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Leicester City 1 Watford 2 (26/04/2013) 27/04/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- Leicester City is an increasingly pleasant place to visit;  the very necessary shelter from the bitter wind rampaging around the outside of the ground wasn’t the only welcome as we pushed our way into the concourse.  The stewards and the serving staff were equally hospitable, as has been the case in each of  the last couple of seasons.  Unlike then, we took the points as well as the courtesy this time.

The one change from the demolition of Blackburn saw Matej Vydra trade places with Fernando Forestieri;  whilst not justified by current form there’s no denying that these are slightly different tools.  Forestieri is the man to pick an awkward lock, more valuable in front of an obstinate defence at Vicarage Road.  Vydra is the man to exploit gaps behind an advancing defence, or to make a team think twice about throwing men forward.

And throw men forward Leicester did from the off.  Indeed neither side could be faulted for attacking intent as the opening half hour rolled from end to end like a schoolboy basketball game, but what quality there was largely came from the defenders…  Cassetti as arrogantly above all this nonsense as ever, Ekstrand magnificent alongside him.  At the other end Troy Deeney quickly resorted to backing into the monstrous Wes Morgan in search of a generous free kick, such was his lack of progress – there have been few games this season in which he’s had such limited impact.  It felt as if we were under pressure, but as was pointed out at half time, Almunia got to the break without making a save, even if one shot skimmed the outside of his right hand upright and two balls bobbled across the area needing a touch.  Nonetheless  although the home side had the possession their attacks were clumsy swipes with a caveman’s club, our rapier thrusts were less frequent but felt more likely to cause damage.

So it proved as with five minutes to go before the break Joel Ekstrand was free in the area from a corner and nodded down to Deeney to swipe home.  Relief and euphoria in the away end.

2- Nathaniel Chalobah’s strike merits a thunk all to itself, obviously.  At least a thunk. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a piledriver that’s still rising as it hits the roof of the net.  Perhaps smacking it in off the underside of the crossbar constitutes a marginal improvement – work to do there, Nathaniel – but this minor failing was offset by the fact that nobody saw this coming, least of all Kasper Schmeichel.  The cannonball wasn’t preceded by a telegraphed lay-off, nobody was rising in anticipation as the ball was struck – indeed we were still in the post-celebration jubilant singing bit following Deeney’s goal two minutes earlier.  We were flattened as comprehensively as if the shot had caught us in the midriff, stunned… and then ecstatic with disbelief.  Even at half-time in a boisterous, giddy concourse strangers were grinning at each other and shaking their heads.  Last word, as on so many things, goes to Alan Partridge.

3- A word here for the home support.  City had visibly been building this one up throughout the week, and understandably so; in the wake of an appalling run of form (by any standards, let alone those of a side trying to make a case for being worthy of taking on the top flight) you want to generate a do-or-die, cup-tie kind of situation, “nothing before this matters, it’s all about this one game”.  If the team ended up falling short, no such criticism can reasonably be leveled at the blue sides of the stadium…  they might not quite have matched this epic lunacy but outstripped anything I’ve heard since for relentless intensity.  Only in the wake of the second goal (when we so nearly put the game to bed as Leicester rocked), the opening fifteen of the second half and in the dying embers of the game were we able to make ourselves heard.

4- That fifteen minute spell after half time was a joy.  The Hornets strutted around the pitch in our sudden supremacy as the Foxes tried to find a foothold and Nigel Pearson fiddled with his personnel and formation.  A five minute rolling rendition of “hoist up the Watford flag” was the highlight (and incidentally if there’s something slightly unsatisfying about revelling in an identikit conversion of a song that every other bugger sings too then it certainly beats the hell out of the moronic “we’re the RIGHT side….”).  And then Harry Kane scored and this celebration was betrayed as mere hiatus, a breather between slabs of  sapping, nervous uncertainty.

In reality it was never that close a thing. City had chances, none better than when Marshall forced a magnificent save out of Almunia after Wood was felled by a suspiciously conclusive Hogg tackle.  But for all that the crowd was raised and that City enjoyed possession again we were never really under the cosh, you never felt that a goal was coming – a possibility, not a probability.  Meanwhile we were doing quite a good job of running off with the ball, killing time without resorting to gamesmanship, keeping possession, keeping Leicester chasing.  You’d have preferred another goal of course;  Deeney was still getting absolutely nothing out of Morgan and Keane, Vydra looking anything but convincing and lasting the 90 largely by virtue of worrying knocks to Chalobah and Abdi forcing midfield substitutions.  But we made it, and the celebrations shared between team and fans were as jubilant as at Hull (NB Steve Bruce, celebrating an away win isn’t a crime, live with it.  Not that you were watching, natch). The vast majority of the shirts went into the stand and it was good to see Matthew Briggs, after his perhaps ill-advised goal celebration last weekend, at the vanguard with fists pumping.

5- We’ve won a lot of games this season, and however it plays out it’s been a complete joy;  that this memorable evening is just one of a catalogue of fine evenings and afternoons since August speaks volumes.  Some of the wins have been achieved by virtue of being comprehensively better than the opposition, outplaying them in every department.  This wasn’t one of those.  Others have been achieved through simply wanting it more, having more fire in our belly.  This wasn’t one of those either, there was no questioning City’s application.  Some have been lucky, but we weren’t lucky tonight. This one was a Premier League win, a win achieved by telling moments of quality – one moment where theirs failed, another where ours told.  Thank you, and good night.  That’s what playing in the top flight is like, one slip, one moment of quality, game over.

