MARK LILLIS managed to outfox Leicester in the FA Cup.
Now Jack Hunt is tipping the caretaker manager to go one better by masterminding a victory over Crystal Palace when Town return to Championship action back at the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow.
Lillis’s midfield diamond was a key factor as Town fought out a 1-1 home draw against their high-flying divisional rivals to set up a fourth-round replay, live on ESPN, at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday, February 12.
The winners will host Premier League Wigan the following weekend, but Town are very much focused on their vital league showdown against fifth-placed Palace, where they drew 1-1 in front of the Sky Sports cameras just before Christmas.
Lillis aims to pilot Town, 19th and seven points above the relegation zone, to a first win in 13 league matches, and Hunt, linked with Swansea, Sunderland and Cardiff ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline, says the popular former player got his tactics right against Leicester.
Oliver Norwood sat deep in midfield with debutant Jordan Sinnott and Scott Arfield either side and Adam Clayton going forward to support strikers James Vaughan and Lee Novak.
Right-back Hunt said: “We need to give Mark Lillis and (development coach) Steve Eyre a big pat on the back. I thought they got their tactics absolutely spot-on.
“We had a lot more options in midfield. We were better in both boxes and reduced Leicester to passing it around across the back.”
Lillis will have midfielder Neil Danns and frontman Jermaine Beckford, both on loan from Leicester and ineligible against their parent club, available against Palace, while experienced engine roomer Keith Southern (Achilles) and defender Joel Lynch (hamstring) could both be back.
Even so, Hunt says Sinnott, whose dad Lee played for Palace as well as Town, and Arfield both shone on Saturday.
“They were excellent,” he added. “Jordan took it all in his stride and Scott really stood out. He’s not been in the team all that often, yet he not only produced a great performance, but also lasted the full 90 minutes.
“That shows just what a top lad he is. All the players deserve praise, but him especially.”
On his own performance, Hunt, who won the second-half penalty from which Lee Novak gave them the lead, explained: “Everybody knows I like to go forward and create goals for the team.
“But I also think I did well on the defensive side as well. Lloyd Dyer only got past me once all game, which for a player of his stature is very pleasing.”