An impressive individual goal by Andy King sealed three points for Leicester and fired them into the playoffs. In only his third season as a professional, the 21 year old Welsh international has been a key figure in the heart of Leicester’s midfield this year. He will now be hoping to help put the crown on Leicester’s playoff bid, following his 10th goal of the season.
Despite a disappointingly empty Deepdale, the 3,000 Leicester fans who made the trip to a sunny Preston were quick to create a good atmosphere. On the pitch, knowing a win would confirm a top six status, Leicester were the keener of the teams to impose themselves on the game.
The foxes began promisingly and went close in the third minute, following pressure on the Preston defence. Lloyd Dyer found space to shoot, but his effort was well blocked by Elliott Ward. Minutes later at the other end, Preston’s Matt Jarvis worked an opening but blazed over the bar.
The first clear-cut opportunity fell to Leicester just before the half hour. A fine save by Preston’s Andy Lonergan, diving to his right, denied Jack Hobbs from a 12-yard acrobatic effort. The danger wasn’t cleared and Everton loanee James Vaughan was presented with an excellent chance on the rebound. However Vaughan, making his first start for Leicester, somehow missed the target from six yards.
Yet Paul Gallagher did manage to find the net in bizarre circumstances before the break. Following an injury to Preston’s Ross Wallace, referee Grant Hegley restarted the game with a drop ball. From inside his own half, Gallagher put the ball in the Preston net with a cheeky lob; to the embarrassment of a stranded Lonergan and to the outrage of 12,000 Preston fans. But following the sportsmanship of Leicester manager Nigel Pearson (who offered to let Preston score), Gallagher was made to retake the drop ball and his goal was disallowed.
A half time injury to Andy Lonergan meant he was replaced by Wayne Henderson, making his first appearance since 2007. He was nearly beaten within two minutes. Lloyd Dyer’s cross to the far post was headed down by Gallagher to the feet of Martyn Waghorn. In acres of space only eight yards out, he scooped a first-time shot over the bar to the shock of the away fans.
Moments later there was further disbelief following a second disallowed goal, as Leicester came ever closer to scoring. Goalkeeper Wayne Henderson and defender Elliott Ward collided under pressure from James Vaughan, following a long ball. However, after Vaughan had tapped in he was penalised for a seemingly nonexistent foul.
Yet, it was finally third time lucky for the foxes. In the 58th minute King sent a a warning with a powerful volley just over the bar. Five minutes later he made no mistake. After winning the ball on the halfway line he advanced on the Preston goal. Despite falling at the edge of the box, he picked himself up and buried the ball in the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Cue wild scenes from the away end.
Having won 19 games by a single goal this season, it was perhaps unsurprising that Leicester didn’t take further advantage of a Preston team that only mustered one shot on target. Martyn Waghorn and then James Vaughan broke the offside trap and found themselves through on goal. However Waghorn could only land his chip on the roof of the net, whilst Vaughan was thwarted by Henderson (below).
Preston continued to try and apply pressure, but in truth they rarely threatened. Their best chances fell in the closing stages, with Callum Davidson heading wide and Neil Mellor fired narrowly over. However, the Leicester defence, (including Nolberto Solano in his 400th English league appearance), held out for a fourth successive win.
Despite the good form, Andy King believes alot of work still needs to be done to fulfill dreams of back to back promotions. ‘Everyone is really pleased but we have won nothing yet’ he insists.