As Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Álvaro Negredo have shown in the Premier League this season with Liverpool and Manchester City respectively, a front two is back in vogue.
But there cannot have been too many more scintillating displays from a front pairing this season than Jamie Vardy and David Nugent against the Rams, who caused sheer devastation at the King Power Stadium.
The duo were ruthless. Nugent grabbed a double, whilst his partner in crime, Vardy, slid in the side’s fourth, to cap off a rampant performance from the Foxes, who steamrollered into a seven point lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 4-1 win over Derby County.
Despite the pair’s impressive outing, it was central defender Ritchie Da Laet who got the ball rolling, when he glided forward and slammed a low shot into the net from 20-yards after 25 minutes.
Former Portsmouth striker Nugent soon got in on the act however, as his strike three minutes after the interval fortuitously bounced into the net via a double deflection off of Michael Keane and the forward’s knee.
Jake Buxton’s header brought Derby back in with a shout, but the Rams’ good work was immediately undone, as seconds later, Craig Forsyth was penalised for a clumsy slide tackle on Vardy in the penalty area. 28-year-old Nugent coolly fired the resulting spot-kick beyond the reach of Lee Grant to make it 3-1.
The Rams’ misery was only compounded shortly after the hour mark, as Vardy latched onto Nugent’s inch-perfect through ball, prior to slipping it underneath the onrushing Grant, to seal a resounding victory for the Foxes.
The League leaders began confidently with a vibrant, high pressing forward line, as the electric pace of Vardy and Lloyd Dyer in particular looked threatening on a number of early counter-attacks.
Although Craig Bryson had returned to the Derby midfield after overcoming a groin complaint, both he and Will Hughes were shackled by Danny Drinkwater and Matty James in the opening 20 minutes, as the Rams struggled to retain possession.
The hosts, who had won their previous four matches, glided forward in kamikaze-esque fashion at times, as Dyer’s swerving shot forced Grant into a smart save, before James rolled the rebound agonisingly wide.
Goalmouth action continued to flow the Foxes’ way, as Drinkwater arrowed in a diagonal cross that evaded the inhabitants of the penalty area and fizzed wide, whilst Nugent had a dipping volley that Grant beat away at his near post.
However, the pressure finally told in the 25th minute. Former Manchester United defender De Laet cut in from the right, ghosted towards goal relatively unchallenged and rifled the ball low and hard into the bottom corner from 20-yards.
Moments later, Vardy and Nugent combined exquisitely on the edge of the penalty area. One time England international Nugent had his initial shot palmed away by Grant, prior to Vardy seeing his rebound bounce off of the underside of the crossbar from the acutest of angles.
Leicester powered through the Rams’ midfield like a tornado, leaving nothing in their wake. Nigel Pearson’s men were unfortunate not to be further ahead going into the break when Liam Moore struck the woodwork with a powerful header, as Derby held on.
Although the Foxes may have felt hard done by to only be 1-0 up at half-time, just three minutes into the second period, lady luck was smiling down on Nugent, as his half-volley bounced off of Keane, before deflecting back off of the striker and into the net.
In a bid to turn the tide, McClaren introduced Mason Bennett and new loan signing Patrick Bamford, and the former almost had an instant impact, when his devilish cross was knocked into the path of Keane by Will Hughes, but the defender’s subsequent shot was blocked.
However, from Hughes’ resulting corner, Derby clawed their way back into the match, as captain Buxton towered highest to send a flicked header off of the wet turf and into the inside of the side netting to halve the deficit.
But celebrations were immediately muted. Forsyth slid in on the impressive Vardy in the penalty area, who had cleverly nudged the ball out of reach of the left-back. Nugent calmly fired the resulting spot-kick past Grant to restore their two goal advantage.
Nugent and Vardy were proving unstoppable, and the latter added a fourth in the 64th minute, when he collected his strike partner’s beautifully weighted through ball and dispatching it under the Rams’ shot-stopper, to complete their fifth straight League win in emphatic fashion.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Wisdom, Keane, Buxton, Forsyth, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes, Ward (Bennett 55'), Dawkins (Bamford 55’) , Martin (Sammon 74').
Subs: Legzdins (GK), Freeman, Bailey, Eustace.
Leicester City: Schmeichel (GK), De Laet, Morgan, Moore, Konchesky (Schlupp 71’), Knockaert, James, Drinkwater, Dyer, Nugent (Taylor-Fletcher 83'), Vardy (Wood 80’)
Subs: Logan (GK), Hammond, King, Wasilewski.
Attendance: 23,140 (1,252 visiting supporters).