At 14:55 Leicester fans had to ponder a string of unpleasant realities. Not only were they in very real danger of being knocked off top spot for the first time since 22nd November, Millwall could have reduced the gap between City and the play-offs to just four points. But it was Cheltenham Town, the team with the worst away record of any League One side, who’d conceded 46 goals on their travels, whose only away win had come at the side with the division’s worst home record (Leyton Orient), who’d taken just 5 points in the 21 games where their opponents had scored first, who’d lost 6-3 at home to Peterborough United in December, this Cheltenham Town side took a half-time deficit and secured a draw for the first time this season.
Then Yeovil Town, the side with the fewest goals this season, whose top scorer had managed just five league strikes, who’d won just four games against teams in the top half, who could boast the fifth worst home record in League One, who faced a Millwall side that had won their last five away games, this Yeovil Town side scored a goal in each half to win by two clear goals for only the third time this season.
At 14:55 Leicester fans were worried not only about the Championship, but promotion too. Now they have the chance to seal promotion and go a good way towards securing the title before either Peterborough Untied or Millwall play again. Millwall’s defeat means that City need just 6 points from their remaining five fixtures to be sure of Championship football next year (though given the disparity in goal difference, five points would be enough in reality). Peterborough’s failure to beat Martin Allen’s doomed Cheltenham means that Leicester could make to gap between themselves and the Posh seven points. A lead like that with just five games remaining would surely prove insurmountable.
The question is, do City want it enough?
Here’s everything, statistically, you need to know about the weekend ahead.
Hereford are eleven points from safety with just six matches to avoid the drop. If recent form is anything to go by the Bulls have little interest in saving themselves, Hereford have lost eight of their last nine matches, scoring six and conceding 19.
It’s been a miserable campaign with just two weeks out of the bottom four (one of those was the season’s opening weekend). Hereford have been in League One’s basement since 13th September.
But this is not the done deal it might appear. Oldham and Leeds have been high profile causalities at Edgar Street this year, Oldham in particular took a 5-0 pasting in January. The lesson for Leicester is score first, preferably in the first half. Hereford are yet to win a match this season in which their opponents have scored the opening goal and they have yet to win when trailing at the interval. This should be the easier of the weekend’s fixtures, but as Peterborough and Millwall have already demonstrated, nothing is that simple.
There are just four sides in League One who the Foxes haven’t beaten this season. Stockport County, Swindon Town and Brighton & Hove Albion are part of an exclusive group which only Leeds United can now join.
Simon Grayson’s side have hit form at what seems to be just the right time. The Whites are undefeated in ten – a sequence which includes seven victories. It’s a run which has propelled United from eighth to fifth, probably too late for an automatic promotion push, but Leeds in this form will certainly fancy their chances in the play-offs.
To beat Leeds, City will have to overcome two statistical anomalies which are in danger of becoming serious bugbears. As this blog has mentioned time and again, the Foxes are next to useless at early kick-offs. In the last 19 matches played before 15:00 City have won just two and lost a staggering 14.
Adding to this worry is the camera shy nature of Leicester sides at the Walkers Stadium in recent years. City’s last four home matches televised on Sky Sports have seen just one win and one goal for the Foxes. The results since 2007/08;
Cardiff – 0-0
Crystal Palace – 1-0
Plymouth – 0-1
Oldham – 0-0
You can draw your own conclusions, but a few quid on a goalless draw might be the best bet out there.
City will have to overcome some big challenges to secure promotion on Monday, but I told Rob Henton of Foxpodder a month ago that 13th April would be our promotion party (listen here) and I’d dearly love to be right.
EDIT: When writing this post I made the schoolboy error of forgetting to account for MK Dons’ game in hand. Leicester City can still be promoted on Monday, but as well as defeating Hereford and Leeds over the weekend City will need to hope Roberto Di Matteo’s side fail to win at home to Bristol Rovers. The champagne might be on ice a little longer, but you never know…