Kasey McAteer

City Clinch Record Eighth Second Tier Title At Preston

Leicester City were ruthless in a 3-0 victory at Preston North End on Monday night to clinch a record-breaking eighth Sky Bet Championship title and spark delirious celebrations from a huge away following.
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Jamie Vardy’s brace, one in each half, takes his 2023/24 tally up to 20 goals, while Kasey McAteer’s header made sure on a vintage night for the visitors. City’s 31st league win of the campaign keeps their bid to reach 100 points alive and puts them seven clear at the summit with one game still to play. It’s been a quite remarkable end to a season of highs and lows for Enzo Maresca’s men. At times, it seemed like Leicester would stroll to the title and, at one stage, anxieties grew that it might not even end in promotion. But performances of real grit and determination – leading to three successive wins during the crucial run-in – have seen City stride over the line. Maybe the sense of jeopardy created by a blip in form over March and April made these tremendous celebrations that little bit sweeter. Nobody in the football pyramid has won more second tier championships than Leicester's eight and the triumphant boys in blue will now be presented with the Football League trophy on Saturday.

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jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy has once again been a reliable source of goals for the Foxes.

Academy graduate McAteer’s first start since early February – due to injury – was one of the headlines from four changes to the XI which thumped Southampton 5-0 last Tuesday. There were also returns for Jakub Stolarczyk, Conor Coady and Yunus Akgün in Maresca’s line-up in Lancashire. In front of 5,275 members of the Blue Army – armed with blue and white balloons and streamers – the champions elect made their arrival to an enormous roar from the Bill Shankly Stand. The Foxes fans were here to party and that’s exactly what they did, bringing the noise all night. On three occasions, referee Sam Allison had to pause play to remove beachballs from the field of play. “We want our ball back,” sung the noisy visitors from Leicester. It was hardly beachball weather, mind you, with the unseasonably cold and damp weather continuing into City’s penultimate match of the season. 

The first chance of note came on 15 minutes. Yunus' smart turn and pass freed Vardy behind the backline. The angle was tight and Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman was able to close it further, making a decent save to keep out Vardy’s scoop. McAteer soon tested Woodman again with a low drive from the edge of the area. A superb Liam Lindsay block then cut out Yunus’ route to goal after a stylish flick from Ricardo Pereira had set the Turk up in the middle. Just before the half-hour, Leicester should have been in front. Coady’s cutting ball gave Abdul Fatawu the chance to cross towards the far post, where McAteer was waiting, but the young winger nodded wide. The fantastic away fans were on their feet on 36 minutes – Maresca’s men deservedly going in front. It was a silky move, too, with Harry Winks working the ball out of pressure and giving it to Wilfred Ndidi, who raked it across field to Fatawu. The Ghanaian threaded it through to Yunus and he squared it to Vardy. City’s No.9 had his back to goal but he corkscrewed his body and tucked it away into the bottom corner. At the age of 37 and in his 12th year at the Club, there's no stopping one of Leicester’s greatest-ever players.

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Jamie Vardy

The City No.9 doubled his tally in the second half.

The hunt for a second goal was on the visitors’ mind from the restart. Ricardo nearly got it, as well, when he got a glancing header onto Fatawu’s delivery. It was just too close to Woodman. Vardy’s header – after a marauding Wout Faes run – was also caught by the Lilywhites’ ‘keeper. It wouldn’t be long into the second half before Vardy nudged Leicester closer to the title and a Faes gallop was key once again. The striker's 20th goal of a remarkable season was crashed into the net after Faes’ bamboozling run and eventual shot came back off the post, offering one of the easiest finishes of his 190 strikes in City blue. He was an impressive Woodman save away from completing his hat-trick when Alan Browne’s misplaced pass turned into the perfect through ball. Too fast for anyone in white and navy, the former Fleetwood Town man was away, looking to pick out the bottom right corner. The Preston stopper, though, got a strong arm on it. It was 3-0 moments later, however, McAteer getting his head on Fatawu’s clipped cross and burying it into the same corner Vardy had aimed for just before. After a breakthrough year for his boyhood club, the 22-year-old is now on six goals for the season.

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Leicester City

Toasting a glorious end to the season with the supporters.

Fatawu was desperately unlucky not to be the next Fox to be celebrating – and what a goal it would have been. Six days on from his hat-trick against Southampton, the on-loan Sporting Lisbon winger cut inside and curled a beauty onto the far post. Winks, meanwhile, was denied a place on the scoresheet which his cultured his was palmed away by Woodman. Stolarczyk has to be alert in added time to keep Layton Stewart out, but there was no ruining the occasion for the Foxes. And so the full-time scenes which the Blue Army had dreamed of finally transpired, celebrating with their champions. The champagne corks could finally be popped and the players took their time to soak up the occasion with nearly 6,000 thrilled Foxes fans - who have followed them the length and breadth of England and Wales this season to play their own considerable part of this achievement. There were nice moments for Vardy, Fatawu and Marc Albrighton, with all of the squad taking in the emotional full-time merriment. Maresca got the bumps - so, too, did Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha. There will be sore heads tomorrow, that's for sure. This is just the start, with the trophy lift still to come at the end of Saturday's final-day clash with Blackburn Rovers. This is a football club together again - one ready for the Premier League once more. 

Leicester City Crest





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