Magic moments see Leicester home
Andy Welsh's full debut goal and another by Stephen Hughes, his third in the League, gave Leicester City Championship safety and the notable scalp of play-off chasing Crystal Palace at the Walkers tonight.
Leicester's 2-0 win in their fourth televised match of the season was basically a victory for their organisation and collective energy.
But it was Leicester's Gareth Williams and Matty Fryatt who produced two moments of magic to unlock the mean Palace defence.
Much maligned Williams continued the sort of form which has earned him man-of-the-match ratings by personally creating City's opening goal out of nothing.
Fast and determined closing down of Palace defender Darren Ward on the edge of his own penalty area enabled Williams to win possession and, after a quick look, back heel the ball inside to Iain Hume.
It was a killer pass.
Hume's first shot was blocked by Fitz Hall but he followed up to stab the ball across goal to winger Andy Welsh who sidefooted home from close range at the far post to give City a 41st minute lead.
The goal was his first for the club and came in his first start.
In the second half it was Matty Fryatt whose brilliance was paramount in carving out the 86th minute winner.
Fed down the right channel by Stephen Hughes he turned Palace marker Gary Borrowdale this way and that before leaving him totally bemused and squaring an inch perfect pass for Hughes to sidefoot home from 10 yards.
For City the three points lifted them to 15th in the Championship table and took them to 50 points from 42 games, and certain safety.
The 2-0 victory exactly avenged a similar defeat at Selhurst Park and made it 24 points from 12 League games for Rob Kelly's marvellously revived team.
Another Leicester clean sheet was testimony to outstanding organisation and fast, determined zonal covering.
That a Palace attack which included England international Andy Johnson, Clinton Morrison and later Dougie Freedman should be denied a single clear cut opening is a major compliment not only to centre-backs Paddy McCarthy and Patrick Kisnorbo but also to the protection which always amassed around them especially from the likes of Alan Maybury (back at full-back for the injured Richard Stearman) and Nisse Johansson.
Special credit was also due to goalkeeper Paul Henderson who twice unhesitatingly risked serious injuries by denying first Clinton Morrison and then Andy Johnson.
Indeed so single minded was his challenge on Morrison that the powerful striker had to go off with mild concussion and there was some argument that there might have been a case for a penalty.
It might equally be said that Morrison made a back for Henderson. Anyway the keeper deserved his good fortune and, with safe handling throughout, had an excellent night.
Palace, fifth in the Championship, provided stern and determined opposition but Leicester never let them rest and created the better of the half-chances with Fryatt firing a swerving shot just over and both Hume and Gudjonnson shooting wide when they might have done better.
But the real victory was for teamwork and organisation.
Furthermore the result was further proof that City are now troublesome opponents for all the leading teams in the division.
Leicester have beaten four from the League's top seven of Reading, Sheffield United, Watford, Palace Leeds, Preston, and Wolves this season, and drawn against the others.
Tonight there were no weaknesses in the team as a spoiling unit.
Welsh's presence offered the central players more passing options and even when the likes of Kisnorbo and Johansson made occasional mistakes, among a catalogue of good things, Leicester always seemed to have spare men to clean up.
Altogether a thoroughly deserved three points. Not pretty, except for those two vital moments for the goals, but clinically efficient.
City: Henderson, Maybury, McCarthy ©, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Hughes S, Gudjonsson, Williams, Welsh (Sylla 77), Hume, Fryatt. Subs not used: O'Grady, Gerrbrand, Douglas, Brevett.
Palace: Kiraly, Ward (Macken 76), Borrowdale, McAnuff, Johnson, Morrison (Freedman 45), Watson, Hughes M ©, Soares (Reich 76), Boyce, Hall. Subs not used: Riihilahti, Speroni.
City: McCarthy (16), Kisnorbo (90)
Palace: Hall (38), Freedman (90)
Referee: Graham Laws (Tyne &Wear)
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