Date:Saturday December 26 2009
Leicester sent their fans home with some final Christmas cheer, as first-half goals from Michael Morrison and Matty Fryatt handed City an impressive victory over Sheffield United at the Walkers Stadium.
Blades substitute Henri Camara had halved the deficit immediately after the interval, but Leicester rode the remaining second-half turbulence to secure all three points.
Manager Nigel Pearson was forced into two defensive changes ahead of the clash, as Robbie Neilson and Ryan McGivern were called into the side in place of the injured Wayne Brown and Bruno Berner. Michael Morrison took up his place at the heart of defence alongside Jack Hobbs.
Things started badly for Hobbs himself, who was immediately injured inside the first minute. The former-Liverpool centre back continued after treatment, snuffing out a Sheffield United attack soon afterwards.
It wasn't long before Leicester began to take a hold of the game, forcing a succession of corners after efforts from Matt Oakley and Steve Howard were deflected behind. Oakley himself had case for a penalty shout when the ball appeared to strike the arm of a Sheffield United player inside the area, but City appeals were waved away by referee Darren Deadman.
A rejuvinated Lloyd Dyer was causing the Blades backline all kinds of problems, the former MK Dons man looking like the exciting player of one year ago for the first time in a long while.
City capitalised on their good spell of pressure in the 26th minute, when centre back Michael Morrison rose highest to head home from Oakley's corner. Indeed, it was Morrison himself who won the corner following after an ambitious drive from 25 yards forced Mark Bunn to tip the ball over the United crossbar.
The visitors struggled to find any kind of response to the opener from City, and the ineffective Richard Cresswell was left to feed off scraps up front. With striking support seemingly coming from former-Leicester left back Jordan Stewart, it was hardly surprising.
And in the 33rd minute, the home side doubled their advantage. Matty Fryatt gathered the ball inside the penalty area before being brought down by an outstretched leg. Fryatt himself took care of the resulting spot-kick, sliding the ball past Bunn for his 11th league goal of the season.
It was no more than City deserved after an impressive demonstration of attacking football, putting the Blades defence to sword to take up a healthy advantage going into the break.
There was just time for Richie Wellens' spectacular effort to bounce back off of the crossbar on the stroke of half-time, as Pearson's men flashed within inches of sealing the game altogether before the first period was over.
But the Leicester manager was forced into changes at the interval, Hobbs unable to continue after his first minute injury. Young right back Luke O'Neill was drafted in at left back, as Ryan McGivern dropped inside to cover for the departed Hobbs.
Kevin Blackwell introduced former-Wigan man Henri Camara in place of Andy Taylor in a bid to hit back after United's poor showing in the first half.
And the Sheffield United manager got just the response he was craving, as just a minute into the second half Camara capitalised on some sloppy Leicester defending to put the Blades right back in the game.
Leicester's response to the setback was superb, however, as Dyer raced up the other end of the pitch to force another good save from Bunn for a corner.
The former-City loanee goalkeeper was at it again moments later to deny first Howard, and then Fryatt. Howard's rebound from his strike partner's shot looped over the crossbar, leaving City fans with thoughts that it might just be one of those days.
Leicester goalkeeper Chris Weale was forced into action at the other end seconds later, tipping Jamie Ward's drive over the crossbar for a corner.
James Harper's beautifully delivered free-kick into the penalty area needed only the slightest of touches for an equaliser, but the ball bounced through to the greateful Weale.
Chris Morgan leaped high to head agonisingly wide of Weale's post in the late stages of the game to put City hearts in mouths, but the Foxes rode through the late pressure to secure the all-important victory which takes them up to 4th spot in the Championship.
It was a performance to be pleased with for manager Nigel Pearson, who would only hope that his side could have killed off the visitors with the abundance of second-half opportunities crafted by his side.
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Date:Saturday December 26 2009
|1. Leicester City||33||23||5||5||+30||74|
|3. Derby County||34||18||7||9||+17||61|
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