Leicester 4-1 Watford
Leicester moved one step closer to securing a Championship play-off place with a fine victory over struggling Watford at the Walkers Stadium.
The Foxes put the Hornets to the sword with goals from Martyn Waghorn, Paul Gallagher, Jay Spearing and James Vaughan, despite playing the whole of the second half with just ten men after Steve Howard was sent off on the stroke of half-time.
Defender Martin Taylor pulled back a late consolation for Malky Mackay`s side but it could not alter what was a sorry day for Watford, the result doing them no favours as they battle against the drop.
City manager Nigel Pearson kept faith with the same line-up which beat Peterborough at London Road last weekend, as the home side went in search of their third successive league victory for the first time since October.
Morrison --- Hobbs --- Brown --- Berner
King --- Wellens --- Spearing
Waghorn --- Howard --- Gallagher
Both sides began the game brightly, but it was Leicester who recorded the first real opening of the game when Paul Gallagher shot wide with just under ten minutes played.
Watford were applying the majority of the early pressure with a series of corners which were all dealt with well by the City backline. The Hornets` packed midfield was proving difficult to break down, but as the half wore on Leicester began to create more promising opportunities.
Neat interchanging play between Martyn Waghorn and Andy King set up the Sunderland-loanee for an effort just inside the area, but the eventual shot was dragged wide. Moments later Dale Bennett was alert to head over his own bar under pressure to avert danger.
The visitors almost found themselves an opening when careless play from King in the middle of the pitch allowed Danny Graham to burst towards goal before firing over narrowly from the edge of the penalty area.
There was yet more sloppy defending from City just two minutes later when Michael Morrison failed to usher out the ball with Henri Lansbury piling on the pressure. But Jack Hobbs was there to make up for his team-mate`s error with a superb sliding challenge to deny Watford`s on-loan Arsenal striker.
Chris Weale was on hand to stop the same man in his tracks again after tidy play between Lansbury and Graham, sandwiched in-between two strikes from Waghorn which failed to test Scott Loach significantly.
But in the 36th minute Leicester had the lead. Richie Wellens was adjudged to have been fouled inside the penalty area, allowing Waghorn to step up to the spot to place home the opener.
It was the breakthrough that City had craved, but they were in dream-land just five minutes later when they doubled their advantage with a moment of magic from Gallagher. The Scot watched the ball drop inside the area before unleashing a sublime left foot volley into the bottom corner.
What could have been a perfect half of football was marred on the stroke of half-time when striker Steve Howard was sent off for a reckless challenge from behind on a Watford defender. A subsequent melee occurred, Howard being sent his marching orders in the aftermath.
HALF TIME: LEICESTER 2-0 WATFORD
As a result of the man deficit Nigel Pearson was forced into a tactical switch, as James Vaughan replaced Gallagher at the break. Malky Mackay also made a swift change at the interval as Heidar Helguson entered the fray, an impact substitute with two second-half goals when the two sides met at Vicarage Road earlier in the season.
Leicester were determined not to repeat the reverse fixture when they surrendered a two-goal half-time lead, but Watford came close to pulling one back early when Lansbury was denied at the last minute by a perfect Morrison challenge.
But before they knew it the Hornets were killed off in the 51st minute when the home side grabbed a third. Impressive link-up play from midfielders Andy King and Jay Spearing sent through the on-loan Liverpool man to finish off superbly on the half-volley for Leicester`s third.
The Foxes had their tails up now, and almost found a quick fourth goal when Vaughan was denied by a smart stop from Loach after a lovely ball through from Waghorn. The Mexican wave with half an hour remaining said it all.
Watford, although seemingly down and out, forced Weale into action when he did well to tip over under pressure from a corner. But any slim hopes of a comeback were dashed in the 68th minute when City hit a fourth.
Substitute Yann Kermorgant had an instant impact, his ball through the middle sending Vaughan on his way as he shrugged off a defender brilliantly before coolly slotting home to seal all the points.
The striker fired over soon afterwards after Spearing found acres of space in midfield, but in the 78th minute Watford pulled one back.
Weale did brilliantly to tip Jon Harley`s stinging effort around the post, but the visitors capitalised on the resulting corner as substitute Martin Taylor headed in for a meaningless consolation goal.
There was little action in the remaining ten minutes, Lansbury seeing his curling effort comfortably saved by Weale soon after the goal.
Nicky Adams was presented with Leicester`s only remaining opportunity when he shot just wide on the angle inside the area after good play from Spearing and Kermorgant.
The game petered out to signal a resounding Leicester victory, their one-man disadvantage seemingly unimportant as they not only contained the visitors but finished them off with two goals in the second half.
It was a performance to be proud of for manager Nigel Pearson, who overlooks his side standing on the brink of securing a play-off place with two matches remaining. With Blackpool also winning today it was impossible to officially assure City of their place, meaning Saturday`s match at Preston continues to contain magnificent importance.Leicester:
Weale, Morrison, Hobbs, Brown, Berner, King, Wellens (Adams 58), Spearing, Waghorn (Kermorgant 65), Howard, Gallagher (Vaughan 46).
Subs not used: Logan, Bruce Solano, N'Guessan. Watford:
Loach, Mariappa, DeMerit (Taylor 56), Harley, Bennett, Hodson (Helguson 50), Cowie (Bryan 69), Jenkins, Eustace, Graham, Lansbury.
Subs not used: Lee, McGinn, Hoskins, Noble.
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