Andy Gray
To say that Leicester City have spent money this season would be a massive understatement. The Foxes’ overseas owners have certainly aimed to make their mark on the Championship with big name signings, and previously with former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. Eriksson, however, was unable to deliver the minimum aim of a play-off spot, which has signalled the return of former boss Nigel Pearson in order to attempt to recover any chances of a promotion push.

On the flip side were Keith Hill and birthday boy David Flitcroft’s Barnsley side, who had been assembled for less than the prospective £1.8m deal that would have seen Billy Sharp join the Foxes from local rivals Doncaster Rovers, a deal that has since been turned down by the Sheffield born striker.

Tactically Speaking
The Reds welcomed new signing Chris Dagnall into the side and subsequently changed formation to accommodate the forward, who appeared to operate just behind Andy Gray and Ricardo Vaz Te on the Reds’ front line. The Reds appeared to go narrow in a formation that you might call ‘The 4-4-2 Dagnall Diamond’, with Perkins and Drinkwater operating in the heart of the midfield, and Miles Addison protecting the defensive line. The aim was to pressure the Leicester defence and midfield into long balls, with the likes of Dagnall and Perkins chomping at the bit to grab the ball at every opportunity.

The Foxes appeared to go 4-5-1 with the aim to play direct balls up to David Nugent and Paul Gallagher. The Foxes were dangerous with their attacking full backs Peltier and Konchesky, who continually made forward runs and aimed to get balls into the box. Unlike Barnsley, Leicester had no debutants; instead, Irish international Sean St Ledger made a surprise appearance on the substitute bench however, after reportedly being transfer listed following a spat with Nigel Pearson.

Soaking up the pressure
Leicester immediately looked to upset Barnsley with direct play, gaining early corners, as well as throw-ins deep into the Barnsley half. The Foxes were certainly aiming to hit the ground running and might have had an early chance when Steele saved well from a Paul Gallagher free-kick in the 5th minute. The Foxes continued to push but were contained to the long balls only, with pressure from Dagnall forcing the defence and midfield into early balls, offering them little time on the ball.

From impressive midfield play the Reds were able to get an early goal, when Miles Addison nicked the ball and produced a superb pass under pressure for Ricardo Vaz Te to run onto down the left hand side. The Portuguese forward managed to hold the ball near the goal line just outside the box, before Drinkwater was able to hit a cross, hard and low into the penalty area. Andy Gray popped up to get his first goal since November, putting the Reds ahead early – a fantastic team goal from Barnsley.

A quick reply
It was to take the blues all but 3 minutes to reply to Barnsley’s opener, when a defencive mix up allowed a high ball from Lee Peltier to find Lloyd Dyer unchallenged right outside the penalty area. Steele had expected much better from his defence, and had no time to react to a shot that was slotted home simply by the Foxes’ winger. Had the cracks of previous defensive mistakes began to show?

It was then the Foxes who were to be on top, almost giving the Reds no time to lick their wounds when they continued to push into the Barnsley half, gaining yet more set pieces. The Reds were able to counter on occasion however, although Andy Gray was continually flagged offside, as was Ricardo Vaz Te, who was perhaps unlucky on a couple of occasions.

Midfield magic?
After calming down from the Leicester equaliser, the Reds were able to grow into the game more, taking their time in passing the ball and finding a man. The Reds midfield appeared to be playing with glue on their boots, with the ball sticking to them constantly despite numerous challenges from the men in blue. Passages of play from the midfield were impressive, with Leicester often unable to cope. It was often the final ball lacking, although Foxes’ skipper Matt Mills was notably impressive in cutting out potentially lethal passes from Dagnall and Drinkwater in particular.

The Foxes were always on their toes with the tenacity of the entire midfield unit, who appeared to be enjoying their new formation. A few criticisms came from the travelling support regarding the lack of width, however both Dagnall and Vaz Te were able to get out wide when necessary, with supporting runs coming from Hassell and McEvely on numerous occasions, although both full backs might have been slightly disappointed with a couple of their crosses.

The Reds were to be rewarded for their efforts just after the half hour mark, when Andy Gray sealed his double from an almost identical piece of midfield play, the only difference apparent was the fact that Gray was to finish with his head this time, sending the travelling support into raptures.

The second half
Leicester were to be fast out of the blocks in the second half, looking to put immediate pressure on the defence and gain early set pieces once again. The Reds were having none of it and soaked up the pressure well initially.

The Reds could have only been the architects of their own downfall it seemed, and a couple of mistakes were allowed to creep into their game, when McNulty did a poor short ball straight to the Leicester man, and Jay McEvely cleared a set piece straight across our own box.

The Reds continued to hit Leicester on the break, and afforded Leicester little time on the ball. Particularly impressive was the hold up play of the frontmen Gray and Vaz Te, which brought Dagnall into the game on a few occasions. The former Scunthorpe man might have wanted a few more aspects of his game to click today, although he appeared to tire early after an impressive workmanlike performance, with Keith Hill deciding to rest the forward and bring Matt Done into the fray on the hour mark.

Having been booked in the first half, Miles Addison performed a slightly rash challenge on Richie Wellens, which might have seen him receive his marching orders in the 64th minute. Despite a good performance from the defencive midfielder, Hill perhaps made the sensible decision in substituting the man who ran the risk of being sent off, interestingly opting to send Craig Davies into the fray, signalling a change of formation to a traditional 4-4-2, with Done operating from the right and Vaz Te dropping back into his left wing role.

