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22 February 2014

First defeat in six for Blues as champions-elect show their class

Leicester showed why they look destined for the Premier League as they stretched their unbeaten run in the Championship to 13 games. 

The outstanding Jamie Vardy put the Foxes ahead before inevitably David Nugent added to their first-half advantage with a tap-in. 

Town rallied after the break and Daryl Murphy went close but Chris Wood wrapped up the scoring and the points five minutes from time to inflict a first defeat on Blues in six games.

Town made three changes to the side that drew with Blackpool last weekend, Dean Gerken returning in goal, with Frank Nouble replacing the injured David McGoldrick up front. Jay Tabb got the nod to come in for hamstring victim Luke Hyam.

Gerken had an anxious moment in the opening exchanges when Christophe Berra’s header back escaped his grasp for a split second, the ‘keeper then doing really well to get down to keep out Wes Morgan’s header from a corner. 

Cole Skuse sent a right foot effort just wide after Leicester lost possession on the edge of their own box, Marcin Wasilewski and Tabb then picking up early yellow cards – both for fouls.

Kasper Schmeichel was forced to tip over Aaron Cresswell’s fiercely driven cross before the Foxes went in front, Tabb’s backpass picked up by the alert Vardy and he found the net from an acute angle on 19 minutes after rounding Gerken.

Anthony Knockaert almost found Nugent with a reverse pass but Blues’ nemesis wouldn’t be denied and extended the home side’s lead on the half hour, sliding the ball into the empty net from close range after Ritchie De Laet had crossed from the right. 

Knockaert sent a free-kick wide after the dangerous Vardy had been brought down by Berra, then Wasilewski’s flick header from Knockaert’s cross landed on the top of Gerken’s net as the first-half came to an end with the leaders on top.

Lloyd Dyer got behind the Town defence as soon as the second-half got underway but his cross escaped the supporting Vardy, Morgan heading wide from Knockaert’s corner as the Foxes pressed for a third. 

Vardy showed terrific pace and willingness to run at the Town defence, the frontman then conjuring up a cross from wide on the right that forced Gerken to punch clear. 

Tommy Smith wasn’t far away from getting Blues back into the game on the hour, Cresswell’s free-kick flicked on by Berra but the New Zealand international couldn’t divert the ball in at the far post.

Paul Anderson replaced Tabb in Town’s first change, Daryl Murphy’s right foot effort lacking the power to beat Schmeichel soon after as Blues looked for a lifeline.

Murphy then created space for himself in the Leicester box but his shot was blocked before Sylvan Ebanks-Blake replaced Nouble, the Foxes also freshening it up with Dyer making way for Riyad Mahrez. 

Matty James fired wide from 30 yards after Vardy threatened again, the frontman then receiving a standing ovation as he left the field to be replaced by Wood for the last 20 minutes.

Gerken stood tall to save from Jeff Schlupp at his nearpost after Knockaert had set him up before Blues made a final change with Paul Taylor on for Stephen Hunt.

The home fans were on their feet again to acknowledge Nugent as he made way for Kevin Phillips for the last seven minutes, Taylor firing into the sidenetting, then seeing a header cleared from a corner. 

Wood sealed the win for Nigel Pearson’s side five minutes from time, sliding the ball past Gerken as the Foxes maintained their eight point lead at the top of the table with top flight football beckoning for the midlanders.

Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet, Morgan, Wasilewski, Schlupp, Knockaert, James, Drinkwater, Dyer (Mahrez 62), Nugent (Phillips 83), Vardy (Wood 71). Subs not used: Logan, King, Moore, Hammond. Booked: Wasilewski.

Town: Gerken, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell, Green, Skuse, Tabb (Anderson 61), Hunt (Taylor 75), Murphy, Nouble (Ebanks-Blake 63). Subs not used: Loach, Mings, Richardson, Wordsworth. Booked: Tabb.

Att: 28,078

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