David Nugent fires Leicester City into automatic promotion spot after Middlesbrough clash
David Nugent fired Leicester City into the automatic promotion spots after a tight clash with promotion rivals Middlesbrough at a snow-bound King Power Stadium last night.
However, City had to rely on a stunning penalty save from Kasper Schmeichel in added time to deny Marvin Emnes and ensure the victory after Jamie Vardy had tripped Rhys Williams inside the penalty area.
Nugent struck in the 70th minute with his 13th goal of the campaign to see off plucky Boro – who started the day on the same number of points as City – and stretch City's winning run to four Championship games.
The only negative from a City point of view was that only 8,585 fans – from more than 20,000 tickets sold – were able to make it to the stadium because of the horrendous wintry weather, which caused havoc around the city and delayed the kick-off by 15 minutes.
It was hardly the most ideal preparation for a game of such importance.
The congestion caused by the snow meant that an hour before the original kick-off time, Middlesbrough had yet to turn up, Nigel Pearson had only nine City players at the stadium and only two of the match officials had arrived.
Several of the City players had to walk or run to the stadium – Martyn Waghorn from Fosse Park, Anthony Knockaert from Leicester station and Liam Moore from his abandoned car.
It looked so bad at one stage that injured defender Sean St Ledger was preparing to play.
The game was delayed until 8pm and Boro eventually arrived at 7pm, and immediately ran out to warm-up on the King Power pitch, which was in immaculate condition.
However, while the key figures on the pitch were present, thousands of fans had not made it.
About 20,000 tickets were pre-sold for the game, but the terrible road conditions away from the ground had understandably put the majority off attending.
The debate will rage as to whether the game should have been called off and, regardless of the result, in hindsight it should have been to give more fans the chance to see such a vital clash.
There will be plenty who feel aggrieved, although the victory may go some way to placating them.
Despite the conditions and the build-up, both sides served up an enthralling encounter and Boro certainly had their moments, but it was City who had the better chances and were unlucky on three occasions – Anthony Knockaert and Michael Keane struck the crossbar in the first half and Chris Wood was denied his seventh goal in four games when his header struck the post at the start of the second.
Nugent had the ball in the net on two more occasions, both being ruled out for offside, but his superb hooked first-time shot into the bottom corner from Wood's flick was a fitting winner.