Zak Whitbread replaced Sean St. Ledger – who scored the winner at Adams Park on Tuesday night.
The visitors started brightly and gave the Foxes an early scare when Jason Pearce’s header flew over the bar from close range.
Leicester, who were lined up in their newly-adopted 3-5-2 formation, struggled to create any goal-scoring opportunities before the break, although did look relatively comfortable on the ball in the opening 45 minutes, with Jamie Vardy looking lively in attack.
Nigel Pearson’s men did improve after the break and reverted into a 4-4-2 formation, with Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert replacing Ritchie De Laet and Matty James so as to offer more threat from wider positions.
Leicester began to attack with more prowess but when Danny Drinkwater’s curling effort failed to trouble Paddy Kenny in the Leeds goal, and with David Nugent’s angled strike flying well wide of the far post after a clever move by Anthony Knockaert, it seemed as though a stalemate would be inevitable.
Chris Wood replaced Jamie Vardy with fifteen minutes remaining and came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 82nd minute when he cut past Jason Pearce and fired a low shot on goal, but the ball struck the woodwork and Leeds were able to clear their lines.
Substitute Matt Smith gave home fans a scare when he latched on to Stephen Warnock’s cross to the back post, but the target man’s low header was dealt with by Kasper Schmeichel.
A point was a fair result, and Brian McDermott will have been the happier of the two managers having seen his side put in a solid defensive display on their travels.
Man of the Match – Rodolph Austin
David Nugent’s late header gave Leicester City a slender advantage over Watford after an entertaining Championship play-off semi-final first leg.
The Foxes were the better side in the first 45 minutes but were unable to break the deadlock despite Ritchie De Laet and Michael Keane coming close for the hosts.
Watford, who were without suspended top goal-scorer Troy Deeney, did improve after the interval and could have taken the lead through Matej Vydra, but the visitors were wasteful in front of goal despite having a number of clear cut opportunities to score.
Gianfranco Zola’s side were made to pay in the 82nd minute when David Nugent rose highest to meet Anthony Knockaert’s curling free-kick and head past Manuel Almunia from ten yards.
It was Nugent’s first goal in 17 games but it could not have come at a better time for Leicester City, who now travel to Vicarage Road on Sunday for the second leg of this delicately-balanced play-off tie.
Nigel Pearson will have been pleased with his side’s approach to the game, who having been minutes away from a season-ending draw against Nottingham Forest last weekend now find themselves 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley.
The hosts started the first-half brightly, testing Watford down the left wing with the pace of Lloyd Dyer and Jeffrey Schlupp, and had their first shot on goal when Michael Keane found space in the penalty area from a corner-kick.
At the other end, Kasper Schmeichel was on hand to make a quick double save from Ikechi Anya and Almen Abdi as Watford broke on the counter-attack following a mistake at the back by Jeffrey Schlupp, before Marco Cassetti saw his ambitious long-range effort clear the crossbar.
David Nugent then had a glorious opportunity to put Leicester ahead midway through the first-half, but fired wide after Lloyd Dyer had picked the striker out with a good ball back across goal.
Leicester had two fine chances to go in at the break with a goal advantage when Anthony Knockaert fired straight at Almunia from close-range when he might have picked out a teammate in the penalty area, before Michael Keane volleyed wide from twelve yards.
Leicester were still dangerous pushing forward in the second-half, with Jeffrey Schlupp firing wide after a clever one-two with Chris Wood, although Watford were much improved after the break and should have gone ahead when Matej Vydra found himself one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel but the Udinese loanee’s tame effort did not trouble the Leicester goalkeeper.
Vydra then tested Schmeichel again from eighteen yards, this time forcing a spectacular save from the Danish international, before Alex Geijo headed over Ikechi Anya’s cross to the back post with just over ten minutes remaining.
It looked as though the game would end in a stalemate, but when Harry Kane won a free kick in a dangerous position, Anthony Knockaert swung a dangerous curling ball into the Hornets’ penalty area and David Nugent rose highest to head the ball past Manuel Almunia to give Leicester an important 1-0 lead.
It was a deserved goal for Leicester and a long-overdue one for Nugent, who had gone 17 games without finding the net for the Foxes – but this one came just at the right time.
Leicester then grew in confidence for the remainder of the game and might have doubled their advantage when substitute Harry Kane’s looping ball to the back post found Anthony Knockaert, but the Frenchman’s header lacked power and was easily collected by Manuel Almunia.
Watford pressed in stoppage time but Leicester’s backline were equal to the threat and were happy to see out the remaining seconds of the match and wait for the final whistle.
