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Mitchell's verdict: Leicester City 2 AFC Bournemouth 1
WHAT a month for Ryan Allsop.
Dismissed, maligned, replaced and recalled, then maligned once more for good measure. All in half the time it took him to go from free agent to first choice.
Granted, it would be hard to argue that the Cherries keeper covered himself in glory for Leicester’s second and winning goal at the King Power Stadium.
Rocky was odds-on to beat City striker Jamie Vardy to Chris Wood’s through ball but the custodian’s brief lapse in belief saw him dance in no man’s land with disastrous consequences.
The pacy front-runner, plucked from Fleetwood Town was a threat all afternoon and needed no second invitation to round his rival and tuck away tidily.
Indecision is final.
To his cost, Allsop came and conquered all before him in a similar situation at Leeds which saw a borderline penalty decision given alongside an inevitable red card.
Whether that, along with the testing 25 days that followed, affected his judgment, only he knows.
But while the obvious problems magnify every error made by the young custodian, pointing the finger of blame solely at him for this defeat would be unfair, despite his admirable admission of guilt at full-time.
This was another brave display from Eddie Howe’s charges, but on the whole Cherries lacked their usual zest and swagger in attack and paid for failing to hit a strong Leicester side with their full artillery.
Chances were few and far between on a quiet day for Lewis Grabban while strike-partner Tokelo Rantie’s most fruitful work was done outside the 18-yard box.
The returning Ryan Fraser tried but tired as the match went on while Harry Arter and Jack Collison found it hard to break beyond the home side’s central-midfield pairing of Andy King and Danny Drinkwater.
And while wing wizard Marc Pugh – scorer of Cherries’ sublime first-half equaliser – was in buoyant spirits from the outset, he generally cut a frustrated figure as Leicester’s Liam Moore, the Football League’s Young Player of the Month for September, stood up to the challenge while swinging centres often went to waste.
At the other end, the pace and purpose so frequently associated with AFC Bournemouth’s open approach was on display as one of the Championship’s heavyweights flexed their muscles.
City’s Lloyd Dyer refused to give Simon Francis a moment of peace while Elliott Ward looked nervy and indecisive when faced with direct running from a fluent midfield.
As always, the effort and endeavour was there by the bucket load, an ethos encapsulated by the will to push for an equaliser after two mistakes in as many minutes had taken the game away from Cherries with Ward dismissed for upending Drinkwater moments after Allsop’s aberration.
Pugh’s purpose on the counter-attack was tempered by a bullish, pressing game that saw Leicester create the better openings during the first half.
Wes Morgan’s powerful header from Anthony Knockaert’s dinked free-kick seemed destined for the back of the net after 10 minutes but Vardy got in the way of his team-mate’s effort.
Grabban’s low drive was deflected wide by Marcin Wasilewski before Pugh’s powerful volley floored Moore, but Leicester led when Dyer’s trickery afforded him the room to find David Nugent, who steered a precise effort round his marker and low to Allsop’s left on 18 minutes.
Knockaert’s drifted cross just evaded Drinkwater and Vardy with the net gaping as City sought a second, but just as the high-flying hosts were turning the screw, Pugh’s moment of magic stunned the King Power into silence.
Fraser and Rantie teamed up to win the ball on the right flank and the South African then found the feet of his Lancastrian colleague, who followed a deft first-touch with a blistering 20-yard rocket which flew past the helpless Kasper Schmeichel.
Wasilewski was a fraction away from restoring Leicester’s lead on the stroke of half-time but just failed to connect with Knockaert’s floated free kick after Daniels had felled the Frenchman out wide.
City maintained their pressure after the restart as Ward survived a penalty shout when Vardy went sprawling, while Daniels did well to charge down efforts from the Leicester striker and Knockaert.
But the all-important second came when substitute Wood, whose physical presence was a constant thorn in Cherries’ side, provided the ammunition from deep, bustling past Arter and Collison to set up Vardy’s decisive strike.
And the game was soon up when Ward, booked in the first half for a foul on Dyer, blocked the driving run of Drinkwater and received his second booking.
Try as they might, 10-man Cherries made little headway while pushing for another leveller.
Wayward efforts from Rantie rarely looked like troubling Schmeichel while substitute Jeff Schlupp and Dyer could have made the last few minutes more comfortable for Leicester.
Allsop’s mistake certainly caught the eye, but he was not alone in not finding his best form against a side seeking a place in the Premier League. It would have taken a few more top performances to take something from this significant test.
Star man - Marc Pugh
Confidence was clearly coursing through Pugh’s veins after last Saturday’s last-ditch equaliser at Nottingham Forest and it could have been a similar story in the East Midlands once more.
Whether he was crossing or cutting inside, he proved a real handful for Liam Moore who had it all on to keep tabs on his man.
Not many get the better of Kasper Schmeichel in such spectacular fashion and, had his colleagues found the same form on the day, Cherries may have upset one of the fancied sides again.
Cherries: Allsop 5.5, Francis 6, Ward 5, Cook 6.5, Daniels 6 (Thomas, 80), Fraser 6 (Pitman, 57), Arter 5.5, Collison 6, Pugh 7*, Grabban 6 (Elphick, 68), Rantie 6.5.
Unused subs: Surman, Harte, O’Kane, Jalal (g/k).
Booked: Ward, Daniels.
Sent off: Ward.
Foxes: Schmeichel, Moore, Morgan, Wasilewski, Konchesky, Knockaert, King (Hammond, 87), Drinkwater, Dyer, Vardy (Schlupp, 86), Nugent (Wood, 52).
Unused subs: James, Taylor-Fletcher, Miquel, Logan (g/k).
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).
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