Play-off hurt all a dis­tant mem­ory

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Nick Brad­shaw To comment on this match go to http://boards.footy­

ANY WORRIES that Le­ices­ter would suf­fer a play-off hang­over this sea­son have now been ex­tin­guished as they un­der­lined their early pro­mo­tion cre­den­tials against Derby.

A for­tu­itous own goal from Derby goal­keeper Lee Grant was all it took to main­tain Le­ices­ter's un­beaten start to the sea­son and en­sure they keep tabs with the early Cham­pi­onship pace­set­ters.

A cruel play-off exit to Wat­ford in May, cou­pled with a lack of ac­tiv­ity in the trans­fer win­dow, meant that Nigel Pear­son's men per­haps slipped un­der the radar when pre­sea­son pro­mo­tion pre­dic­tions were be­ing made.

But seven points from a pos­si­ble nine has con­vinced the Le­ices­ter boss that his play­ers are not suf­fer­ing from any lin­ger­ing heartache from last sea­son.

“Af­ter miss­ing out in the fash­ion that we did, there is al­ways go­ing to be a ques­tion mark over whether the play­ers come back in a good enough frame of mind to chal­lenge again,” said Pear­son.

“The Cham­pi­onship is a very dif­fi­cult league to op­er­ate in but we have started the sea­son okay and shown peo­ple what we are about.

“We didn’t play par­tic­u­larly well here and I think Derby man­aged the ball very well but ul­ti­mately we have come away with the three points.

“I’m not go­ing to moan too much but we are a lot bet­ter than that. I’m pleased to get three points - whether we de­served it is some- what de­bat­able but re­sults are ev­ery­thing in this league.”

Derby too were un­beaten head­ing into the game but, de­spite con­trol­ling much of the play in the sec­ond half, Le­ices­ter keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel was not prop­erly tested.

Chris Martin, who has signed per­ma­nently from Nor­wich, and new strike part­ner Johnny Rus­sell failed to cre­ate any clear cut chances to fire Derby back into the game but boss Nigel Clough re­fused to point any ac­cus­ing fin­gers.

“There were a lot of nearly mo­ments for us in the game and it was prob­a­bly a good enough per- for­mance to get some­thing from it," he said.

“It was a scrappy goal – un­tidy – and it is the sort of goal you can't af­ford to con­cede against a team like Le­ices­ter.

“We started on the front foot and I think we played some very, very good stuff in the last half an hour but couldn't get back into it.

“De­fen­sively, Le­ices­ter are one of the best sides in the league and are very dif­fi­cult to score against. We had enough sit­u­a­tions which we didn't quite do well enough to turn into chances. I thought we did enough to get a point though.”

De­spite Derby's bright start, Le­ices­ter had had the bet­ter of the chances be­fore they even­tu­ally took the lead.

Richard Keogh's sloppy clear­ance bounced into the path of Jamie Vardy in­side the box but keeper Grant came to his cap­tain's res­cue to deny the striker with his legs.

Grant though could do lit­tle about the Foxes' goal. Vardy's cheeky back­heel from six yards out was blocked on the line but Paul Coutts' clear­ance hit the stricken keeper and found the back of the net.

It could have been worse for the Rams ap­proach­ing half time but Keogh made up for his early mis­de­meanour with a tackle to pre­vent Vardy strik­ing home.

Derby grabbed hold of the game in the sec­ond half but Keogh, Kieron Free­man and Martin all failed to con­vert de­cent chances.

Liam Moore was colos­sal for Le­ices­ter at the back but he was thank­ful ref­eree Robert Madley waved play on when his clumsy tackle re­sulted in Martin hit­ting the deck on 74 min­utes.

It proved to be the only blot on Moore's copy­book as he and de­fen­sive part­ner Wes Mor­gan guarded Sch­me­ichel's goal man­fully late on to re­pel any fur­ther Derby ad­vances and pre­serve a hard-earned clean sheet.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

UN­FOR­TU­NATE: Derby’s Lee Grant, left, scores an own goal to set­tle the game

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