FOR ANOTHER GO AT PROMOTION
Play-off hurt all a distant memory
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.
UNFORTUNATE: Derby’s Lee Grant, left, scores an own goal to settle the game