Leicester City manager Dean Smith was left to rue a ‘wonderful’ Nick Pope save as the Newcastle United goalkeeper denied Timothy Castagne in stoppage time during Monday’s 0-0 Premier League draw at St James’ Park.
Just two days after Yerry Mina fired Everton out of the relegation zone with a 100th minute equaliser away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City came within touching distance of their very own Hollywood script moment.
Smith’s toothless Foxes hadn’t even managed a shot on goal until the clock ticked past 90 minutes. But, after an hour-and-half almost entirely dominated by the hosts, Newcastle needed a bit of divine intervention from the aptly-named Nick Pope, the England international shaking himself out of his slumber to palm away a fierce Castagne volley at the death.
Nick Pope secures Champions League for Newcastle United
“I had to make some sacrifices with our two leading goalscorers left out,” explains Smith; relegating James Maddison and Harvey Barnes to the bench as he adopted an all-out-defence approach away to a side who secured Champions League qualification on Monday evening.
“The idea was to stay in the game for as long as we could. And then get them on and hopefully create something. Then (Castagne) gets his chance in the 90th minute. And the goalkeeper makes a wonderful save.”
While one point was enough to seal Newcastle’s top four spot, it does little for Leicester. Should Everton win on the final day next week – a home game against already-safe Bournemouth is about as obliging a fixture as Sean Dyche could hope to wish for – and Leicester will be preparing for Championship football just two years after beating Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembely to secure both the FA Cup and Community Shield.
“Another time,” Smith adds. “I’d be really pleased with a 0-0 against a team that’s just qualified for the Champions League.
“But it takes it out of our hands now unfortunately. We can be proud with the clean sheet and we fought today.”
Smith has won just once since replacing Brendan Rodgers on a short-term deal. Leicester are reportedly pursuing replacements already; Plymouth Argyle’s Steven Schumacher and Swansea City’s Russell Martin among the early targets.
Martin, however, is expected to join already-relegated Southampton instead.