Saturday 10th January 2009

Leicester City 3 Leyton Orient 0
Coca-Cola League 1
At: Walkers Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £28; Programme: £3 (66 pages)
Attendance: 18,240
Weather: very cold, dry
Duration: first-half: 47:03; second-half: 48:54

The freezing weather that greeted the arrival of 2009 continued into the first full week of the year. Snow fell on Sunday evening in my part of Staffordshire and, indeed, over most of the country as well, so on Tuesday it was indoor orienteering training rather than football. I’d high hopes that things would have warmed up enough for Winterton Rangers’ home game but eventually the dreaded ‘P-P’ went up on the NCEL’s website.

With the temperature dipping again and a trip to Scotland or Rome a non-starter, I’d established that Mansfield Town had high hopes of their home Blue Square Premier game with Altrincham going ahead. But this game was off just like all of the North-West Counties League games, all but one game in the Northern Counties East and most games in the Coca-Cola and Unibond Leagues.

Leicester City’s home game with Leyton Orient was a definite so I headed in that direction. There was a nice double in Lutterworth, starting with Athletic’s 1 pm kick-off against Quorn Reserves and followed by Town’s league game with Friar Lane & Epworth Reserves. But I arrived at the Dunley Way ground, more in hope than expectation, to find a frost-bound pitch. So it was up the A426 to Leicester and I established the respective grounds were 1.5 miles apart so the ‘double’ was feasible. En-route I found out that Friar Lane & Epworth’s home game was off and assumed every other possibility had suffered the same fate, so it was onwards to Leicester and the Walkers Stadium. Later on I found out that the games at Loughborough Dynamo, Barrow Town, Earl Shilton and Anstey Nomads all beat the freeze.

The A426 proved to be a fortuitous route to the ground as it goes within 200 yards of the stadium. I bumped into ‘Filbert the Fox and purchased a ticket from the efficient Ticket Office and also a programme (£3 for an impressive full-colour publication) before making my way to the required entrance. I can’t recall every paying £28 to watch a match before but this day was an exception. Through the turnstile was a hidden world and I got myself a cheese and onion pastie and tea from Weller’s Bar before finding my seat in the Alliance and Leicester Stand. Teams were announced over the PA several times and displayed on the scoreboard at the Marks Electrical end.

Leicester City (wearing all blue) went into the game top of League 1 while visitors Leyton Orient (wearing all red) were at the other end of the table in fourth-from-bottom position.

With the lights on from the start, the visitors got the game underway attacking the South Stand but Leicester took the lead in the 9th minute through skipper Matt Oakley’s right-foot shot across the keeper into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Leicester doubled their lead in the 37th minute. On-loan Mark Davies bravely headed home and was hurt in the process challenging with the Orient keeper. There was initially confusion whether the referee had given a goal or foul until the visitors shaped to kick-off again while Davies received treatment. The home fans wanted the club to “sign him up”!

It appeared all too easy for the league leaders who took until the 82nd minute to score their third. Davies was brought down by defender Tamika Mkandawire and substitute Paul Dickov duly converted the resulting penalty.

The announcement of a minimum three minutes of stoppage time sparks an exodus of home fans, content to leave with the thought of “we’re gonna win the league”. Quite a few must have missed Orient almost pull a goal back in stoppage time when Alton Thelwell’s header was cleared off the line by Oakley. “That’s their best effort, in injury time,” remarked a fan near me and the match stats I saw back home confirmed his observation.

I learned one thing during the day. Down in front of me on the touchline was an advertising board declaring: ‘Leicester – European City of Sport – UK 2008’. I knew Liverpool was the City of Culture but what about this City of Sport? Subsequently I found out back home with a bit of googling that ‘The award recognises the passion and commitment the people of Leicester have for sport, whether it is through their professional clubs or volunteering for their local football team. The award also recognises investments in Leicester sport and encourages further investment in the future.’ Cardiff took over for 2009.

BBC Match Report and Facts