It has been very easy for other teams, especially our local rivals, to dismiss our contention to a playoff spot this season and suggest that we are relegation fodder.
We have been positioned at the wrong end of the table for all of this season. Now Leicester City are sitting 14th in the Championship, 5 points off a playoff place, and 2 points off our nearest local rival, Nottingham Forrest.
On paper this looks great, but we are also 5 points off relegation, so it’ll all depend on your glass. Full, half-full, half-empty, etc.
However it doesn’t change the fact that we have played recently two of the most in form teams, albeit at home, and beaten them conclusively on the pitch. The sad part of this being that it could have been a much higher goal tally.
I felt that in the first half of last night’s game, both teams laboured. Nottingham didn’t pose much of a threat, and in all honesty neither did we.
I did think for a derby game that it was played in a fair spirit. Neither side play acted, or tried to pull a fast one. More or less the tackles were clean and just. There were two stand-out points for contention regarding the referee. In my view it was a clear penalty call on the foul on Vassell, all day every day. The referee bottled it. The second call was the call on Cunningham on Earnshaw. I will hold my hands up if I think we’ve gotten lucky or got away with something. This wasn’t a foul. It was a simple coming together. Cunningham had his eyes on the ball the entire time, and feet clipped each other. As much as the Sky commentators wanted it to be a penalty. It simply wasn’t. I’d admit it if it was.
Disappointingly from a Leicester point of view, once again, set pieces were atrocious. Corners rarely were placed on a head, and one of Gallagher’s free kicks failed to make it over the wall. I don’t seem to remember Forrest making good use of free kicks or corners either to be fair. Maybe it was the cold weather.
Player performance for Leicester seems to get better and better with each game.
Key Leicester players:
Vassell turned into a man possessed by the 60th minute. He was full of confidence and vigour. I was sad to see him come off, but knew it was inevitable. Dyer was always going to come on, and it was going to be a like for like substitution.
Abe tirelessly ran his socks off, and his man marking was superb. Some great timed tackles, and even a good run or two. It’s a shame his shooting boots aren’t quiet there. And it did seem a team trait to give away possession in the final third, but thankfully Nottingham were caught doing the same.
I did ask myself where Wellens was and why he wasn’t involved in the game. He must have heard me, as once I had said it, he was throwing himself at everything, and making crucial interceptions and passes.
Overall the defense held strong and good clean tackles at the right moment kept a sometimes-clueless Nottingham at bay. The obvious mistake by Davies had me screaming for mercy, but Weale had enough confidence to go out and make the crucial save, as I believe this would have turned the game, and maybe Nottingham heads would have raised.
Weale didn’t have a huge amount to deal with, but thankfully he didn’t once throw the ball out! But he did make a couple of outstanding saves. Camp has to be given credit where credit is due for an outstanding match. His saves made sure the goals didn’t get to the point of embarrassment. A fine player and will no doubt is an asset for Nottingham to stay in contention for the playoffs.
Howard and Camp must have shared a flat at Derby, as their long embrace suggested that sometimes the boiler had packed in and sometimes mountains’ backs had to be broke to keep alive in the cold winter months.
But I digress; an essential win for the Foxes ensures that any potential chance of making a stab at playoff contention is still on the cards. The January window will only strengthen our team and resolve. Billy intimated that this would indeed be the case, but he probably was only repeating this for the benefit of his boards’ ears. Many Derby fans will have heard those cries before too.
I think those who have cast us off as done for the season are now seeing the ‘Sven-effect’. This is is now in full-flow, and will continue unabated. A win against Forrest is both a booster for fans and for the players due to their league form.
When I saw the team sheet and the bench, it did seem as though our defence would have to be tremendous last night, and whilst we were pressured, there were no killer balls or cohesion to the Forrest play. Once Leicester’s goal had been put nicely away by King, Leicester’s tempo, and from what I could see, their completed pass rate increased. If we are in the position to start a game like this, someone is likely to get hammered.
As we’ve given everyone a headstart this season, it’ll be interesting to see where all the standout teams place at the end of January. Quality of depth is one of the key aspects, in my opinion that is going to make the difference. Injuries and suspensions are always going to knock a team off their stride. I think Leicester will have the quality and numbers to overcome these setbacks.
How many of the current top ten can say they can do the same?
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