Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Festive Conclusions from Leeds and the New Den

Boxing Day, Sunday, 26th December 2010

Leeds United
(HT 0-1)
Gallagher (pen) 72
King 76
Gradel 19
Snodgrass 55

Tuesday, 28th December 2010


(HT 2-0)
Morrison 12
Puncheon 25

Firstly, to the Boxing Day clash and Leeds United, whose good form generally in the league looked to remain as they went ahead before twenty minutes with former Leicester youngster Max Gradel nodding home the opener. It got much worse after the break as Robert Snodgrass netted a spectacular second with the outside of his foot from an acute angle. The Foxes were left reeling as yet again Sven Goran Eriksson's side had failed to start well and paid the price.

Booked: Schmeichel sees only yellow
after fouling Vassell to give away a penalty
for Leicester's first
It took a bit of luck for the Foxes to get back in the game, and once more it was Paul Gallagher who thumped home a penalty to stir the game into life after the Whites' keeper Kasper Schmeichel hauled-down the advancing Darius Vassell. Controversially, Schmeichel - clearly last man - failed to be sent-off by referee Anthony Bates who came in for much derision from blue-shirted fans in the latter half of the match.

And if luck saw the Foxes grab a goal back, it was pure class that saw Andy King steal an equaliser as he half-volleyed the ball from long range to score emphatically off the underside of the crossbar. From then, Leeds doggedly pressed forwards and prompted Chris Kirkland into two excellent saves - somewhat redeeming himself after a dire d├ębut at Ipswich before Christmas.

It was not Leicester City's finest moment, but the 30,000-strong crowd could go home for a Boxing Day tea perfectly satisfied after an entertaining fixture that sees Eriksson remain unbeaten at the Walkers Stadium.

Millwall were ahead after twelve minutes after Stephen Morrison beat Greg Cunningham to fire home and after Jack Hobbs' error, Jason Puncheon made no mistake to poach a second. Those defenders' mistakes cost their team in terms of two goals, but at the other end of the pitch Roman Bednar again failed to shine, seemingly lacking dedication to his increasingly frustrated team mates. The second-half dismissal of Alan Dunne for an horrific challenge on Richie Wellens allowed the Foxes back into the game, but aside from chances for Steve Howard and Lloyd Dyer, Lions' keeper David Forde was rarely threatened and Leicester limped to their fourth successive away defeat.

What remains crystal clear after the first half of this season - a season in which the future looks so bright under Eriksson, Derek Fazackerley and new ownership - is that Leicester need to get out of the blocks faster and get results away from home. Taking chances is crucial, of course, with none of the forward players in the squad regularly scoring goals. Indeed, Gallagher's six goals are the most scored by a registered striker in the Foxes' ranks, and half of those are from penalty kicks.

Captain fantastic: King scored again against Leeds

Some could argue that at least there are a greater range of goals coming throughout the team - fourteen players have scored this season - but nobody seems to be taking a lead as a centre-forward, leaving Andy King, undoubtedly the club's brightest prospect in years, to pick-up the slack. Indeed without King's contributions, Leicester would have scored just 32 times this term.

At home, the Foxes are a classy team. Free-flowing football abounds with a swagger some Premier League teams could be proud of. At Fortress Filbert Way, Leicester City are a team that battle and fight, scrapping for the equaliser. Away from home, however, it is a different story. We start slowly, make errors to concede silly goals and do not have the finesse to claw back and claim a point. Eriksson needs to find some new ideas if we are to get into the Premier League as the owners - and more importantly the fans - desire.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Pearson Chasing Former Charge

After rumours last month that Foxes striker Matt Fryatt might be on his way to East Midlands rivals Forest on loan, it has now emerged that former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson could be tempted to lure the Nuneaton-born forward to Hull City.

Pearson has made no attempt to hide his admiration for Fryatt, who scored two hat-tricks in succession as the Foxes won promotion back to the Championship under the Tigers manager two seasons ago. With Fryatt seemingly out of favour with now-Leicester boss Sven Goran Eriksson, it seems likely he may well be looking for a new challenge when the transfer window opens in a fortnight's time.

Fryatt is one of two strikers on the radar of ex-Newcastle caretaker manager Pearson, with Leicester apparently rejecting bids in the region of £2-3million for the ex-Walsall striker.

Meanwhile Eriksson's efforts to strengthen his Foxes squad have taken a turn for the worse as LA Galaxy have blocked the former England coach's efforts to lure David Beckham back to England. Eriksson has stated he is unlikely to continue chasing Beckham, who has said he would like a loan move back to England but would not play in the Premier League except for former club Manchester United. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Vague Conclusions from Portman Road

Ipswich Town3-0Leicester
(HT 3-0)
Norris 6
Scotland 27
Scotland 39

If that was football, I'm Dutch. That this game even went ahead is a question of some debate and, bearing in mind the atrocious conditions it is a wonder that after a seventeen minute second-half delay the game reached its dire conclusion.

