Pearson's changes rise to the challenge
There was a palpable feeling last Saturday evening that rare change was due in the Leicester City lineup. Nigel Pearson's first year in charge was characterised by a settled side with the likes of Andy King, Lloyd Dyer and Matty Fryatt given the confidence boost of consistent selection. The Championship is a different beast to League One, however. This season, Pearson has been keen to enforce the squad message at every media opportunity and his team selection has mirrored the sentiment. The changes he made after Preston ended City's long unbeaten home run took things a step further. Gone were Robbie Neilson and Steve Howard, two experienced campaigners who have looked slightly off-colour for large periods of the opening games. In their place arrived the rough diamond Michael Morrison at right-back and something of an unknown quantity in Yann Kermorgant up front. King and Dyer, thus far cast to the sidelines in favour of new signings Richie Wellens and Dany N'Guessan, also came back into the starting eleven for successive away games at Middlesbrough and Coventry. City will return to action in two weeks at home to Derby County with a creditable four points from their last two games following a pair of battling performances on the road.
Pearson has proven his adaptability in the past week, something that has not been called into action too often until now. It was obvious quite early last season that City had the best squad in the division and would win the clear majority of games if motivated properly. Pearson did that part of the job excellently, particularly on the big occasions such as Leeds United's visit and the trip to the New Den, both culminating in victories by a single goal. This season has been different, with tactical changes such as the triple substitution at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday proving vital. Changes in City's lineup last season were only punished by the very best of the rest, most notably by Peterborough United with Steve Howard suspended and Andy King on international duty. Already this term, Watford have capitalised on injury to Richie Wellens and Middlesbrough would have been hoping to do the same when the midfielder was again ruled out, this time by tonsilitis. King's quietly effective displays in his place at the Riverside and the Ricoh are testament to Pearson's confidence in the youngster's ability.
For the second game in succession, Fryatt and Kermorgant were replaced on the hour mark by Howard and Martyn Waghorn. Both were involved momentarily in the buildup for Dyer's winner in the North East and again they made the impact on Saturday, each adding a header and volley to Chris Weale's punt upfield to secure a point. Howard was central to every attack as City poured forward in search of goals. It wasn't pretty but the only demand was effect and it allowed Waghorn to produce a finish as accomplished as any you will see this season. In Fryatt, Kermorgant, Howard and Waghorn, Pearson has four very different strikers to choose from. In Paul Gallagher and the returning DJ Campbell, he has two more that are different again. The options are certainly there, but City fans are now starting to see that we may make the most of them.