BARNSLEY secured a memorable victory at the East Midlands big spenders on Saturday, but could have won this game even more comfortably.
The returning Andy Gray proved to be the Reds’ hero on the day with a clinical double which proved enough to take the three much-needed points. Ricardo Vaz Te could have had three on his own after the break as the hosts sought an equaliser their disgruntled fans desperately demanded.
Reds boss Keith Hill said: “We probably could have won by more in the second half.
“Leicester were clearly capable of creating enough chances to have at least equalled the scoreline, but at the same time that led to opportunities for us at the other end.
“We could and probably should have scored one or two more in that second half, because those additional chances came about as a consequence of Leicester pushing forward for an equaliser.”
With Hill naming a strong XI for last weekend’s FA Cup clash against Premier League Swansea, it meant that there were just a couple of tactical changes for the Championship trip to the King Power Stadium.
Both came offensively, with striker Chris Dagnall coming in for his Reds debut following his recent capture from Scunthorpe.
Gray was also handed a start up front, with Craig Davies and Matt Done being the two players relegated to the substitutes’ bench.
In-form Vaz Te was handed a slightly more withdrawn role despite having bagged 10 goals in his last nine games.
Leicester also went for an attacking 4-3-3 line-up after drawing their last three home games 1-1.
Former England striker David Nugent was to lead the line for a Foxes side littered with former Premier League talent but who had also only won once in their previous six games.
There was a dramatic opening to the game, with both sides grabbing a goal apiece inside the opening quarter of an hour.
The first goal was a brilliantly-worked effort from Barnsley.
A sweeping move down the left culminated with Vaz Te touching a ball through to the superb Danny Drinkwater, and he sneaked round the back before crossing for Gray who tucked home a neat angled shot from six yards.
It was a memorable goal to silence the home faithful, but frustratingly the lead didn’t last long as the Foxes struck back just three minutes later with a much, much simpler goal.
This time skipper Matt Mills planted a hopeful ball forward, leaving Lloyd Dyer to chest it down before rifling home past Luke Steele into the corner.
Dyer cut inside and smashed a deflected shot narrowly wide soon after, but the Reds remained dogged and deservedly went back in front in the 34th minute courtesy of another eye-catching strike.
Vaz Te was again involved, back-heeling the ball cheekily to the tireless Drinkwater who again crossed for Gray who stooped to head home past Kasper Schmeichel.
The Reds were well worth their half-time lead and Vaz Te really ought to have extended it twice inside the opening two minutes of the second half.
Both times the Portuguese star was clear facing Schmeichel, but he allowed Paul Konchesky and then the keeper to thwart him when a goal looked on the cards.
Leicester schemer Richie Wellens was driving his team on and he nodded a header against the crossbar, but Barnsley always looked capable of exploiting gaps at the other end and sub Matt Done was again thwarted by Schmeichel.
The keeper then produced a smart one-handed save to beat away sub Davies’s drive, before Vaz Te fluffed another gilt-edged chance to make it 3-1 just as the game headed into stoppage-time.
Taking it upon himself to charge through the middle, Vaz Te suddenly found himself in acres of space and, as he bore down on goal, he inexplicably allowed Schmeichel to nick the ball off his toe instead of shooting or trying to round the keeper.
It wasn’t to be a crucial miss thankfully, though, leaving Leicester boss Nigel Pearson to rue a home defeat which the home fans didn’t appreciate one bit.
Pearson said: “Barnsley were better than us, and maybe that shows you where we are as a club.
“Expectations are high of course, but we just didn’t have enough firepower to score enough goals against them.
“We‘ve not done enough to win the game and we’ve made far too many errors.
“We haven’t got as big a squad as people think. I still need to be doing some business during the January window.”
“We definitely need some fresh life in there.”