THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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Leicester race into a 3-0 lead against fellow promotion challengers West Brom at The Hawthorns, but the home team rally in the second half

4 November ~ Leicester’s title defence has got off to a stuttering start but a home match against West Brom, who are without a win in five games, offers a chance to climb the table on Sunday.

Twenty-one years ago Leicester travelled to The Hawthorns with both teams chasing promotion from Division One. The visitors, managed by Mark McGhee, went into the match in third, one point ahead of fifth-paced Albion. Yet the gap between the teams felt bigger as Leicester raced into a 3-0 lead before half time.

On 15 minutes Scott Taylor met a cross, only for his header to hit the ground and loop over a helpless Stuart Naylor in the West Brom net. Fifteen minutes later Iwan Roberts made it 2-0 with a strike from outside the area, while Naylor got his second just before half time, again arriving late but this time drilling Mike Whitlow’s cross low into the corner of the net.

West Brom rallied in the second half, Ian Hamilton pulling a goal back with a close-range finish on 57 minutes. Paul Raven then bundled home after a goalmouth scramble with three minutes remaining, but Leicester held on for the win. Making his debut in goal for Leicester was the Australian Zeljko Kalac, whose career at Filbert Street was short-lived but eventful. Signed from Sydney United, Kalac started just one more match – a 3-2 League Cup defeat to Bolton three days later.

Kalac then didn't play another second until the final minute of extra time in the play-off final against Crystal Palace, when Martin O’Neill – who had taken over from McGhee in December – brought on the Australian because he believed Kalac’s size would give him an advantage in the penalty shootout. However, just seconds after Kalac entered the pitch Steve Claridge scored the winner with the final kick of the game, meaning no penalties. Kalac returned to Sydney before stints at Roda, Perugia and AC Milan.

For West Brom this was the second of 11 defeats in a row, which saw them drop from promotion contenders to relegation candidates. A good run from February onwards meant they eventually finished 11th.

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