Fer-middable Austin Out Foxes Leicester.....
Leicester traveled down to West London today in a battle of the two promoted sides and also battle of two of the bottom three in the Premier League. Leicester have been out of sorts recently whilst Rangers' needed to ensure that they avoided defeat and the risk of slowly being cut away at the bottom of the table. The ingredients for a game which either side could not afford to lose, a six pointer maybe?
Due to difficulty parking in the area Jess and myself did not arrive at the ground until fifteen minutes before kick off, meaning we had to quickly rush in, meet Lofty, PK and Jenson and then take our seats. Sam, Luke and Lorna were already in their seats by the time we arrived.
Three changes were made from the defeat at Newcastle. Dunne missed out through suspension, Zamora dropped out of the squad with a back injury whilst Sandro will be out of action until January with a knee injury. They were replaced by Isla, Vargas and Krancjar respectively.
Before kick off we paid our respects to Malcolm Oakley who sadly passed away this week. Malcolm was well known around the club and our condolences go out to his family. A superb minutes applause was taken by both sets of fans.
At the beginning of the game we could all be guilty of thinking that taking three points would be a formality if we put in a battling performance like we have done in recent home fixtures, especially against a team that have failed to score in their last five games....
Within four minutes that script was well and truly torn apart!
Ulloa's blocked shot fell to the feet of Esteban Cambiasso, who side footed inside Green's right post in a well taken goal with precision that stunned the Loftus Road crowd.
The atmosphere really quietened in the ground following the goal and Leicester used to this to their advantage and played in their counter attacking style which caused plenty of problems to the R's back line. Vardy's hustling and bustling just behind Ulloa ensured that he was applied pressure and was forcing errors in the middle third of the field and did not give a moments peace to anyone.
It took Rangers' a good twenty minutes to settle into the game and the encounter turned into a good old fashioned Championship game flowing end to end and being a very entertaining afternoon.
Leicester failed to make the most of several good chances and were punished ten minutes before the interval when who else but Steven Caulker found himself on the left wing before swinging in a perfect low cross which was met by Wes Morgan as he done his best Richard Dunne impression and poked the ball into his own net to level the game.
Straight from kick off Leicester broke away and if it wasn't for a fantastic save from Green then the visitors could of easily restored their lead.
With half time looming there was time for the third goal of the game.
Barton's right wing cross was too high for Vargas, however Austin was on hand to power a header which was saved by Schmeichel but the ball fell kindly to Fer, who volleyed into the ground and through the hands of the 'keeper as he bagged his first goal for the R's.
Half time was a welcome relief from an intense game and a lot more enjoyable following Fer's goal. I thought wearing my retro Holland shirt had brought us some luck, however it was soon revealed why he had returned to form, Lofty had in fact taken him out of his fantasy team and lifted the curse.
Leicester started the second half much the better side and created two good chances in the first five minutes of the half. Firstly Mahrez saw an effort beaten away by Green before Vardy glanced a header onto the top of the bar.
Rangers' just needed to slow the tempo of the game down and take the sting out of Leicester's attack but the visitors kept snapping back and we have not seen our defence come up against this constant battle and it was really going to be a test for the remainder of the game.
On the hour mark the R's finally breached the back line as Austin was clear to send an eighteen yard volley towards goal, only to see Schmeichel more than equal to it and turn it around the post for a corner.
Unfortunately the R's could not continue the momentum from this, instead it was the Foxes that came back stronger and with 68 minutes on the clock they were level.
Rangers' failed to clear a Leicester corner properly as Schlupp was on hand to send his twenty yard volley through the crowded penalty area and into the bottom corner. A well taken goal, however it could have been prevented on several occasions.
The game continued to swing from end to end, however there was to be a fifth goal and it proved to be the winner seventeen minutes from time.
Leicester themselves failed to deal with a corner and it was Onuoha who saw his header blocked before Austin followed up to head home and seal a much needed three points.
In all fairness this game could've ended 8-8 and Leicester had plenty of chances to punish us, however they just lacked that finishing prowess in the final third. This was probably the most pressure our defence has been under for a very long time.
It wasn't our greatest performance, however it was just good to see us grind out a result and get another three points on the board.
On to our Man of the Match. I went for Karl Henry's battling and impressive defensive performance. Vargas' industrious performance drew a vote from Lofty. All remaining votes from Jess, Sam, Luke, PK, Jenson and Lorna all went to Leroy Fer.
We return in midweek as Lofty reviews our trip to Swansea.