Their promotion confirmed two weeks ago, Leicester City are close to topping off their ascent to the Premier League with the Championship title after David Nugent’s goal extended Queens Park Rangers’ wait to be sure of a place in the play-offs.
One way or another, Nigel Pearson’s side may be beyond catching by Tuesday. If Burnley lose at home to Wigan, another side chasing a play-off spot, tomorrow then first place will be theirs, as it will in any event if Leicester themselves win at Bolton Wanderers the following evening.
Harry Redknapp’s team, whom many thought would be occupying Leicester’s lofty perch at this stage, may already have enough points for a play-off spot, but their manager said afterwards that they “did not want to leave it to chance”, and will be keen to remove any uncertainty at home to Watford on Monday. One point will do.
There was a certain irony in the identity of Leicester’s goal-scorer yesterday. Redknapp paid £6 million to sign Nugent for Portsmouth in 2007 only to drop him after three matches, announcing not long afterwards that his assessment of him as a player to score 15 to 20 goals in a season was “a mistake”.
Nugent (right) has since described his time under Redknapp as “horrible”. He felt he was played out of position for much of his time at Fratton Park and seldom given credit for his performances. After a spell on loan at Burnley, Nugent joined Leicester on a free transfer in July 2011 after his Pompey contract expired.
Yesterday Redknapp said: “He’s done well, David, and I’m pleased he has done well. He’s scored a lot of goals in the Championship and I hope he scores some in the Premier League for Leicester.”
The latest, as it happens, was his 21st of this season and reflected his better qualities: a sharp eye for a chance, the muscle to shrug off defenders and a reliable finish. It came after a link-up between Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater, whose clever flick allowed Nugent to power past Benoît Assou- Ekotto before shooting across goalkeeper Robert Green into the far corner.
Earlier, Nugent had helped fashion the best chance of the first half, which saw Andy King round Green only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Nedum Onuoha.
The Rangers cause was not helped when a red card for Assou-Ekotto after 78 minutes reduced them to 10 men. His foul on King brought him a second yellow from referee Scott Duncan following a studs-first tackle on Mahrez in the first half that Pearson thought was worth a sending-off in its own right.
Modibo Maiga and Niko Kranjcar threatened from time to time for a Rangers team lacking Charlie Austin, Junior Hoilett and Joey Barton, but Leicester probably deserved the points after a performance praised by Pearson for displaying his side’s adaptability after he had opted to play a 4-4-2 formation, with King sitting just behind Nugent.
“I thought it was a good technical game for this division settled by a quality goal,” he said. “Going forward, we know we are not going to be able to dominate games in the Premier League in the way that we have dominated games in the Championship at times.
“We will have to have a Plan B and a Plan C, so I am pleased we have been able to adapt to different formations.”
Leicester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet, Wasilewski, Morgan, Schlupp (Moore, 77); Mahrez, Drinkwater, Hammond (James, 67), Knockaert (Dyer, 68); Nugent, King.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Green; Simpson, Onuoha, Hughes, Assou-Ekotto; Henry, O’Neil; Benayoun (Wright-Phillips, 45), Kranjcar (Morrison, 82), Suk-Young; Maiga (Zamora, 72).
Referee: Scott Duncan.Reuse content