Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Leeds United can, in reality, only be classed as a minor setback for the Foxes’ Championship campaign. However, it was also the first time that Leicester have failed to find the back of the net in defeat, and a performance which failed to really meet the level of the back-to-back victories against Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday. The starting eleven fielded by Nigel Pearson was a young side (an average age of 24), and perhaps one with little experience of grinding out away wins against tough, physical teams at this level.
Leeds United on a Tuesday night in November is never going to be an easy away trip. Neil Warnock’s Leeds United on a Tuesday night in November is going to be even more challenging. Although they haven’t exactly set the Championship on fire this season so far, they did outmuscle Premier League Southampton in a 3-0 Capital One Cup victory last month, and have a tendency to play with a more physical edge than some sides. Although Danny Drinkwater has been consistently impressive over the course of the season, it seemed at times as though a tough, physical midfield battle against Leeds United would have suited a veteran player like Richie Wellens (currently on loan at Ipswich Town) perfectly. While there is no questioning Drinkwater’s talent to hold the midfield and put pressure on opposing players, David Norris and Michael Tonge have been around this division for some time and possibly had the physical edge on the on the 22-year old yesterday evening.
The attacking partnership of Martyn Waghorn and Jamie Vardy struggled against a dogged defence yesterday evening, and Leicester’s goal-scoring chances were fairly limited until the introduction of substitute Marko Futacs in the second-half. The work ethic of both Waghorn and Vardy cannot be questioned, but in a game of few chances against a typical Neil Warnock side, the two youngsters will have learned an important footballing lesson which can only make them better players as the season progresses. Unless David Nugent returns from injury this week, Nigel Pearson is likely to name the same two starting strikers at the weekend.
Jeffrey Schlupp has been impressive at full-back for the injured Paul Konchesky over the last few weeks, although the Ghanaian was undone by a moment of trickery by Sam Byram in the third minute of the match, resulting in the home side being awarded (and subsequently converting) a penalty – which ultimately gave Leeds the victory. The striker-turned-defender has surprised fans with his versatility in recent weeks, and while Nigel Pearson is likely to have every confidence in the 19-year-old to cover at left-back, it would be quite surprising if Paul Konchesky did not start Saturday’s all-East Midlands encounter against Derby County, providing he is match fit.
It was a first defeat in five for Leicester City, and the Foxes are still very much in the thick of the promotion hunt, but Nigel Pearson may consider this match to be a reminder of the competitive nature of the Championship – and a warning of how tough it is to get out of this division.