Date: 18th February 2006 at 7:07pm
Written by:

Heroic 10-man Leicester City drew 1-1 with Leeds United to further ease their relegation worries at the Walkers today but lost 2-0 against the referee, Ray Olivier.

It took Mr Olivier just 11 minutes to ruin what was shaping up to be one of the most entertaining and exciting games of the season.

That was when he awarded Leeds a penalty and then shocked the crowd by sending off the offender Paddy McCarthy.

There was no real argument about the penalty, for a foul on Rob Hulse, from which Robbie Blake scored Leeds equaliser.

But there was no common sense at all in the sending off.

McCarthy and Hulse were chasing a high ball towards the City penalty area and McCarthy seemed to lose sight of the ball momentarily as it past over his shoulder.

Without doubt he held Hulse in the box but to send him off for such an innocuous crime because he was last man and Hulse was denied a goalscoring chance seemed ridiculously harsh considering the referee had no benefit of a video replay and was some 30 yards away from the incident.

So far, in fact that he actually raised the red card to Patrick Kisnorbo before realising his mistake. But no matter, Hulse, like Leeds for the remainder of the game, hardly looked like scoring, Richard Stearman might have got in a covering tackle and goalkeeper Paul Henderson might very well have blocked any shot but Mr Oliver allowed no doubt to enter his mind.

One-nil to the referee.

The second decision came some five minutes from the end when City substitute Chris O’Grady was blatantly held by Stephen Crainey either just inside the penalty box or right on the edge of it and neither the assistant referee who was right opposite the incident nor the referee gave anything.

Two-nil to the ref and such blatant incompetence, particularly from the linesman that he really ought to be officially answerable for it.

The result of the sending off was to turn an open game defensive.

Leicester had taken a fifth minute lead through the brilliant Iain Hume.

A Joey Gudjonsson free kick was blocked by Jonathan Douglas but Hume gained possession, skipped wide of a defender and lashed in his third goal in his last three starts and his seventh of the season.

City became expansive, putting together some excellent moves but the penalty incident, which left them to face 79 minutes with 10-men, forced them to adapt a more defensive and containing system.

They did so brilliantly and to such an extent that they remained the better side, restricting third-in-the-table Leeds to nothing more than the occasional whiff of a half-chance while more than matching their efforts at the other end.

There was a sizeable Leeds contingent in the record crowd this season of 25,497, but they were reduced to near silence by Leicester’s efforts.

Officially the Man of the Match was Alan Maybury and, once again, he did sterling work on the right of midfield on a day when everyone played their part splendidly.

But Man of the Match? These things are a matter of opinion but Patrick Kisnorbo rose to the challenge at centre-back like a colossus in the absence of McCarthy and even he might just have been eclipsed by the tireless Iain Hume.

Not only did the striker score an excellent individual goal, but he worked chances out of nothing, won headers he had no right to get near, dived in for challenges that might have cost him his career and, after 92 minutes of non-stop fighting for the cause he went deep into defence to win a throw-in out of nothing near his own corner flag to save vital seconds.

That singular action typified City’s performance. For Rob Kelly and Mike Stowell it was their fifth successive Championship league game without defeat.

And if the managers needed a team of men to achieve the unlikely in any situation this would surely be they. Each and every one contested every ball, everywhere.

The end product was another point which, with Brighton losing, lifted City eight points clear of Brighton and Millwall in the highest relegation spot which, with goal difference, means these two will now almost certainly need to pull back the equivalent on three League victories to catch us.

Skipper Danny Tiatto made a successful comeback from a hamstring injury playing by far his best hour’s football of the season, first at left midfield but then at left-back when McCarthy went off.

Nisse Johansson moved to centre-back with Kisnorbo and City’s defence proceded to blunt Leeds attacks with such effect that half-chances for Miller and Healy were the best of sparse offerings indeed.

Hume, Gareth Williams and Hughes with a piledriver that flashed just wide responded for Leicester who showed, once more that they are a united unit once more and a match for anyone in the Championship whatever obstacles the referee makes them overcome.

Leicester: Henderson, Stearman, McCarthy , Kisnorbo, Johansson, Maybury, Gudjonsson, Hughes, Tiatto (Williams 64), Hume, Fryatt (O’Grdy 76). Subs not used Smith, Gerrbrand, Logan.

Leeds: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Crainey, Gregan, Miller, Bakke (healy 56), Douglas, Lewis, Hulse, Blake (Moore 70). Subs not used: Bennett, Walton, Einarsson.

Red cards: McCarthy (City) 11 minutes.

Yellow cards: Hume (City), Gregan, Miller, Lewis (Leeds)

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