The Foxes began the year with a 3rd Round FA Cup tie at the Walkers Stadium against Paulo Sousa’s Swansea City. 12,307 fans, the lowest attendance for a 3rd Round match in Leicester since a replay with Hereford United in December 1999, saw City come from behind to snatch victory thanks to Dany N’Guessan’s third goal from the bench in 2009/10.
Having won at the death the week before, City proceeded to concede within 20 seconds in their home fixture with Ipswich Town. It was the fastest goal Leicester had conceded since Steve Claridge had given Millwall a surprise lead after 14 seconds at the Walkers in December 2002. Making matters only slightly less embarrassing, Ryan McGivern’s own goal was one of four which Roy Keane’s men would net within the opening minute of matches in the 2009/10 campaign.
Steve Howard saved a point for the Foxes that day, but City were unable to continue their run of scoring in 11 consecutive Championship matches at Swansea. Indeed, Nigel Pearson’s men failed to muster even an attempt on target at the Liberty Stadium. Another miserable afternoon in Wales followed as Leicester fell to their 100th FA Cup defeat, this time at the hands of Cardiff. The Foxes haven’t won an FA Cup tie away from the Walkers Stadium since 2004/05.
The poor start to the year continued at Barnsley, with the City conceding a goal at Oakwell for the first time since 1995. A 1-0 defeat meant that for the first time in Nigel Pearson’s tenure the Foxes had failed to score in consecutive league games.
The scoreless run continued at home to Newcastle United, but concern was replaced with pride as 10-man City battled to a commendable goalless draw. Nobby Solano was given a warm welcome from both sets of supporters as he came on to make his first appearance in English football since May 2008.
Just two points from four league games left City 8th in the Championship table at the end of the month, two points adrift of the playoff places, but with a game in hand on all of their rivals.
If the number of attempts on goal is a good measure of how exciting a game has been, then Blackpool and Leicester served up one of the matches of the season at Bloomfield Road. The Foxes and Tangerines peppered each others goal with no less than 39 attempts as City sealed their first victory at Blackpool for 73 years.
Unfortunately that match was immediately followed by a drab encounter with Doncaster, notable only for the broken jaw suffered by Matty Fryatt which would seen the striker miss the rest of the regular season. With 43 attempts on goal himself, more than twice as many as any other City player at the time, it was clear that someone would need to step up for the Foxes.
Almost immediately someone did. Paul Gallagher sealed his first professional hat-trick as the Foxes crushed Scunthorpe 5-1. It was Leicester’s biggest ever win at the Walkers Stadium and the first time the Foxes had scored five since a 5-2 triumph over Sunderland in March 2000.
Under Nigel Pearson City had picked up the useful habit of scoring late goals and Lloyd Dyer’s strike in stoppage time at Aston Gate (which itself followed Bristol City taking the lead in the 90th minute) was the 8th time in 09/10 that the Foxes had managed to score in the last 10 minutes.
Fortune shone on the Foxes at Plymouth too, where Kari Arnason became the first opposition player since Peterborough’s Craig Morgan to score for Leicester. It had been 14 months since City had benefited from an own goal. Meanwile Martyn Waghorn’s seventh of the season, his fifth away from home, was enough to see City win the return match with Doncaster.
Then, exactly 10 years to the day since Matt Elliot and Neil Lennon had lifted the Worthington Cup aloft at Wembley, City recorded their biggest win over Nottingham Forest since 1966. It was a fitting tribute.
With six points separating 5th placed Leicester from 7th, the Foxes playoff credentials had been thoroughly restored.
Victory over Forest had seen City reach an eight match unbeaten run in the Championship for the first time since 2002/03. But it came crashing to and end at Hillsborough. Leon Clarke’s brace, his first in 12 months, secured a comfortable victory for the Owls against a lacklustre Leicester side. Clarke, who had placed the penultimate nail in Leicester’s 2008 relegation coffin with the third goal of Wednesday’s 3-1 win at the Walkers, ensured another miserable afternoon for the Foxes.
But the Foxes bounced back with successive (and convincing) 1-0 victories over Cardiff and Crystal Palace respectively. The absence of Matty Fryatt had not seemed to dent City’s promotions aspirations at all. Since his injury the Foxes had won five, drawn two and lost only once.
A Sunday M69 derby with Coventry City saw the Foxes race into a 2-0 half time lead, only to throw such an advantage away at the Walkers for the first time since August 2003. Just as Southampton had done of the opening day of that Premiership campaign, the Sky Blues deservedly took a share of the points with a late equaliser.
What followed was the season’s biggest wobble. Reading became the first team to win at the Walkers in 2010 with a penalty at the death. Late in the game the average age of the City XI on the pitch was just 24. With five players 21 and younger, perhaps inexperience was starting to show.
Youth was replaced with experience in the form of Chris Powell for Leicester’s visit to Pride Park. At 40 years 200 days, Powell became City’s oldest ever outfield player, but even he couldn’t stop City slumping to a 1-0 defeat thanks to a bizarre Andy King own goal.
Leicester’s third meeting of six with Cardiff in 2010 was remarkable for containing what was to become an all too rare occurrence, a City goal from a corner. Steve Howard’s strike put City back in the game, but the Foxes couldn’t recover from a 2-0 half time deficit.
City ended the month in 6th position. Four points separated them from an ever improving Blackpool. Some were becoming nervous.