By Kevin Affleck
You can certainly never question Troy Deeney’s integrity.
Time and time again Deeney has demonstrated his commitment to this club and he seems hell-bent on driving his team to their highest ever Premier League finish and possibly more.
Not content with scoring his sixth in 11 games and his 121st goal for the club, he then summoned up the energy and the vision to tee up Andre Gray for a sensational stoppage-time winner. It will never match the scenes here at the very same end in 2013 when Deeney scored that goal against the Foxes, but Gray’s winner was celebrated as wildly as anything since that memorable day. That’s now two former managers Gray has sunk in successive home games. He’s gaining quite a reputation as a super sub.
There were fist pumps and bear hugs all round at full-time and another rendition of ‘Javi Gracia, he's better than you’. As the song by Depeche Mode blared out at full-time says, the fans ‘just can’t seem to get enough of this’ right now.
Nobody did more in the bid to get the going-over at Anfield out of the system than Deeney. He was here, there and everywhere in a barnstorming display and there is no-one quite like him in the league when it comes to getting a crowd going. He’s a real rabble-rouser and he dragged his team almost single-handedly over the line here.
The Hornets probably did not deserve to win this one if we’re honest, but who cares? Leicester deserved their equaliser through Jamie Vardy and looked the more likely to grab a winner, but anything is possible when Deeney is the mood. He’s a force of nature and he was not leaving this ground without all three points.
You wondered if it was a case of ‘here we go again’ when Adrian Mariappa become the latest player to miss a golden early chance, following on from the ones against Newcastle and Crystal Palace away and Newcastle, Burnley and Everton at home. An inswinging free-kick from José Holebas fell into the path of the defender and he only had to stick his foot through it and lash it into the back of the net. But, six yards out, he managed to hit it straight out at Kasper Schmeichel who produced the sort of star-fish save his father was famed for to keep it out.
You hoped that wasn’t going to be the one that got away, that the one big chance had not been squandered after just three minutes. Deeney ensured it wasn’t, getting his big mate out of jail less than two minutes later.
The captain was annoyed Jonathan Moss hadn’t played a long enough advantage seconds earlier, but in the end he was grateful play was pulled back for the free-kick as he expertly glanced in Gerard Deulofeu’s fizzing centre from the left. It was just about the perfect start as there is nothing like a goal from the darling of Vicarage Road to get the crowd going, particularly when things can be a bit flat with such an early kick-off.
It was all evens stevens thereafter. Leicester were neat and tidy, slowly getting to grips with the way Rodgers wants them to play and trying to get James Maddison on the ball at every opportunity and get Jamie Vardy in behind.
Vardy did just that once but was felled by Mariappa who picked up a yellow card and then the England international was flattened in a full-blooded aerial challenge with Ben Foster. But that was really about it, with Foster and Schmeichel not really forced into any save that was worth talking about. It was just the sort of solid and disciplined display Javi Gracia would have wanted after the chastening evening at Anfield.
Abdoulaye Doucouré almost steered one in at the start of the second half, like Domingos Quina did against Cardiff, but Schmeichel was equal to it. But thereafter Leicester made the most of the running amid some highly-questionable calls from referee Moss.
Wilfred Ndidi whipped one onto the bar, Craig Cathcart had to cut out two highly-dangerous crosses and it was all hands to the pump on a couple of occasions. You sensed a goal was coming for the visitors and it duly arrived on 75 minutes when Vardy charged between a worryingly big gap between Cathcart and Mariappa to latch onto a pass from Tielemans and beat Foster.
It looked like that goal might knock the stuffing out of the Hornets and if anyone was going to grab a winner, it looked like it was going to be Leicester. And they almost got it when Wes Morgan headed wide from close range. Maddison, who supplied the cross, had his head in his hands. He couldn’t believe the captain hadn't buried.
It proved to be a costly, costly miss as minutes later, Deeney hooked a pass over the shoulder and into the path of Gray. He leapt onto it, took one touch and then buried it left-footed underneath the advancing Schmeichel. Cue absolute bedlam.
Only football, and more specifically supporting this club, can make you feel like this.
HORNETS | Foster (GK); Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Cleverley 90), Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu (Gray 69); Deeney (c).
Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Success, Masina, Quina, Kabasele.