David Nugent’s second-half strike gave Leicester City an important win this evening over a resilient Middlesbrough side at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes hit the woodwork on several occasions before Nugent’s excellent half-volley with twenty minutes remaining gave Leicester the lead.
Jamie Vardy conceded an injury-time penalty for an ill-timed challenge on ‘Boro’s Rhys Williams, but Marvin Emnes’ ensuing spot-kick was well-saved by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
It was Leicester’s fourth consecutive league win, and one which moves them above Hull City and into second place in the Championship ahead of the rest of this weekend’s Championship fixtures.
The adverse weather which caused thousands of fans to miss the game also delayed the kick-off, but those who braved the conditions enjoyed a fine display from two strong promotion contenders.
Scott McDonald had the first real opportunity for the visitors when he fired just over from ten yards after Michael Keane’s poor headed clearance, and Tony Mowbray’s side could have gone ahead five minutes later had Faris Haroun’s first touch not let him down inside the Foxes’ penalty area.
But Leicester soon warmed up and came close when David Nugent saw his near-post effort well saved by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele after good hold-up play by Chris Wood.
Although Chris Wood had been stealing the headlines as of late after scoring six goals in his first three starts since signing for the Foxes, it was his strike partner Nugent who looked the more lively on the night – and the one-time England international might have broken the deadlock midway through the first-half if it weren’t for Rhys Williams’ well-timed sliding challenge.
Anthony Knockaert struck the underside of the crossbar with a dipping shot from 25 yards which had Jason Steele well-beaten in the Middlesbrough goal, before the visitors enjoyed a good spell towards the end of the half with Scott McDonald testing Kasper Schmeichel from distance and Andre Bikey’s point-blank header forcing a fine save from the Dane.
Leicester piled on the pressure towards the end of the first-half as David Nugent forced another near-post save from Jason Steele before Michael Keane hit the crossbar again for the Foxes in stoppage time.
Emmanuel Ledesma should have put the visitors ahead after the break after finding himself one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel, but his chip over the onrushing goalkeeper sailed wide of the far post.
At the other end, Chris Wood struck the foot of the post before David Nugent had the ball in the back of the net two minutes later – although the assistant referee correctly adjudged Nugent to be slightly offside.
When it started to look as though both sides might cancel each other out, David Nugent put the Foxes ahead with an instinctive half-volley which sailed past the helpless Jason Steele after a clever ball from goal-scorer-turned-provider Chris Wood.
It was a fine strike by Nugent, and one which could prove to be crucial in Leicester’s promotion hunt towards the end of the season.
Nugent thought he had doubled the Foxes’ advantage just three minutes later when he had the ball in the net for the third time, but was once again ruled offside by the assistant referee.
Marvin Enmes kept Kasper Schmeichel alert with a decent effort from 20 yards in the closing minutes before Middlesbrough were gifted the opportunity to grab an equaliser in stoppage time when substitute Jamie Vardy’s clumsy challenge on Rhys Williams gave referee Roger East no alternative but to award the visitors a penalty.
Marvin Emnes stepped up to take the spot-kick, but Kasper Schmeichel dived correctly to his left to parry the ball away in what might be one of the crucial moments in the season for the Foxes.
Leicester were able to hold on for victory – their fifth in a row in all competitions – a win which moves them into the automatic promotion places ahead of Hull City’s trip to Peterborough tomorrow afternoon.
Man of the Match – Wes Morgan