Two changes were made from the Foxes’ last league game against Reading with Freya Gregory handed her first start and Jess Sigsworth also coming back into the side. Abbi Grant and Sophie Barker made way, with Abbie McManus named as captain.
Shannon O’Brien played through the middle, allowing Sigsworth and Gregory to provide width from either flank, and it was the hosts who started on the front foot at King Power Stadium, putting pressure on Brighton’s backline from the off.
After an early corner came to nothing, O’Brien closed down Megan Walsh and was almost presented with an open goal, though the Seagulls stopper managed to clear the ball away via a deflection.
Moments of attacking quality were in evidence from the visitors, but Danielle Carter’s low shot did little to trouble Demi Lambourne in the Foxes goal.
It was Leicester who fashioned most of the goalscoring chances that arrived in the first half. Ashleigh Plumptre rose from Jemma Purfield's free-kick and called Walsh into action, before Purfield’s corner was met by McManus and Victoria Williams had to head the ball away in the six-yard box.
The lively Gregory, who was making her home debut, soon played a cross-field ball into Sigsworth’s path, but her effort was blocked by Aileen Whelan.
The Seagulls gathered added impetus as the half wore on. Emily Simpkins soon saw a half-volley held by Lambourne, while Carter’s latest attempt was diverted wide via a block.
Plumptre also had to get a vital block in to prevent Simpkins’ next strike from heading on target, with Lambourne saving from Inessa Kaagman moments later.
City got back on top before the interval, but were unable to find a route to goal. Sam Tierney volleyed over, ahead of Esmee De Graaf converting Gregory’s cross, only for the offside flag to deny her the opener.
There was still time for McManus’ header to cause panic in the Brighton box, but again it was eventually cleared out of the six-yard box and to safety by Emma Koivisto.
The visitors had survived the first 45 minutes and made a change at the break with Maisie Symonds, who scored the winner when the sides last met, adding extra drive to Brighton’s attacking play.
Her first involvement, a shot from the edge of the box, was comfortable for Lambourne, however, after a timely challenge from De Graaf stopped Katie Robinson in her tracks.
Back in the opposite penalty area, Plumptre headed wide from Purfield’s corner, before the game’s big moment arrived less than 10 minutes into the second period.
Tierney sprayed a precise aerial ball out to Sigsworth on the right and the returning forward cut inside, squaring the ball across for O’Brien on the penalty spot and she did the rest, angling a first-time finish into the far corner.
Natasha Flint made her return to the side, coming on for Gregory, and there would be defending to do at the other end for the Foxes to hold on to their lead.
Julia Zigiotti-Olme flashed an effort wide of the target, but City looked more likely to find the second goal. Plumptre rose highest and headed over, as O’Brien looked to turn provider, ahead of Tierney picking out Sigsworth once more and the Foxes’ No.9 racing through on goal, but she was unable to beat Walsh in a one-on-one.
Lambourne was also called into action, bravely coming through a packed penalty area to punch Kaagman’s free-kick away, while Symonds wasted her opportunity, blazing over the crossbar.
A week after making her move from Aston Villa, 18-year-old forward Missy Goodwin was introduced for her Leicester bow, replacing the goalscorer to help see the game out, and Leicester were showing their defensive resilience, determined to get over the line.
Following Kayleigh Green’s chance, which she headed onto the roof of the net from a Symonds cross, Sophie Howard produced an excellent piece of defending to prevent Ellie Brazil equalising as she found her herself through on goal, albeit from a tight angle.
There was still one more save for City’s shot-stopper to make, rushing out to smother Green’s attempted chip and ensure it would be back-to-back home league shutouts for the Foxes.
Esmee De Graaf congratulates Shannon O'Brien after her well-taken finish.
Shannon O’Brien’s second half strike – her first Barclays FA Women’s Super League goal – ultimately settled the match and secured a three points which are a big boost for the Foxes’ survival hopes.
The defensive unit provided solid foundations for City's eventual success over the Seagulls.
It was a strong defensive performance in the second half, particularly from the back three of Ashleigh Plumptre, Abbie McManus and Sophie Howard, who stood strong in the face of late Brighton pressure to keep another clean sheet on Filbert Way.
Where do we stand?
The January signing made her Foxes debut as a second half substitute at King Power Stadium.
The three points lift Leicester up to 11th in the top-flight standings and onto six points, overtaking Birmingham City in the process, following the Blues’ defeat to Manchester United on Saturday.
The players celebrate a huge win after full-time on Filbert Way.
Aston Villa are up next for City, as they welcome the Villans to Pirelli Stadium for matchday 13 of the WSL campaign on Sunday 23 January (2pm kick-off).
City: Lambourne; Howard, McManus (C), Plumptre; Howard, Tierney, Pike, Purfield; O’Brien (Goodwin 79’), Sigsworth, Gregory (Flint 58’).
Subs not used: Harris, Brougham, Barker, Zajmi, Robinson, Baker, Grant.
Goal: O’Brien 54’.
All times GMT.
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