Leicester 0-0 Newcastle
31/01/10 - 5.20 p.m.
Ten man Leicester put in one of their best displays of the season to hold off top-of-the-league Newcastle and grab their share of the spoils.
City had found themselves a man down after just half an hour when midfielder Richie Wellens was shown his marching orders for a second bookable defence, but a fine battling display saw the Foxes outplay their high-flying opposition for much of the game.
Manager Nigel Pearson made three changes from the side which went down at Barnsley earlier in the week, as Bruno Berner, Matty Fryatt and Andy King returned to the fold at the expense of Chris Powell, Yann Kermorgant and Dany N'Guessan.
After a run of three straight defeats, expectations were undoubtedly low going into the match againt a Newcastle side who had predominantly made light work in the Championship since their relegation last year.
The visitors registered the game's first menacing opportunity when Kevin Nolan made space inside the area, but his effort found only the side netting.
But it was Leicester who began to take early control of the match. Paul Gallagher's ball through the middle found its way to Matty Fryatt, but the striker was crowded out by Mike Williamson in the Newcastle defence.
Fryatt was sent through on goal once more soon after, but the alert Steve Harper was on hand to beat Leicester's top-goalscorer to the ball to avert danger.
Central midfielder Richie Wellens received the game's first booking on 17 minutes for a challenge on Alan Smith, and was soon in hot water with referee Andre Mariner on the half hour mark.
With Wayne Routledge bursting through on goal Wellens appeared to trip the recent signing from QPR. A second yellow was duly shown, Wellens headed for an early bath and City faced a fight to see out the remainder of the match with ten men.
Up to that point Wellens had arguably been Leicester's standout player, pulling the strings in midfield for Pearson's men.
But City's response to the sending off was fantastic, and the early dominance shown in the first half continued. Matty Fryatt had the game's best opportunity with ten minutes of the first half remaining, denied only by a superb Patrick van Aahnholt challenge.
With the ball on the half-way line, Fryatt turned Mike Williamson before bursting down the wing into the Newcastle penalty area, beating another three players along the way. But City fans could only hold their breath in anticipation of a bulging net as the striker's eventual effort was blocked to keep the scoreline goalless.
And Newcastle's on loan Chelsea full back almost became the hero at the other end, as his drive on the counter attack was tipped over by Chris Weale in the Leicester goal.
Alan Smith came close to opening his Magpies account soon after, but his header was stopped on the line by Bruno Berner, welcomed back into the first team after a troublesome calf injury.
Ryan Taylor was somehow spared a booking by the referee as the half came to an end, the fullback's late challenge on Martyn Waghorn flooring the on-loan Sunderland man.
And to cap the crowd's frustrations, Berner was booked immediately after for a minor trip on Nicky Butt, summarising a ridiculous minute of play from the referee.
The first half had been encouraging from Leicester, a far cry from recent dismal displays at Barnsley, Cardiff and Swansea over recent weeks.
Leicester began the second half in postive fashion, and found themselves with a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the area within two minutes. But Paul Gallagher's resulting effort could only bounce past Harper's post after deflecting off of the Newcastle wall.
City were extremely lucky not to be hit with a second red card after 49 minutes, when Berner recklessly slid in late on Routledge. But significant first half abuse from the Walkers crowd appeared to pay dividends as the referee decided to keep his cards in his pocket much to the home faithful's relief.
Newcastle should have taken the lead moments later when van Aahnholt's ball from the left reached an unmarked Kevin Nolan, who could only find the roof of the net with his poor header.
Martyn Waghorn hit back with an opportunity for City soon after, but Ryan Taylor did well enough to keep up with the Sunderland loanee, resulting in a screwed driven effort wide of the mark.
As both sides pushed and failed to find a winner, activity on the bench became more frequent. Newcastle manager Chris Hughton introduced Nile Ranger for the ineffective Alan Smith, with Lloyd Dyer entering the fray in place of Paul Gallgher for Leicester.
Dyer's introduction was odd given the presence of Dany N'Guessan among the subtitutes, a player in form for City with a healthy track record of impact goals from the bench.
Wayne Routledge found himself with the match's next opportunity as he took the ball past Weale on the angle, but his switched foot effort looped over the bar to safety.
Steve Howard replaced Martyn Waghorn up front for Leicester with twenty minutes remaining, a substitution which proved decisive in killing off the home side's goal threat. The previous tidy passing football was converted into all-too-tempting long balls up to the big man, who could only head on in vain to tired team-mates.
Captain Matt Oakley became the third Leicester player in the book soon after for a ridiculous challenge on Andy Carroll, the City mifielder having no complaints with the decision.
Newcastle had the ball in the net in the 77th minute when Nile Ranger slotted home from Carroll's cross, but the striker was correctly adjudged to have been offside.
The Magpies began to stream forward against a now weary Foxes lineup, as van Aahnholt fired another shot down the throat of Weale who held on well.
Mike Williamson then delivered a neat ball into the City penalty area, but Ranger could only poke the ball past the post for a goal-kick.
Nigel Pearson introduced former-Newcastle fan favourite Nolberto Solano for his first Foxes appearance, the Peruvian receiving a standing ovation from all inside the ground as he entered the pitch.
Despite the late pressure from the visitors Leicester held on to claim a fully deserved point, wondering what might have been if earlier chances had been converted.
But given the circumstances; ten men down with half an hour played against the league leaders, it was a performance to be proud of for the Leicester faithful.
Manager Nigel Pearson can only hope that the performance can be the catalyst for a repeat of early season form after a poor run in all competitions.