Team changes was risk worth taking – Rob Tanner's verdict on Leicester City v Huddersfield
There may have been those among the 4,000 Leicester City supporters who travelled to the John Smith's Stadium who thought manager Nigel Pearson's decision to make five changes to a winning side was a risk.
That view would have been supported by the sight of a below-par City performance against a Huddersfield side struggling for confidence after a horrendous run of results, which included a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of City on New Year's Day.
As a result, The Terriers sacked manager Simon Grayson just two days before this FA Cup fourth-round tie.
City could not take advantage and, in fact, it is the hosts who will be kicking themselves they haven't already ensured their place in the fifth round.
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City's fractured performance was mainly due to manager Nigel Pearson's five changes to the side that had beaten Middlesbrough last week.
City have never hidden the fact that the league campaign and the quest for promotion takes a greater priority than any cup competition this season, and, with that in mind, Pearson was right to protect his most potent attacking players.
Anthony Knockaert has tortured Huddersfield in their two league meetings this season, having scored four times, but the Frenchman had been playing with a niggling ankle injury and Pearson decided enough was enough.
Matty James and David Nugent were also rested, while Chris Wood, who had scored six goals in his previous four City appearances, was wrapped in cotton wool on the substitutes' bench after also picking up a knock recently.
Nugent, Knockaert and Wood are vital to City's promotion hopes. Just how important was demonstrated by City's performance without them, and the difference when Nugent and Wood came on.
City were poor in the first half. The front two of Jamie Vardy and Martyn Waghorn were given virtually no service and could not make any impact. Richie Wellens, making his first start since April, was understandably lacking in sharpness alongside Andy King in central midfield, while the wide men of Lloyd Dyer and Ben Marshall were ineffectual.
Huddersfield created several great chances but they were largely wasted by Lee Novak, who was having a poor day in front of goal, luckily for City. After an hour, Pearson unwrapped his star men and sent them on – Wood and Nugent had an instant impact. Within two minutes of coming on, Wood forced the first save from Terriers keeper Alex Smithies and Nugent's movement was troubling a Terriers defence, which had been so comfortable up to that point.
Ironically, it was after City had improved that Huddersfield took the lead from the penalty spot through Novak. Dyer had been tricked into conceding the penalty by Jack Hunt's skill inside the area.
But City produced the move of the game to equalise eight minutes later when Michael Keane spotted Ritchie De Laet's superb overlapping run and the full-back pulled the ball back for Wood to score. It was another quality finish.
Some may have thought before the game that making five changes was a risk on Pearson's part.
However, in hindsight it would have been a risk to play them from the start because there is a far greater prize on offer this season.