In case Chelsea and Wimbledon have not yet got the message, their injury wracked, suspension emasculated opponents in the FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup respectively are not about to concede anything either on the road to Wembley or the stony long lane that leads out of relegation corner. When you see Leicester coming, walk on the other side.
Having watched his mixture of the unfit, half-fit and freshmen come back from a bizarre goal surrendered in the second minute at Filbert Street on Saturday and seen his new signing, Robert Ullathorne, break an ankle on his debut a few days before, Martin O'Neill was as near as this inveterate chatterer can be to being at a loss for further praise. "Absolutely magnificent," he repeated over and over. "Absolutely dreadful," Jim Smith moaned about his brittle defence and an all-round poor performance against fellow relegation candidates.
O'Neill now has the pleasant task of fitting in Emile Heskey, Neil Lennon, Matt Elliott and Muzzy Izzet for Wednesday's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Chelsea. Ian Marshall, who scored a hat-trick in 19 minutes, suddenly becomes the first name on the team sheet. "He always wants to play centre- forward," O'Neill said, but with Heskey blossoming and the defence weakened by injuries, Marshall maye be asked to revert to his other role as central defender. After all, he has probably stopped more goals than he has scored. On Saturday he did both with disarming pleasure and effect.
It was one of those days for personal heroics. Garry Parker was Leicester's impressive conductor in midfield even though he had been offered compassionate leave because his wife had been taken to hospital. Yet at the same time there was slapstick. Derby took the lead when Paul Trollope's badly-struck shot hit Dean Sturridge and flummoxed Kasey Keller in the Leicester goal.
Marshall restored faith in skill by sensationally volleying in Jamie Lawrence's cross for the equaliser. Then, when the Derby goalkeeper, Russell Hoult, stumbled while trying to grab a back pass from Chris Powell, Marshall gratefully accepted the left-overs. His third, another composed finish, came from a cross by Steve Claridge.
Farce continued when Sturridge deflected in a shot from Igor Stimac but Leicester restored a cushion of advantage when the still unfit but enormously willing Steve Walsh moved up to cause confusion as Claridge popped in Leicester's fourth. It was the sort of confusion Paul McGrath usually resolves, but he had gone off "tired". The word is unknown to Leicester.
Goals: Sturridge (2) 0-1; Marshall (7) 1-1; Marshall (23) 2-1; Marshall (27) 3-1; Sturridge (46) 3-2; Claridge (58) 4-2.
Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Prior, Walsh, Watts; Lawrence, Campbell, Taylor (Wilson, 56), Grayson, Parker; Claridge, Marshall. Substitutes not used: Robins, Rolling, Fox, Poole (gk).
Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hoult; Stimac, McGrath (Simpson, 66), Rowett; C Powell (Laursen, 45), Trollope, Carsley, Dailly (Rahmberg, 82); Asanovic; Ward, Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Cooper, Taylor (gk).
Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).
Bookings: Derby: Rowett, Sturridge. Man of the match: Marshall.
Attendance: 20,323.Reuse content