Leicester City 5-1 Scunthorpe United
Paul Gallagher produced a sensational hat-trick to help Leicester crush Scunthorpe United at the Walkers Stadium.
After a drab and disappointing performance in the 0-0 midweek draw with Doncaster Rovers, it was vital Leicester got back to winning ways, and they did so in the most extraordinary way, hitting five goals for the first time since March 2000.
The first half was a show of scintilating football from Leicester, who produced by far their best performance of the season. Slick passing, confidence on the ball and calmness under pressure were the key elements, with Lloyd Dyer, Gallagher, Matt Oakley and Martyn Waghorn all particularly impressing in the first period.
Leicester started brightly, but Scunthorpe could have taken the lead. Gary Hooper found himself one-on-one with Chris Weale, but he shot straight at the Leicester stopper and the ball was cleared to safety.
It wasn`t long until the goal glut began for the Foxes, the opening goal coming from a Martyn Waghorn free kick out on the right-hand side. Right back Michael Morrison found himself unmarked in the box to head home, and set the Leicester juggernaut on its way.
Leicester could have extended the lead, but Lloyd Dyer`s shot went wide of the post from a tight angle. But the superb football and relentless pressure from the home side finally told. A free kick from Wellens fell to Dyer just outside the penalty area, his dummy leaving the ball to Gallagher whose shot deflected past Iron goalkeeper Joe Murphy into the net to extend City`s advantage.
It took just nine minutes for Leicester to get their third goal of the game. Michael O`Connor fouled Dyer on the edge of the area, and Gallagher stepped up to strike the ball home, curling the ball low into the bottom right-hand corner, giving Leicester a fully justified lead with less than half an hour gone.
Dyer again went close before Leicester added their fourth goal of the match. The ball worked its way to Waghorn on the right-hand side of the box after some slack Scunthorpe defending, the on-loan Sunderland striker's rocket effort finding the far corner of the net to send the players and fans into ecstasy.
Scunthorpe began the second half in a much more aggressive manner, curbing the Leicester pressure that took its devastating toll in the first half.
In the 53rd minute Scunthorpe`s efforts were rewarded when the unmarked Paul Hayes found space to shoot low inside the box past everybody including goalkeeper Chris Weale, giving the visiting fans a glimmer of hope.
The away side continued to pressurise and hassle Leicester, clearly rattling the home side and unsettling the fluid and flowing style of football that was being played in the first period. In order to try and restore Leicester`s dominance, Nigel Pearson threw on Nolberto Solano and Yann Kermogant.
Pearson's tactic worked, the aerial dominance of Kermogant prominent as the home side began to get a stranglehold on the game. And Leicester`s fifth goal finally settled any feint nerves the players or fans may have had.
A superb long ball by Wellens split the Scunthorpe defence, and with Gallagher facing an uncertain Murphy, the Scottish striker looped his header over the keeper and into the net, giving him his thoroughly deserved first-ever hat-trick.
Leicester began to play the style of football they had impressed the crowd with in the first half, and nearly added to the lead; Solano`s goal-bound drive from 30 yards out was just tipped over by Murphy.
Gallagher`s last action was to go close to adding a sixth goal for City, Murphy again at fault, clearing the ball straight to the hat-trick hero. But his 45 yard shot to an open goal was sent five yards wide of the post. He was replaced by Dany N`Guessan, and in the process received a fully warranted standing ovation from the whole crowd, and a hug from his manager.
Delight greeted the final whistle, as Leicester recorded their biggest win of the season, and scored their greatest goal haul for a decade. In the process the Foxes keep their place in the play-offs with two games in hand.
City will head to Bristol on Tuesday, hopeful of carrying their new found goal scoring form to Ashton Gate, and further proving that the team can cope with the crushing loss of top scorer Matty Fryatt.
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