Nigel Pearson’s side will now turn their attention to Sunday’s return leg at Vicarage Road, although they will take with them a narrow advantage over their play-off rivals.
Man of the Match – Matty James
Jeffrey Schlupp’s dramatic late winner fired Leicester City back into the top six and snapped the Foxes’ nine-game winless streak in a possible Championship playoff preview against a red-hot Bolton side.
Leicester got off to the worst possible start when Wes Morgan conceded a penalty kick in the second minute of the match for a foul on Chung-Yong Lee.
David Ngog converted from twelve yards to put Bolton ahead, but the home side fought back towards the end of the first-half and drew level through Chris Wood’s converted spot-kick after Lloyd Dyer was upended by Danny Butterfield.
Dyer gave the Foxes the lead just 90 seconds later with a thunderous strike, but Bolton pressed well in the second half and equalised with twenty minutes to go when Darren Pratley finished from close range following Sam Ricketts’ long throw-in.
But with eleven minutes remaining, Jeffrey Schlupp restored Leicester’s lead with a powerful volley from the edge of the area to give Nigel Pearson’s men their first win since the end of January.
The result lifts the Foxes back into the playoff places after a poor run of form which saw them fall from second to eighth in the Championship, and will give the players confidence ahead of travelling to fellow promotion-hopefuls Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Although the King Power Stadium was far from full, there was very much a playoff atmosphere around the ground, and nerves must have played a part in Wes Morgan’s mistimed challenge on Chung-Yong Lee inside the opening two minutes which gave Bolton a penalty and a dream start to the match.
David Ngog stepped up to convert the spot-kick despite Kasper Schmeichel diving the right way, giving Dougie Freedman’s side an early lead.
The Foxes looked rattled but did create changes in the early stages, with Lloyd Dyer hitting the side netting from a tight angle and Chris Wood firing wide from Wes Morgan’s ball into the box.
Jeffrey Schlupp then dragged a shot wide after creating some space on the edge of the penalty area, while, at the other end, Michael Keane was on hand to make a couple of important blocks with David Ngog through on goal.
Chris Wood then tested Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal with a fine free-kick from 25 yards as the Foxes began to increase the tempo.
Leicester were rewarded for their persistence five minutes before half-time when Danny Butterfield brought down Lloyd Dyer in the Bolton penalty area, with referee Eddie Ilderton pointing straight to the spot.
Chris Wood stepped up to coolly slot the ball home for his first goal in ten games and his tenth this season since signing for the Foxes in the January transfer window.
The home side had their tails up, and completed a dramatic turnaround just moments after the restart when Chris Wood’s fine hold-up play allowed Lloyd Dyer to bear down on goal from the left wing and hit a thunderous drive off the underside of the bar and into the net, sending the King Power Stadium into raptures.
It was a well-worked goal and demonstrated Leicester’s attacking capabilities; a lack of which had seen their fall from the upper echelons of the Championship over the last two months.
The hosts looked increasingly confident after the restart and came close to doubling their advantage when Chris Wood’s clever overhead kick from inside the penalty area almost dipped underneath the crossbar with Adam Bogdan stranded.
But Bolton found their attacking prowess as the second half developed and might have been level had Chris Eagles hit the target with his snapshot from the edge of the penalty area after Leicester had failed to clear their lines.
Lloyd Dyer then saw his shot deflected into the side netting after some excellent build-up play involving Chris Wood, Matty James and Anthony Knockaert, before substitute Craig Davies rattled the crossbar for the visitors with a fine strike from 25 yards.
Knockaert then fired wide from eighteen yards before Kasper Schmeichel denied Davies from close range with a fine save as the game became increasingly open at both ends of the pitch.
Bolton did draw level just moments later when Marcos Alonso’s long throw-in was flicked on towards Darren Pratley who was on hand to tap the ball home from six yards, as Leicester saw yet another lead dissipate.
But the Foxes were not done, and with eleven minutes remaining, Ritchie De Laet’s throw-in towards Chris Wood was flicked on to substitute David Nugent, and the Bolton defence could only clear as far as Jeff Schlupp on the edge of the box who fired a superb low volley into the bottom corner of the net to restore Leicester’s advantage.
It was a fine finish by Schlupp and a thoroughly deserved goal for another tireless performance by the Ghanaian international.
Bolton threw everything at Leicester in the final five minutes of normal time, but the defence held firm despite an aerial bombardment from the visitors, while Kasper Schmeichel’s acrobatic save kept out Craig Davies’ header on target.
A late injury to David Ngog saw a frantic seven minutes of stoppage time played at the end of regulation, but the Foxes held firm for a crucial three points which stopped the rot of nine games without a win.
