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Leicester City 1 Watford 0 (09/05/2013) 10/05/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Less than a fortnight after the last time, we’re back at the KP stadium and it’s an odd experience.  In so many ways, and despite our refusal to get all obsessive about replicating the components of the previous encounter in the name of fortune it’s like stepping back into a story that hadn’t stopped, walking back into a room where the same album had been playing on loop for a fortnight. From the way the wind howls around the ground to the impressive and imposing noise to the frantic edginess of the occasion.  If there’s a change in mood it’s a subtle one in the away end… we’re no longer the nothing-to-lose, let’s give this a go chancers;  we had a go, we almost made it despite extraordinary obstacles, but not quite.  We are battle hardened and slightly circumspect as a result… it’s intangible, but it’s real enough. If the welcome presence of Luther Blissett in the away end provides a fillip, there’s a something that veers between determination and fear which wasn’t here two weeks ago.

2- The home side fly at us from the off.  This isn’t entirely unexpected but is no more enjoyable for it.  It’s an attacking looking line-up that City have out there with two out-and-out strikers, an attacking player in Schlupp at left back, two wingers and the attack-minded King in the centre of midfield;  we have both Manuel and Jonathan Bond in the 18, mercifully, with Vydra and Geijo the anticipated pairing up front (as oddly telegraphed by training pictures on social media earlier in the week).  We weathered the storm, just about, but it was a far from comfortable thing even if, as two weeks ago, Leicester’s pressure yielded a lot of huffing and puffing without many attempts on target, albeit we were grateful that Almunia was behind De Laet’s header.  A theme of the evening first reared its head here…  that of “getting a bit previous”, since for all Leicester’s dominance and the bravado of the support, they hadn’t actually scored a goal. The first indication that we might be able to catch a breath came on around 15 minutes when my two-minutely checking of the clock panned out to three minutes.  Shortly afterwards we broke for the first time following some slack Leicester defending and Anya, one of those who has improved throughout the season and now looks like a defender and can head the ball, burst through.  As two weeks ago, our less frequent attacks felt much more potent, and only a double save from Schmeichel  to deny first Anya and then Abdi preserved parity.  It felt like a chapter-ending exchange, and the home side held back on the kitchen-sink chucking thereafter, albeit they still made chances.

3- And as the evening progressed, we looked increasingly comfortable and confident.  Alex Geijo had started particularly slowly but grew into the game, linking up well and displaying some clever touches that left a grin on the face even if he rarely looked like, you  know, scoring himself.  Jonathan Hogg put in a superhuman 60 minutes or so, closing things down, backheeling for overlaps, involved in everything.  At the back, the Leicester threat was subdued and eventually clubbed to death altogether;  it reminded me of a teenage obsession with Planetoid on the BBC Micro when even at high levels with pixelated aliens firing white hyphens at me from all angles I could phase in and manoeuvre my way out of the tightest corners.  Such was the mastery of our defending… Leicester asked questions, we provided answers and none more eagerly or adroitly than the impeccable Doyley who might even have gone to ground on one occasion (yes, really) but racked up an impressive tally of blocks, clearances, dispossessions and general gettingintheways. By the middle of the second half Leicester’s attacking threat was limited to long punts forward from Schmeichel which we coped with relatively easily and then came again.

And here the theme of the evening rears its head again, since I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought we had it won at this point.  Leicester’s threat was non-existent and if they were still doing a much better job of subduing our midfield than they had two weeks ago we were cutting through and making chances, none better than when Vydra was put through by an extraordinary, arrogant ball from the outside of Cassetti’s right boot and criminally, inexplicably, betrayed his frayed confidence with a tame finish.  For all our strutting and superiority, we hadn’t scored either.