The Reds continued to press the centre-halfs, and arguably had the best chances of the game. Leicester began to become frustrated, as did the 22,000 strong crowd, and subsequent bookings were received by Peltier and Mills in quick succession. Leicester were desperate to push for the equaliser, although the reds hung firm until the end. Ricardo Vaz Te might have made the scoreline even more convincing from the Reds very late on, when he impressively got past the 2 remaining Leicester defenders who had not pushed up, to send him one on one with Kasper Schmeichel. The forward couldn’t finish the game off though, and had become visibly fatigued, with Schmeichel doing extremely well to keep him out. The chance was to be the last real one however, and the Reds wrapped up 3 points in Leicester for the first time since their move from Filbert Street 10 years ago, a pragmatic performance from the Reds.

Player-by-Player review
Luke Steele – 7 - Didn’t have much to do but did it well. Could have done nothing about Leicester’s goal, which came from poor defensive play.

Bobby Hassell © – 6 – Solid in the first half but tailed off in the second half slightly due to fatigue. Bobby did nothing in particular to be disappointed of, and with an increase in match fitness will surely be back to his former self.

Stephen Foster – 7 – Did a couple of key tackles and blocks, which made up for slight errors from his teammates.

Jim McNulty – 6 – Did play a few silly short passes in the first half but recovered in the second half by playing a simpler game and simply putting the ball out or into the opponent’s half when under pressure. By taking his second half performance forward, he could regain some of his earlier form.

Jay McEvely – 5 – Had a relatively poor game and could have cost the team with foolish clearances into our own box. Needs to gain confidence and play a simpler game at times, which would surely iron out his inconsistencies.

Miles Addison – 7 – Another solid performance in what appears to have been resurgent form from the Derby loanee. Tackles hard and well and allows nothing to get past him aerially. Could have been sent off, although his performance in general more than made up for that.

David Perkins – 7 – Tenacious as always and continued to pressure the Leicester midfield, often stealing the ball which then laid the foundations for our attacks. Should have had a shot when on the edge of the 18 yard area in the second half, and perhaps with more confidence in going forward would have put the game beyond doubt.

Danny Drinkwater – 9 – Assisted both goals today to cap off a very impressive midfield performance. Danny put in the performance Barnsley fans had grew to love him for in his first loan spell, and looks set to have a bright second half to the season

Chris Dagnall – 7 – A decent debut from the attacker, who appeared to grow into a neat little role just behind the strikers. Showed decent spells of creativity, and worked his socks off to continually close down the Leicester defence. As he develops some match fitness and grows into the side, we may just see a nice little coup from Keith Hill, at a reportedly nominal fee.

Ricardo Vaz Te – 8 – Creative and held the ball up well. Had his part to play throughout the game, but perhaps should have took his late chance, although considering his general play today, that has to be forgiven in my eyes.

Andy Gray – 8 – 2 chances, 2 goals. A very efficient performance from the striker who impressively managed to last the 90 minutes, continually pressing the centre backs with fellow forwards Dagnall and Vaz Te. Deserves his place next week.

Matt Done for Chris Dagnall – 6- Didn’t really grow into the game although countered well and created a couple of half chances for his team mates.

Craig Davies for Miles Addison – 7 – Had to press the centre halves and did it well, making up for his lack luster performance in the last game. Despite playing well and carving a chance for himself, he may struggle to break into the side given the performance of the rest of the front men today.

Wiseman for Vaz Te – N/A

Kasper Schmeichel – 8 – Hero of the day for Leicester, saving well from Davies and Vaz Te.

Lee Peltier – 6 – Got forward well but perhaps struggled a little defensively, performing a couple of rash challenges.

Matt Mills © - 8 - Another shining light in the Leicester side, Mills was able to intercept extremely well today and was a very vocal leader, you can see why the defender was able to command such a large fee in the summer.

Alexander Tunchev – 6 – Could have perhaps done a little more on the goals, and was clearly overshadowed by Mills throughout the game, also was responsible for the mix up right at the death.

Paul Konchesky – 7 – Got forward very well and provided one of the main threats down the left hand side for the Foxes.

Neil Danns – 6 – Didn’t do a great deal, given the direct nature of Leicester’s play.

Richie Wellens – 6 – Likewise with Danns, had little to do, and seemed to have little reply to the Barnsley passages of play.

Lloyd Dyer – 7 – A relatively good performance from one of the ‘old guard’ at Leicester. Was threatening on a couple of occasions and didn’t panic to get his goal.

Andy King – 6 – Like the majority of the midfield, had little to do and couldn’t really get into the game.

Paul Gallagher – 6 - Threatened from set pieces, but was unable to do much more to the Barnsley defence.

David Nugent – 6 – Like Gallagher, pressured from set pieces but provided little else on the day.

Jermaine Beckford for Paul Gallagher – 5 – Didn’t get into the game and did little to prove the point of his huge summer price tag.

Man of the Match – Danny Drinkwater – An all round impressive performance from the midfielder, providing a lot more than the 2 assists. The ball appeared to stick to his feet today, and he summed up the tenacity of the side today, a job well done for Drinkwater.

Don’t forget to follow @OnThePontyEnd and me @MichaelRoach55 on Twitter, and don’t forget to comment below. We want your feedback on the game, whether you were able to get to the game or not. Agree with my report? Disagree? Have your say!

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Anonymous said...

I think this report doesn't do justice to an excellent hard-working performance by the Reds and gives too much credit to a Leicester team almost totally lacking in any sort of creativity. We created several decent chances in the latter stages and the result could easily have been 4 or 5-1 to the Reds.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comment, I think I mentioned the few chances we did have in the second half, and definitely mentioned the Vaz Te chance which would have seen the game out of sight. Also, I hope I didn't take anything away from the performance which I was really impressed with - I think I mentioned in particular the 'tenacity' on a few occasions. As for Leicester I wouldn't say I gave too much credit to Leicester, as I agree, they lacked creativity, as you'll see their highest rated players were defenders, which tells a story in itself.