Inspection: Referee Attwell discusses conditions pre-match
Referee Stuart Attwell, the youngest to ever officiate a Premier League fixture, has come in for harsh criticism by Foxes fans and manager Sven Goran Eriksson, the Swede branding this match "bad PR for football". Indeed, with the game beamed live around the country by Sky Sports, it seems the referee was under intense pressure to allow the game to go ahead. Certainly that is the view of most Leicester supporters.

Attwell deemed conditions bad enough for a yellow ball (bought on not at kick-off but part-way through the first half) and blue painted lines to be required and, despite four potential injuries to Leicester City players, still thought conditions safe enough for the match to go-ahead.

It was Ipswich who took advantage of the conditions as Leicester - wearing for the first time their King-Power emblazoned black strip - struggled to initiate their usual pacey, passing style. Instead the home side's strength and adaptation to the poor conditions saw them take the initiative, David Norris opening the scoring just six minutes in before a brace from Jason Scotland put the game beyond reach of the Foxes.

Whiteout: Paul Gallagher battles through thick snow at Portman Road
Many will praise the referee's decision to suspend play for over a quarter of an hour midway through the second forty-five minutes, but his indecision and lack of authority was made plain as he was bullied into continuing the game by Tractor Boys' manager Roy Keane, himself under pressure after a run of six straight defeats before this fixture sees him teetering towards losing his job.

Perhaps criticism should instead be aimed at Eriksson, whose Foxes side have failed to shine away from home this season as they have once more built the Walkers Stadium into a fortress, symbolised by an epic 5-1 hammering of Doncaster Rovers last weekend. This was Leicester's third humiliating away defeat on the trot, still just six points from a possible eighteen collected by the Foxes away from home under the Swede.

Ipswich, in fairness, adapted much better than Leicester to what were truly atrocious conditions, the only winners on a very wintry afternoon in Suffolk. But the very fact that four other Championship games were postponed, due to much lighter conditions than those that suspended play at Portman Road, firmly places the spotlight over referee Attwell and pressure from Sky Sports that made this game reach its conclusion in farcical circumstances.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Conclusions from Doncaster Rovers

Leicester5-1Doncaster Rovers
(HT 1-1)
Gallagher 45 pen
Wellens 61
Naughton 68
Vassell 74
Waghorn 90+3
Sharp 7

  • If we could only defend better... Doncaster's opener was more down to poor defending on behalf of the Foxes than it was to Doncaster's positive start to the game. Cunningham was well beaten and Miguel Vitor stepped back to allow Billy Sharp the time and space he needed to finish on the volley. Perhaps Vitor's error here was down to his lack of match fitness - he hadn't played for six weeks until today - or is just another example of the Foxes being beaten early on as we fail to start matches well. But enough of the negatives, we won five goals to one for crying out loud...
  • We are a good, attacking team. If only we could get out of the blocks faster and defend better we would never be in the position where a defeat is threatened. We were a class above Doncaster in the second half, a truly astonishing fact considering the dire performance of the opening twenty minutes. If we carry on like we did after four o'clock, the only way is up.
  • Swings and roundabouts. The referee gifted to us a penalty that most believe was never a foul. On another day, it would have most likely been given against us. Today, for whatever reason, the luck went in our favour and we put in a fabulous second half showing to seal an outstanding victory.
  • We nearly scored from a corner. But Andy King hit the bar. Next time, maybe.

Yuki Abe
The Japanese midfielder had a strong game today, as he continues to become accustomed to English football. Abe tracked-back as well as progressing forward, showing at times some impressive turns of pace that saw the Foxes able to build on movements that seemed to be fizzling-out. Another sound game - and he waved.

Wellens: Put the Foxes ahead
Paul Gallagher
A player who seems to dip in and out of form, at the moment Gallagher is exactly where Leicester need him - playing skilful football and mucking-in to aid his team mates. At least twice in the first twenty minutes the ex-Blackburn man saved Greg Cunningham from embarrassment on the left wing, as he showed maturity that is needed from a senior member of the squad. And he scored the penalty that put us back in the game.

Richie Wellens
Capped-off another good display at the heart of the Foxes midfield with a stonking goal against his former club. A fine performance from a player in form.

Kyle Naughton
Finished-off a tremendous second half display from Leicester when he scored a textbook counter-attacking goal. His contributions to the change in Leicester's attitude will not have gone unnoticed by Sven Goran Eriksson as he looks to who he might sign on a permanent basis in January.

