How close Nigel Pearson came to losing his job as Leicester City’s attempt to win a place in the Premier League last season unravelled only the club’s Thai owners know. They can congratulate themselves now that they kept the faith.
Eight months on from the 2-0 defeat at Barnsley in April that was thought to have been Pearson’s edge-of-the-precipice moment, after an 11-match sequence containing seven losses and only one win, Leicester returned to the top of the Championship with a vibrant attacking performance. Last season, Leicester somehow scraped into the play-offs, which probably saved Pearson’s skin, even if it did end in despair with an unlucky defeat at Watford. This time, whatever his employers have in mind, he is determined to aim for automatic promotion.
“We would all prefer not to go through that kind of experience [again] and go up at the first attempt, and it would be nice to think that last season’s experience will stand us in good stead and that this will be our year,” he said.
“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have more know-how on the field and more know-how off the field, but you don’t win leagues in November, let’s not forget that.”
Results elsewhere yesterday helped Leicester’s cause as they went three points clear at the top, but an astonishing tally of 30 shots on target deserved to be handsomely rewarded. That Millwall conceded only three goals in the face of that barrage was down in large part to their goalkeeper, David Forde, who probably saved half of them. “Thankfully David was in fantastic form otherwise it could have been much worse,” said Millwall’s manager, Steve Lomas.
Leicester, who had lost four consecutive Championship matches to Millwall, looked likely to avoid a fifth defeat after 12 minutes, when Matty James drove into Millwall’s penalty area on the right and delivered a deftly chipped cross that Lloyd Dyer met on the volley to score his sixth goal of the season.
Forde came to Millwall’s rescue repeatedly before half-time, with Anthony Knockaert denied three times, but he could not keep out an emphatic finish by Jamie Vardy seven minutes into the second half that was all the more impressive for coming at the end of a 70-yard run, the former Fleetwood striker having been rolled the ball by his own goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, the match was over as a contest when Vardy struck again, taking advantage of a poor headed back-pass by visiting full-back Scott Malone to nip in and beat Forde for a second time.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Wasilewski, Morgan, Miguel, Konchesky; Knockaert, James, Drinkwater (Hammond, 74), Dyer (Taylor-Fletcher, 69); Nugent (Wood, 61), Vardy.
Millwall (4-2-3-1): Forde; Hoyte, Robinson, Beevers, Malone; Moussi, Abdou; Feeney, Chaplow (Martin, 61), Woolford (Morison, h-t); McDonald (Keogh, 61).
Referee: Andy Haines.