Goals from Steve Howard and Andy King sent Leicester on their way to a deserved victory over Hereford United and ended 2008 on a high.
A late Karl Broadhurst header with 11 minutes remaining had given Hereford some hope of getting something from the match, but the league leaders proved too strong for the visitors.
Nigel Pearson made one change to the team that drew 1-1 with Leeds on Boxing Day, with Michael Morrison replacing Aleksander Tunchev at centre back.
An early shot from Hereford’s Matt Done was comfortably saved by goalkeeper David Martin early on, before Leicester midfielder Andy King shot over moments later.
Both Matt Oakley and Matty Fryatt saw their efforts on goal blocked before the home side did break the deadlock early on with 9 minutes played.
A fine Leicester move involving Fryatt first laying off to Davies who then provided for Howard who made no mistake in firing the ball home past the helpless Hereford goalkeeper.
Davies was involved again soon after with a chance of his own, but the on loan Wolves man fired his shot wide after making his way into the area.
Leicester were piling on the pressure, and nearly doubled their lead when Fryatt latched onto the end of a Matt Oakley cross in another fine Leicester move. However, the forward saw his effort saved well by goalkeeper Craig Samson.
At the other end of the pitch David Martin saved well from Lionel Ainsworth’s low drive. Moments later Nick Chadwick’s shot was well blocked by Morrison to deny the forward.
Howard was provided with the chance of a second goal when he rose to meet Oakley’s accurate cross, but the striker could only head straight at Samson.
Another spell of Leicester pressure provided the home side with a series of corners, all of which were dealt with by Hereford’s backline. Mark Davies’ dangerous looking shot was blocked behind for a corner, before Andy King saw his effort converted to a set-piece too.
The game remained 1-0 to Leicester at half-time, a scoreline which could have been increased by the home side. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson decided to rest top-scorer Matty Fryatt, replacing him with Paul Dickov at the break.
The forward started off in lively fashion, almost reaching a Steve Howard cross early on in the half.
A Matt Oakley free-kick was headed on first by Howard onto the head of Chadwick, but was saved comfortably by Samson in the Hereford goal. Another Oakley cross two minutes later found Howard, but he was unable to head goalwards.
Hereford manager Graham Turner decided to ring the changes on the hour mark, replacing Chadwick with Andy Williams.
Leicester’s next chance came via winger Lloyd Dyer, but his powerful shot fell wide of Samson’s goal. Midfielder Andy King was handed the opportunity of doubling Leicester’s advantage with a free-kick 25 yards out, but his effort was well saved for a corner by Samson again.
Hereford could have grabbed an equaliser against the run of play in the 62nd minute when Steve Guinan was sent through, but his weak effort was gratefully recovered by Martin in the Leicester goal.
Leicester continued to push for the elusive second goal as King fired over from just outside the area, before Dyer almost converted after rounding the keeper, only to be thwarted by Bulls defender Josh Gowling.
Guinan was handed the opportunity once more of levelling for Hereford but his shot fell wide of the goal following a weak punch from Martin.
However, Leicester finally grabbed their goal in the 71st minute through Andy King. Matt Oakley’s hard work on the edge of the penalty area handed King the chance to rifle home into the bottom corner for his 9th goal of the season.
As the game looked dead and buried, Lloyd Dyer made way for midfielder Nicky Adams. Unfortunately for Leicester the visitors hadn’t given up just yet, and hit back through Karl Broadhurst in the 79th minute.
A free-kick needlessly given away by Steve Howard was woefully defended by Leicester, handing Broadhurst the opportunity to head home unopposed to give Hereford a glimmer of hope in the game.
An angled Nicky Adams shot rolled meekly wide of the goal, failing to toruble Bulls ‘keeper Samson. A low effort from Steve Howard also made its way past the wrong side of the post following good work from Oakley down the right.
In an unnecessarily anxious finish for Leicester Hereford were handed the chance to score from a free-kick 25 yards out, but Kris Taylor fired his effort wide of Martin’s goal.
Two bookings followed in the final minutes for Leicester, first a yellow for Adams for an embarassing dive, and then Howard for handball.
Despite Hereford’s minor comeback, Leicester hung on to secure the win that keeps them top of League One, two points clear of second placed MK Dons.
City: Martin, Gilbert, Morrison, Hobbs, Berner (Mattock 42), Oakley (c), King, Davies, Dyer (Adams 75), Howard, Fryatt (Dickov 45)
Subs: Cisak, Edworthy
Hereford: Samson, Rose, Diagouraga, Taylor, Smith, Guinan, Broadhurst, Done, Ainsworth, Gowling, Chadwick (Williams 58)
Subs: Viega, Gwynne, Beckwith, Johnson
Yellow Cards: City: Adams, Howard; Hereford: None
David Martin (6)
Dealt with what little he had to do well enough.
Kerrea Gilbert (6)
Not his greatest performance ever, but again I thought he was a little isolated at times with little support from other players. Looks a little unsteady on the ball at the moment.
Michael Morrison (6)
A little shaky at times but all in all I thought he was steady enough.
Jack Hobbs (7)
I’m not sure who’s fault it was for their goal, but I thought he was one of our better performers today, winning most things in the air and stopping whatever came his way.
Bruno Berner (6)
Subbed after 42 minutes through injury, but dealt with the extremely pacy Ainsworth well enough.
Matt Oakley (8)
Best player on the pich comfortably. Worked incredibly hard all game to try and get things going, and had a big hand in King’s goal. Man of the match.
Mark Davies (7)
One of the only players looking to make things happen on the attacking front. His usual confident self, never afraid to run past players and find space.
Andy King (7)
Extra half for his well-taken goal, steady game without doing a great deal of note.
Lloyd Dyer (4)
Awful performance from him on a day that really could have been his for the taking. You can see he’s lacking so much confidence, he won’t try and beat his man and thus fails to get crosses in. Everytime he played a pass it went to a Hereford player. Time for a rest perhaps?
Steve Howard (7)
Had very little support today in the second half from Dickov who was largely unimpressive all game long. Won the majority of his headers and was involved in many of Leicester’s attacks.
Matty Fryatt (6)
From what I saw of him in the first half he played well, working hard once again down the channels.
Joe Mattock (6)
Saw very little of him really. Defended well against Ainsworth who clearly had pace to burn. Offered little attacking wise though when Dyer clearly needed him.
Paul Dickov (4)
Shockingly poor. Totally off the pace and gave Howard no help whatsoever. I think his performance today highlighted the importance of Fryatt’s signed contract.
As bad as Dyer. Booked for an embarassing dive.