Leicester City v Hartlepool - Fan's Match Preview.
By Bruin
Friday 26 Sep 2008 16:34:00
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Saturday is an auspicious occasion in history of Leicester City Football Club, as they engage Hartlepool United in a league fixture for the first time ever.

Growing up in the fifties, as my nascent interest in all things football became obsession, I was somehow fascinated by the team from a grimy Durham port, which for some bizarre reason pluralized its name (I later understood the rationale behind it, but it was certainly strange for a 6-7yo boy to digest); regularly finished rock bottom of the 92; more regularly sought re-election; commanded the lowest gates in the Football League, but which throughout, nevertheless survived.

I wouldn’t exactly call Hartlepool United a second team (there is only one team for me) but I have, ever since those days of childhood, looked upon them as a model of resilience, coupled with ne’er-say-die fighting spirit. This survivalist instinct spawned sneaking admiration and an affection which had me seeking out their results each Sunday, whooping with delight should they actually have managed to win.

As time has moved on, Hartlepool are now no strangers to winning games of football, indeed judging by the recent JPT clash at the Victoria, they are a rather smart outfit, and City will have to be on their mettle to clinch the three points this coming Saturday. As if to emphasise that point, they arrive at Filbert Way on the back of last week’s 3-3 draw against leaders Oldham, though their away form has been mixed with one win and two defeats.

City on the other hand can by common concensus, count themselves somewhat fortunate to hold their lofty position, as the search for the right blend has not run smooth. Boss Nigel Pearson has been a revelation in exorcising the demons which plagued successive previous managerial appointees, seemingly turning a losing mentality into a winning one, but on the evidence of the season so far, he still has some work to do.

It may not though, be appropriate to expect too much in the way of an altered teamsheet. Pearson seems to have made his mind up as to his best team, and is giving them every opportunity to bed in, then blossom. And who can argue with that? After several seasons of square pegs in round holes; chopping and changing; muddle and misguided selection, we have a more or less settled team who are heading upwards, in complete contrast to previous years.

In the light of Maxi Gradel’s injury in Wednesday’s encounter against Lincoln, he may be given time to recover, with Nicky Adams set to stand in if this is the case. Stevie Howard’s reported illness last week apparently continued into mid-week, and as it has now also affected DJ Campbell, the former Pools goal scoring ace may be replaced by Paul Dickov if the Scotsman’s back injury has cleared up.

The only area where unforced changes might have been made would be the midfield, where there have been calls for a bit of steel to be deployed. But the only serious candidate to come into the side would be James Weslowski who, the game at Hartlepool excepted, has done himself no favours so far when he has been handed a chance to put his talents on show.

On the opposition front, defender Ben Clark comes into the reckoning after recovering from an ankle injury and completing ninety minutes for the Reserves at Huddersfield on Wednesday night. Antony Sweeney is still hoping to be fit despite suffering from a swollen left eye following his collision with Leeds' Ben Parker in the Carling Cup tie at Elland Road, while long-term injury victim Willie Boland remains sidelined.

That leaves Pools gaffer, Danny Wilson with virtually a full squad from which to select his team, so we can expect another tough, hard-fought game

Having seen Hartlepool in action earlier this season, they like to play football - a typical Wilson side. They are built around a sound defence where Nelson and Collins have a fine understanding, make good use of the midfield, and like to get the ball early to Ritchie Barker and James Brown, a partnership which, though lacking height can outjump much taller defences. Be warned City.

Wilson, an ex team-mate of Big Nige at Sheffield Wednesday, has clearly done his homework when he says: ‘Leicester are a massive club with a good squad behind them, but there is a lot of pressure on them at home and maybe that is released a little bit when they play away. That is what happens when the expectation level is so high and sometimes players can be intimidated by that and if they are, we need to be in a position to take advantage’

Despite Wilson’s optimism, I’m going to stick my neck out by backing City to prevail. After Wednesday’s turgid affair, they can’t afford to serve up this fetid fare again, and with memories of the Millwall game still causing nightmares they hadn’t better!


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