Heading into the final round of fixtures, it appeared as though Leicester City had shot themselves in the foot and would already be on the beach by the time the Championship play-offs got underway. They have, however, had to delay those holiday plans after snatching a dramatic top-six finish.
Making their way to East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, the Foxes knew they had to win at the City Ground and hope Blackpool did them a favour at Bolton Wanderers if they were to sneak into the promotion party. The planets aligned for Nigel Pearson and his troops on Saturday afternoon and they ended up edging above the Trotters - who were held 2-2 at the Reebok Stadium - on goal difference.
It required a stoppage-time effort from Anthony Knockaert to see Leicester over the line and spark wild celebrations. With one roll of the football, the mood within the Foxes camp altered considerably and suddenly made them a very real threat in the race to reach the Premier League.
After spending much of the season inside the top six, an untimely nine-match winless run ended up dropping Pearson's men out of the promotion-chasing pack with games running out.
Confidence had been rocked and the Foxes looked like a team destined to finish as nearly men. That could still be the case, with three games standing between them and the top flight, but they have given themselves a shot at the big time and will feel that Watford - deflated after missing out on automatic promotion - may be there for the taking in their semi-final tussle.
Danger man - Chris Wood
Considering that only three sides scored more goals than Leicester during the regular season, they are perhaps the most difficult side to pick a danger man for. They have spread the goals around this term, with David Nugent the only man to make it into double figures for the club in the league.
Wood is, however, the man to have found the target on the most occasions over the course of the campaign - split between two teams - so he gets the nod. The New Zealander has netted 22 times, with nine of them coming in the Championship for Leicester.
He earned a move to the King Power Stadium after catching the eye during a loan spell at Millwall. A scramble for his signature in January saw Leicester strike a deal with West Bromwich Albion, and the 21-year-old joined their ranks.
He began his Foxes career in impressive style, scoring twice inside the opening 24 minutes of his debut. A hat-trick against Bristol City followed shortly afterwards, meaning Wood had netted six times in his first three appearances.
A pacey frontman who is also a powerful physical presence and good in the air, Wood would appear to possess all of the attributes required to go to the very top of the game. Leicester will be hoping he treads that path with them, and stepping up to the Premier League and proving a point to the Baggies would go a long way towards helping him hit that target.
|Shot Conversion Rate||23.53|
|Chances Created (inc. assists)||5|
Manager view - Nigel Pearson
"Watford have beaten us twice this season but I don't think that will have any bearing. They will be disappointed at missing out on automatic promotion but I know Gianfranco Zola and he won't let that bother them.
"The important thing is, although there's always interest in routes into play-offs and the psychological effects when dealing with disappointments, etc, keeping your nerve in those games. The side that holds their nerves and has a bit of luck along the way will ultimately prevail."
Fancy a flutter?
Despite only scraping into the play-offs on goal difference, Leicester are 9/4 second favourites for promotion. The Foxes are also favoured at 8/11 to overcome Watford and advance to Wembley on 27th May.
Chris Wood, who scored nine goals following his move from Millwall in January, is 9/2 favourite to score first against Watford on Thursday. The New Zealand international is 11/10 to score any time and 11/2 to bag a brace.
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