This is a Premier League team in all but name.  There are strong grounds for claiming that ours is the best side in the division; of the various factors that have contributed to us not already having fixed a place in the top two the greatest remains the slow start to the season, and there are reasons for that.  Nobody has gained more points that us since the start of November – we have 61 from those 32 games, four more than Cardiff and five more than Hull from a game more.  If we’ve slipped up again in the meantime, it’s no more than others have done and over the last week we’ve turned  a virtually done deal into something that might be tantalisingly precarious going into next weekend.  The rest is out of our hands.

We’re all Barnsley fans this afternoon.

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Comments»

1. SteveG - 27/04/2013

Thanks, Matt, as ever, for supplying some journalistic objectivity to what was a wonderfully emotional evening. A fan’s view, clearly, but a very fair summation of the match, the occasion and the season.

The Leicester fans were certainly very vocal, but there was a certain bizarre chorography about it all. A couple of minutes before the kick off my son and I turned to each other and simultaneously said ‘North Korea’. There was a disturbing precision about the rhythmic ‘clacking’ that would have brought a tear to Paulo di Canio’s eye.

2. Paul - 27/04/2013

“Perhaps smacking it in off the underside of the crossbar constitutes a marginal improvement – work to do there, Nathaniel”

Look, or perhaps listen, closely. That’s exactly what did happen. On my blurry, stuttering stream the first thing I knew was it had hit the bar – only a second later could I tell it was bar and in! Not quite Yeboah but not far off. We might have been saying the same about Hogg’s strike at Ipswich were it a couple of inches lower…

3. stu partridge - 27/04/2013

EAT MY GOAL

lovely piece thx. objective with an infusion of partisan passion.

love the north korea analogy too.

would add, that i have fond affection for the right side chant, perhaps some history will shed some light… it was birthed down under in the terrace chanting of the balmy army during the 90s whilst repeatedly watching the english cricket team capitulate to the then merciless australians. having nothing but pride in our singing , this song would be sung in the infamous bay 13 of the MCG to relieve the boredom and pain of humilating defeat

Matt Rowson - 27/04/2013

SO it’s cricket related? Yes, that obviously helps.

4. petebradshaw - 27/04/2013

Talking of di Canio, he would have enjoyed seeing a bottle of El Duce wine in the Roma Cafe just by Leicester Market, complete with a stoic Mussolini in tin hat on the label.

5. Rod Green glove. - 27/04/2013

Agree with a lot but lets be honest Vydra was not really bringing a lot to the party.
Troy battled and at times yes out muscled by the man mountain that it Wes Morgan. I really believe had we started with Fernando Fes we would of won this game comfortably but, as it turned out Troy, Nat, Joel and the very underrated Jonathan Hogg got us there.
Bring it on next week against the one team in this division that needs to be spanked.. again!

6. Esp - 27/04/2013

Barnsley’s result today effectively ensures Chalobah’s goal on Friday is a cert for goal of the season; there really were only 2 other contenders in my opinion but for sheer IMPORTANCE as well as the undoubted brilliance of the strike it has to be, surely.

And to cap off a wonderful golden weekend for Hornet fans we finally became the first/main featured match on The Football League Show.

Like a demented 3 year old on Christmas Eve I just cannot wait for next Saturday’s sell out at The Vic!!

7. hornetboy84 - 28/04/2013

For me the return of Almunia has been key iand his save from Marshall may just have been the key turning point.
Writing post Barnsley win – but looking at Cardiff yesterday that’s their season done.
We may have to settle for play offs … But no one will want to play us. Bring it on.

8. Harefield Hornet - 29/04/2013

After Saturday’s result I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this week – let alone next Saturday! Did Neil Warnock really say on the FLS that he didn’t fancy us at home against Leeds on a bad pitch!? – or am I imagining things. We obviously need to get our act together but what frame of mind of mind will Hull (and Cardiff) be in? Hull are obviously going to throw the kitchen sink at Cardiff – it all depends whether Malkey’s boys minds are in stubborn- lets keep this ******* going to the last game- mode or Ibiza mode.
Any news surfacing yet after the knocks to Chalobah and Abdi?

Matt Rowson - 29/04/2013

Only that Forsyth has been recalled, which doesn’t sound too promising.

stu partridge - 29/04/2013

i was confused by the warnock comment too as many players have been saying we ve got the best pitch in the championship. i can only assume he s basing his opinion on last year when it had to double up as a rugby pitch

Matt Rowson - 29/04/2013

Indeed. And in fairness he never managed Leeds at the Vic – Grayson was still in charge when they played here last year. So his most recent direct experience would have been with QPR at the end of the previous season.

9. Harefield Hornet - 29/04/2013

Lets hope Cardiff’s players share the view of their manager!

Cardiff’s forty-sixth and final nPower Championship fixture is at the KC Stadium against Hull City next weekend, and Malky is already looking forward to that encounter.
“Even more rides on next weekend now, and it’s good that we’re not playing a side [in Hull City] who are not mid-table, making the match a pre-season sort of game,” the Gaffer added. “It shows what this league is like: every year it goes right to the wire.

“With Hull losing today, Watford could change places with them next week if we were to get something at Hull and Watford were to win. It means an awful lot as far as the league is concerned, and we are involved in that which is great.”

stu partridge - 30/04/2013

good words from malky….. am slightly embarrassed now by how much he got booed when he came back


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