Given that they have managed only five wins all season, it is hard to imagine Leicester City conjuring another five from their eight remaining games but the history of relegation battles shows that absurd propositions are sometimes met and those at the club still believe they can pull it off.
Manager Nigel Pearson thinks five wins – four at a pinch – can give his team hope. Saturday’s 2-1 victory over West Ham United was made possible by Andy King, sent on as substitute with 11 minutes remaining, who could not have chosen a better moment to end a year-long wait for his 50th league goal and his first in the Premier League.
“I had been hoping to tick off that milestone a bit sooner,” the 26-year-old Wales international admitted. “But to do it in front of the home fans, for the only club I’ve played for, and in the Premier League makes it sweeter.
“Most importantly it gave us three points because we have played well a lot of times this year and not got three points. Now it is about kicking on from here. Hopefully, it means we have turned the corner. We’ve got games to come against teams around us and we know what we have to do. We are well in the mix.”
To survive is a tall order, nonetheless. This was Leicester’s first win in nine league games, they remain bottom of the table and the individual errors that have been the undoing of so much vibrant attacking play were not notably absent. It is just that West Ham did not take advantage.
Leicester gave them a chance, too, failing to convert a penalty soon after going in front when David Nugent’s kick was saved by Adrian, then conceding an equaliser before half-time when Alex Song’s cross found Cheik Kouyaté at the end of a line of Leicester defenders, unmarked.
But, encouraged in word and example by the multi-decorated Esteban Cambiasso in midfield, Leicester spent the second half largely pushing West Ham back. The Argentine Champions League winner had delivered a terrific finish to put Leicester ahead 12 minutes into the game and he had a role in the build-up to King’s winner, flicked past Adrian from close range with less than four minutes left.
King has not been a regular starter in the Premier League but relished the opportunity to make an impact. “The gaffer didn’t say a lot to me as I came on, other than ‘you know what you can do’ and, obviously, ‘try to get the winner’,” he said. “It might be the most crucial goal I’ve ever scored.”
The West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, for whom Pearson worked at Newcastle, did not begrudge his friend the win.
“I don’t think Leicester have ever showed anything but enough to stay up,” he said. “I watched their game against Tottenham and still can’t believe they lost.”
Pearson smiled. “I wish I could be a lucky manager who plays crap and wins,” he said, aware that fortune must favour him now more often than not.
“What we have to do is try to keep our fate in our own hands. If we do that we will have a chance.”Reuse content