Pick your spot: Vassell lines-up to score Leicester's fourth.
Darius Vassell
Finally found his first goal in English football for three years after moving into the centre of the park gave him more freedom to run at the Doncaster defence. In the words of our favourite Swede, "the old, good Darius Vassell is back".

Martyn Waghorn
Answered the critics who have suggested he might make a loan move out of Leicester in January with a goal to cap a wonderful day for Leicester City Football Club.

The Club's Owners
Top and co. should be highly commended for their efforts in fixing prices for today's game at a tenner a pop. Having over 27,000 fans in the ground in bound to reflect on a team's success and sense of pride, as well as allowing the widest spectrum of supporters to attend. That said, the stadium atmosphere was not as good as it should have been today, but that should not detract from the so-far, so-good efforts of Top and his team of fellow investors.

Andy King
He didn't score?! He hit the post?! Shocking, really, that the man who is on fire this season was seemingly the only man on the pitch not to score.

Doncaster Rovers
To utterly capitulate in the way Doncaster did this afternoon is not a good sign. They took the early advantage to go ahead and only a rather dodgy refereeing decision saw them pegged-back at half time. For them to approach the second half in a way that left them so exposed was poor tactically, but the fact that for once we made a team pay wa beautiful to 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Conclusions from Vicarage Road

(HT 2-0)
Eustace 15
Buckley 23
Graham 85
Gallagher (pen) 51, 69

  • Watford's tactics with the pitch paid-off (for them). There were questions before the match about the grass on the Vicarage Road pitch being left to grow long and it seemed, certainly in the first half, it was a tactic that worked well for the Hornets. The Foxes quick, fluid play was stifled as they were bogged-down and slipped over time and time again on the worst pitch so far visited this season, allowing Watford to capitalise early in the game. What it created in the first half was a scruffy stop-start affair not conducive to good attacking football.
  • This was definitely Sven's darkest hour. This first 45 minutes was certainly the worst performance from Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester City side since he took over. Certainly, his team were not aided by conditions at Vicarage Road (see above), but they nonetheless put-in a poor performance today. A very frustrating afternoon for the 2,000-strong travelling Foxes fans, even with a ballsy fightback in the second half that just fell short.
  • Slow starting cost us... again. Too many times this season, Leicester have lost games in the first half after starting the game poorly. Today once more we were slow to respond to Watford's attacks.

Kyle Naughton
Naughton again proved a canny loan signing as he was able to attack the Watford wing in the second half and got the Foxes back in the game after his cunning ball into the hand of Andrew Taylor resulted in a penalty which Paul Gallagher duly converted. Another solid performance.

Paul Gallagher
Anonymous for most of the first half, Gallagher stepped-up to take the penalty and proved his selection valid when he fired home to give the Foxes a lifeline. That he followed that up with a fantastic free-kick to level the score is remarkable and he should be commended for his perseverance. His second half reliability should stand him in good stead.

The Fans of Leicester City
For a sixth of the crowd at a mid-season Championship clash in appalling weather to be from the away side is a great statistic for their club. That this game was not a local derby but a two-hour trek from home for most fans makes that astonishing. The commitment of the Leicester City supporters this term rightly deserves credit.

Watford F.C.
Used conditions to their advantage to nullify any possibility of the visitors taking points home, attacked well and defended equally admirably. A good performance from the Hornets.

Chris Weale
A farcical slide-over from the Bristolian after twenty minutes gifted McGinn an open target which he could not fail to hit. Whilst his decision to come out, attack the ball and lead his defensive line was the correct one, he did not deal with the threat and paid the price. A poor error from a keeper whose position will surely come under more pressure if and when Kirkland regains fitness.

Jack Hobbs
It was Hobbs' failure to deal with McGinn's attack that put Weale in the unenviable position that led to Watford's second. Hobbs' performance today was typical of the majority of those in blue shirts as Watford steamed through the heart of the Foxes defence time after time. If Vitor is to be fit for a sustained period of time, Hobbs will once again be finding himself warming the substitute's bench.

Andy King
A quiet game from the Welshman today that ultimately saw him replaced by Matt Oakley. A return to the side for Oakley could see the 21-year-old stripped of the captain's armband, but in reality it is hard to see where Oakley would fit into the current midfield.

Three across the middle didn't work for the Foxes this afternoon as the midfield became overstretched for much of the early passages of play and allowed Watford to attack straight through the centre of the park. Ultimately, this was Leicester's downfall this afternoon.

Lloyd Doyley
Just for being the only player in the Football League to be named after a posh persons' tableware decoration.