After our Easter fixtures, we welcome 9th-placed Leicester City to St. James Park. The bookies make us 5/4 favourites and I name the same starting XI that started our defeat at Newcastle a week ago, which results in Dacian Varga making his 150th league appearance for the club – hopefully we can make it a happy occasion. It’s a slow start, with the first action of note coming in the 15th minute when Friend is booked for fouling Sean Morrison. Eleven minutes later, Jonathan Bond joins him in the book after collecting the ball inside the area, but sliding out. Romao’s name is added to the book a minute later after fouling Michel. The first chance of note comes in the 32nd minute when Bertin Matip takes an inswinging corner, which is met by Bradley Johnson at the near post; it’s met very well and he heads it in for his 12th goal of the season (and the 50th of his career) to give us the lead.
Leicester’s first chance of note comes in the 48th minute when Buckley shoots straight at Bond, who is unable to hold on, but we’re able to clear. This seems to inspire us to push on and four minutes later, a Jonny Hayes free kick from the right finds Varga unmarked at the far post. It’s a glorious chance to mark his 150th game for us, but he can only head over. In the 58th minute, McGowan fouls Michele Marconi. It’s in the area. Penalty! Marconi picks himself up and fires to Schmeichel’s right, but he produces a world-class save to concede a corner. After recent performances and results, it feels like a changing point in the game and as though it’s going to continue. The referee books two more players: Johnson for fouling Buckley and Ridgewell for fouling Hayes. In the 69th minute, I replace Marconi with Aiman Mustafa. Nine minutes after being introduced, Michel lays the ball off to him and he passes the ball into the net from 20 yards for his first ever goal for the club. I react to us going 2-0 up by withdrawing Johnson (don’t want him getting sent off!) for Ryan Mason in the 79th minute. A minute before time, Matip makes his way into the referee’s book following a foul on Buckley. There’s time for one more chance in the second minute of stoppage time when Hayes bursts into the area, but his shot from 16 yards goes wide, but the 8,714 in attendance can’t complain too much. Bertin Matip is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.3 and an assist and we stay 4th with a good result and a better performance than we have been putting in recently.
Following his Man of the Match performance, Bertin Matip is named in the Championship Team of the Week. There’s no good news for Scunthorpe United though as they are relegated from the Championship. We welcome back some players from loan: Nathan Holland and Bartosz Lukasik from Bristol Rovers, Clement Baud from Brentford, Allen Ababio from Coventry City and Busao from MK Dons. We also welcome some more players on trial for a week: Honduran M/AML Sergio Gerardo Rodas, Salvadoran DC Mitton Mejia Carrillos, Iranian GK Behzad Moradi, South African AMC/ST Brian Mzizi, Cameroonian DC Theirry Haman, Chilean WBL Manuel Meneses, Lithuanian ST Vaidotas Vasililauskas, Burkinade MC Adama Kabore, Algerian DC Abdelphani Assas, New Zealand DM/M (RC) Tom Nikolic, Honduran AMC/ST Luis Rodas, Nigerian ST Patrick Festus, Chilean ST Karir Villarroel and Slovakian MC Vladimir Stano. I add Stephen Pears (Goalkeeping Coach) to my backroom staff and start recruiting for the 2016/17 season as there’s plenty of interest in my players. Joining us for the 2016/17 season will be Danish DC Lasse Karlsen when his Volendam contract ends, whilst French DM/MC Loic Fourmer and French AM (LC) Alain Besse will be joining us from Auxerre when their contracts expire.