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