Man of the Match – Matty James
Chris Burke’s last-minute penalty-kick denied Leicester City a vital three points and the chance to move back into the playoff places ahead of Saturday’s fixtures.
The hosts took the lead in the first-half courtesy of a Curtis Davies own goal, but Birmingham fought back and drew level just after the hour mark when Nikola Zigic slotted home from close range.
Jeffrey Schlupp restored Leicester’s advantage with a powerful header which looked to be the winning goal, but David Nugent’s clumsy tackle on Wes Thomas left referee Michael Russell pointing to the penalty spot.
Substitute Chris Burke fired the penalty past the outstretched Kasper Schmeichel in the 90th minute to salvage a point for the Blues and leave the Foxes’ playoff hopes in the balance.
The Foxes go into this weekend’s fixtures one point outside the top six having played one extra game than Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Bolton, and although their playoff hopes appear to be slipping away, Nigel Pearson will have no complaints by the level of performance shown by his players on the night.
However, it was another game in which Leicester were harshly punished for a lapse in concentration towards the end of the match, and replays suggest that Nugent’s challenge on Thomas took place just outside the penalty area.
Both sides started cagily until the twelfth minute when Leicester broke on the counter attack through Chris Wood who teed up strike partner David Nugent to test Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland from distance with a powerful strike, but the England international was able to parry the ball away for a corner.
The Foxes then took the lead from Matty James’ ensuing corner kick when former Foxes’ defender Curtis Davies headed the ball into his own net under pressure from Leicester captain Wes Morgan inside his own six-yard box.
It was an unusual goal but one Leicester were happy to take, having found the net just four times in their previous eight outings, and one which gave them an important lead in the match.
The home side then began to play with a little more confidence and Jeffrey Schlupp began to trouble the Birmingham defence problems with his pace – the Ghanaian appearing in a more central role with Chris Wood drifting out to the wing.
Leicester should have doubled their lead midway through the first-half from another Matty James’ corner-kick, but Michael Keane’s close-range header sailed over the crossbar.
Andy King fired straight at Jack Butland minutes later before Kasper Schmeichel was called on to make a decent save at his near post from Nathan Redmond’s effort on goal at the other end.
Redmond then tested Schmeichel again at his near post before Shane Ferguson’s speculative overhead kick was blocked by Paul Konchesky as the visitors began to ask questions of the Foxes.
At the other end, David Nugent fired across goal from a wide position after a good period of pressure from the hosts, and Nigel Pearson’s men were good value for their 1-0 half-time lead.
Leicester had chances to extend their lead after the break when Jeffrey Schlupp broke through the Birmingham defence after a quick one-two exchange with Chris Wood, but Curtis Davies made an outstanding last-ditch challenge just as Schlupp was about to pull the trigger.
The Foxes would rue this missed opportunity when Nikola Zigic capped off a well-worked team goal with a close range finish to level the score on the hour mark from Mitch Hancox’s low ball across the six-yard box.
It was a deserved goal for the visitors who had certainly grown into the match but a nonetheless frustrating one for Nigel Pearson’s men to concede.
It seemed that Birmingham might build on this momentum swing but it was Leicester who came out swinging from the restart and the hosts were almost in front again after some fantastic work by Andy King allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to bear in on goal from the left side of the penalty area, but his thunderous strike hit the post and flew away to safety.
Michael Keane then headed wide from Matty James’ cross into the penalty area before Andy King’s scintillating ball over the Birmingham backline found Schlupp one-on-one with Butland once again, but the striker took an unnecessarily heavy touch and the chance went begging.
Ravel Morrison, who had been lively all evening for the visitors, then hit the side netting, but the Foxes’ regained the lead with fifteen minutes remaining when Jeffrey Schlupp rose highest to power home Matty James’ corner kick and send the home crowd into raptures.
It was a fine header from Schlupp who may have wasted a couple of chances earlier in the game, but made absolutely no mistake from six yards.
David Nugent saw his shot blocked with five minutes of normal time remaining before Nikola Zigic headed just wide from a corner kick as the visitors began to control possession.
Just when it seemed that Leicester were on course for their first win in nine games, David Nugent brought down substitute Wes Thomas down unfairly with referee Michael Russell pointing directly to the penalty spot.
Replays suggest that Nugent’s challenge took place outside the penalty area, but Chris Burke stepped up to take the spot kick and fire past Kasper Schmeichel to break Leicester hearts and ensure a share of the points.
The final whistle was met with a chorus of boos as the Foxes – as they did against Brighton last weekend – dropped points from a winning position, something they can ill afford to do should they want to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.
Man of the Match – Andy King