NU­GENT PAIN

Out of form striker gives

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFFS - By Chris Dunlavy

LE­ICES­TER drew first blood in a match de­fined by the con­trast­ing for­tunes of two out-of-form strik­ers.

Pro­lific over Christ­mas, Wat­ford’s Czech hit­man Matej Vy­dra has ground to a halt in re­cent weeks, the fear­some pace that once ter­ri­fied de­fend­ers sapped from his legs by 40-odd gru­elling games.

Though he was named Cham­pi­onship player of the year in March, the 20-year-old hasn’t scored since a 2-1 win over Derby on Fe­bru­ary 23.

For Le­ices­ter’s David Nu­gent, the bar­ren run has been drier still, with none of his 15 goals com­ing this side of Jan­uary.

Yet while Vy­dra’s strug­gles con­tin­ued, capped by a scuffed mishit when clean through, Nu­gent chose the per­fect mo­ment to re­dis­cover his touch, head­ing home An­thony Knock­aert’s free-kick with just eight min­utes left.

It was hardly ma­jes­tic. Re­plays showed that the ball looped awk­wardly off the back of the striker’s head. But with the Pre­mier League a step closer, nei­ther he nor his club will care much about that.

“Hope­fully it will give Nuge that ex­tra bit of con­fi­dence,” said Le­ices­ter man­ager Nigel Pear­son. “But what I will say is he gives you a lot of en­thu­si­asm, great work-rate and al­ways af­fects the game.

“Nor­mally, when he gets one, he goes on and gets two, three or four. It’s been a while, but you al­ways feel he’s ca­pa­ble of scor­ing. You wouldn’t look at him and think: ‘He’s go­ing through a hard time’, be­cause he al­ways works so hard. I’m pleased for him, but I’m more pleased he’s got us that lead.”

In fair­ness, it didn’t look like it was go­ing to be Nu­gent’s night ei­ther. De­spite plenty of clever link-up play, the for­mer Eng­land man missed a sit­ter when he shanked Lloyd Dyer’s pull back wide from 10 yards.

It was one of sev­eral de­cent open­ings spurned in a bright open­ing from the home side, who also so saw Michael Keane vol­ley wide from a fine ball by makeshift left-back Jeff Schlupp.

“We started ex­cep­tion­ally well,” added Pear­son. “The dan­ger with start­ing well and not scor­ing is that frus­tra­tion can creep in, but I think we kept our com­po­sure very well.”

Wat­ford – ag­o­nis­ingly de­nied au­to­matic pro­mo­tion on the fi­nal day – were neat and tidy but looked very much like a side still lick­ing their wounds. Though their counter-at­tack­ing was danger­ous – Ikechi Anya

HIGH FIVE: Le­ices­ter’s Ritchie De Laet and Nu­gent

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