4- And then of course Leicester did.  A free kick borne of the home side finally getting it down again, a ball into the box and Nugent got The Goal He Always Scores Against Us, a header into the top corner that provoked a quite ridiculous noise.  Fitz Hall was brought on for Lloyd shortly after, but the horse had already bolted… this substitution could have been made earlier but in fairness the defence had coped well enough without Hall’s aerial dominance up until that point.  It was a punch in the guts and gives City a narrow lead going into Sunday, one that hadn’t looked likely in the second half.  But then two weeks ago we thought that our win set us up to go up in second and killed Leicester’s chances, so it doesn’t pay to get carried away…

5- …a point completely missed by City’s support, whose understandably jubilant celebration, buoyed as it was by the goal being as unheralded as Chalobah’s strike two weeks ago and by City’s unexpected presence in the play-offs at all, spilled over into a “we’re going to Wembley, you’re not” celebration that lasted long and noisily after the final whistle and was the very definition of tempting fate.  Only half time, as Nigel Pearson was quick to point out afterwards, and despite our traditionally greater effectiveness away from home this season the return of Deeney (and, one assumes, Forestieri) to the starting line up makes us a lot more potent against a side whose limitations have been cast in stark relief over the past fortnight, irrespective of results.

Bring it on.

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Comments»

1. HH 37 18 11 - 10/05/2013

We may have lost but it’s certainly no disaster. A win, ANY win, will take it to extra time (at least). I’d like to think we go into every game with the mentality that only a win will do so nothing should change in our approach to Sundays match.

Agree with Thunk 2. RE: Anya, thought he was excellent last night. I had criticised him earlier in the season for being too willing to pass it infield when faced down by a defender but his increased confidence going forward, taking on and beating his man, has been evident in the last couple of months. Re-watching the Sky coverage of the match this morning (glutton for punishment) they seemed to suggest that Schlupp was struggling at left back due to his inexperience in that position. I think that does a massive disservice to Ikechi.
Cassetti had been playing in that right wing-back position until our injury list forced the move to centre back. I would be interested to know who GZ would opt for now were both players competing for the same position.

2. Lotto - 10/05/2013

That’s a really great piece.
I’m a Leicester fan.
I saw it pretty much like you.
I thought you were impressive in the second half and, if it’s any consolation, although I could understand the jubilation – we really have been shit since February – the que sera Wembley songs made me wince a bit.
Looking forward to Sunday, although I have an overwhelming sense of dread. If we don’t score in the first half, I think you’ll beat us.

Matt Rowson - 10/05/2013

cheers Lotto. I could express hope that you enjoy Sunday, but wouldn’t mean it.

3. NickB - 10/05/2013

Was taken by surprise that bsad decided to start with Rowson in this fixture, after his exertions in compiling the exhaustive pre match lists he might have been rested to the bench in favour of the mercurial Grant, who had been rested with just such a fixture in mind. This was borne out by the former’s sitting down and repeatedly yawning during the interval, but experience counts in the cauldron of a play off semi final and, in the final analysis, the boy Rowson has delivered when it mattered most.

Matt Rowson - 10/05/2013

🙂 The boy Grant is sunning himself in Cornwall. Where he remains on Sunday, so I’m going to need to pull another one out of the bag…

4. sw17 - 10/05/2013

Pearson should have done what Boothroyd did at Palace and ushered the team off without celebrating. They are inches away from over confidence

5. hornetboy84 - 10/05/2013

Ditto . We were standing in the seats nearest the Leicester fans , giving it large, and we went 1-0 are you sure ? And they started to get nervous.
Next goal wins I feel.

6. Stephen Hoffman - 11/05/2013

Agreed not a disaster. The annoying thing is, was that there was no need to give the free kick away by Ekstrand it was really was a stupid foul to give away and it cost us.

NickB - 11/05/2013

It was a very harsh decision; not sure he did much wrong.

7. Roger Smith - 11/05/2013

Facing Anya 1-on-1, Schmeichel rushed out farther than Bonham did to narrow the angle, so it’s a shame that Anya didn’t chip him. Even more disappointed when Schmeichel pushed away Abdi’s follow-up, and no-one was there to stick the ball in the net.

Now we need to set the Vic rocking, as we did in the closing stages v Leeds, but this time for the whole 90 minutes. Very confident if we do. COYH!

8. Lcfc dan - 11/05/2013

I agree with my fellow foxes this tie is not over not by a long shot – you outclassed us twice in the league season so we need to defend well tomorrow – may the best team win and whilst whomever is successful would grace the premier league many changes would need to be made to the personnel
I’m starting to get nervous !!

9. Simon - 13/05/2013

“… the very definition of tempting fate”. Oh yes.


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