James Maddison helps Leicester see off West Ham and survives injury scare

There were only 22 minutes on the clock when James Maddison limped off, giving Gareth Southgate an injury scare before England head off for the World Cup, but by that stage the Leicester playmaker had already done his bit to loosen David Moyes’s grip on the West Ham job.

Maddison’s seventh goal of the season arrived early, handing Leicester the impetus to edge further into mid-table, and made it impossible not to wonder if West Ham’s players are still listening to their manager. That lingering sense of the Moyes project growing stale is gathering momentum. Far too many flaws were evident during another lacklustre display from West Ham, whose habit of starting games slowly has left them a point above the bottom three, and while the break for Qatar gives Moyes breathing space there will be people wondering if he should still be in charge when the season resumes next month.

For now there is no sign of West Ham’s owners wanting to make a change. Yet Moyes spent a lot last summer and is struggling to find a winning formula. At the moment he is presiding over a misshapen team; one with an unfocused defence, a predictable attack and, in Declan Rice, a midfield general who can be forgiven for thinking about seeking a fresh challenge next summer.

“People are right,” Moyes said of the boos at full-time. “They’re more used to being sixth or seventh in the league.” The Scot considered whether he deserves more time. “I’m really grateful for our club and the support they have given me,” he added. “I don’t think I’ve done bad for them either.”

A fair point, yet the magic that carried West Ham to a Europa League semi-final last season has disappeared. Under pressure after two successive league defeats and the humiliation of exiting the Carabao Cup against Blackburn, Moyes needed urgency. What he got was another exhibition of his side’s inability to attack from the off.

Leicester’s opener was sparked by Boubakary Soumaré stepping through midfield and sending Harvey Barnes clear on the left. The winger evaded Thilo Kehrer and West Ham were in trouble when Lucas Paquetá failed to track Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. From there it was on to Patson Daka and the striker’s scuffed shot ran to Maddison, who celebrated his surprise inclusion in the England squad by ramming an emphatic finish past Lukasz Fabianski.

The question was whether Moyes had gambled by starting Kurt Zouma after the defender hobbled off with a knee problem during the warm-up. West Ham’s defence was disorganised and Zouma only lasted 13 minutes before making way for Nayef Aguerd.

Local frustration grew, although the mood changed when Maddison clutched his right knee. Rice checked on his England colleague, who is optimistic the knock will not end his World Cup dream, but West Ham took heart from Maddison’s departure. Greater intensity led to a few openings, Saïd Benrahma and Paquetá going close.

Yet West Ham failed to make chances for Gianluca Scamacca, who is goalless in his last nine games. Luke Thomas kept Jarrod Bowen quiet and Leicester should have pulled clear when Craig Dawson conceded a penalty with a lumbering foul on Daka. Fabianski’s save from Youri Tielemans gave West Ham hope.

With Wout Faes shackling Scamacca, though, Leicester cruised to their fifth win in eight games. They have benefited from backing Brendan Rodgers after making a poor start to the season. “The club have never, ever wavered,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes when a manager is under pressure, normally that is when betrayal kicks in. You feel it as a manager. But that was never the case at Leicester.”

Leicester were dangerous on the break. Jamie Vardy threatened after coming off the bench and the game was over when another substitute, Ayoze Pérez, danced through midfield before releasing Barnes, whose confident finish left Moyes staring into the middle distance. Even Rice had allowed his head to drop.