By Andrew Butterwick
After Tuesday's wake up call at Brighton I was unsure of what to expect from the mighty whites in their clash with Watford who's impressive form has seen them in the play off positions for most of the season. Could we shackle Deeney and Vydra who always seem to relish a game against Leeds? Who the hell would play up front in place of the injured Morison? Would Byram's return provide the spark for a team that looked jaded at Brighton? These were all debating points as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly took on some much needed pre match refreshments. The sight of Doukara speeding out of the car park in his car gave an indication that perhaps he hadn't made the squad as we hurried to our seats.
Byram and Sharp replaced Sloth and the injured Morison with Adryan and Walters on the bench. Sharp took his place up front in an unchanged 4-2-3-1 system. "They'll need to play it into his feet" HC commented as the game kicked off with Leeds once again out of the blocks quickly. Our nemesis, Troy Deeney, was into the action early breaking our back line but thankfully the linesman's flag stopped the move. Although he looked like he's got a penchant for too many kebabs he still looked quick off the mark. Should be an interesting battle with Bamba I mused. Leeds early pressure soon paid off as the Watford centre half sent a wayward header back to Gomes in the Watford goal who saved the goal but the ever alert Sharp pounced to send the parried save back into the open goal. 1.0 Leeds and only 6 minutes gone. Mint.
The early goal gave Leeds the confidence to push forward with Cook buzzing around in midfield picking up the ball and setting up Leeds attacks. It was all looking good for Leeds despite Watford looking dangerous when they broke with the porky Deeney and the whippet like Vydra testing the Leeds back four at every opportunity. The Football gods were smiling on Leeds again though just as they had at Middlesbrough and when Austin hit a superb volley on 18 minutes the ex Spurs goalie, Gomes, could just stand and watch as it looped spectacularly into the net. 2.0 Leeds and what a goal. Elland Road was bouncing and the disappointment of Tuesday's reverse at Brighton was a distant memory.
Watford didn't panic even though they were two goals down. They continued to play their precise passing game coupled with significant pace up front to work their way back into the game. Leeds were still attacking though and Wootton went close to giving Leeds an unreal 3 goal lead. At the other end first Vydra then Paredes tried their luck against the Leeds shotstopper Silvestri. The game was very open and which was very much to Watford's advantage and on 40 minutes they made Leeds pay for their generous approach. Leeds lost the ball in midfield and Watford moved the ball swiftly through Vydra to Deeney who powerfully held off the attentions of both Cooper and Bamba to coolly slot the ball past the advancing Silvestri. 2.1 Leeds and I was left bemoaning the fact that Deeney had once again hit Leeds where it hurts most. The 1,200 travelling fans were now awake and roaring the Hornets forward looking for the equaliser as ominously for Leeds the away team created two more good chances before going into the break 2.1 down.
There was a large dose of worry amongst the urinal philosophers. "I'd have taken 2.1 up at half time before the game" one fan said rather unconvincingly whilst another frustrated whites fan declared "That bastard Deeney's scored again.......he's fat as me yet we still couldn't stop him scoring" A tad harsh I thought but for a forward carrying a couple of pounds over weight he seemed very fleet of foot to me.
Leeds started the 2nd half like a house on fire. Austin found himself one on one with Gomes......his first shot rebounded off the goalie and his 2nd attempt was cleared off the line by a desperate Watford defender. Then before we got our breath back from that attack Murphy found space in the box but just curled his shot wide of the post. Sharp was next to draw a frustrated ooooh from the kop as he just failed to clip in a cross from 6 yards. Anybody late back to their seats had missed three good chances for Leeds to extend their lead with only two minutes of the 2nd half gone. Things were looking good for Leeds.............too damn good!
In the first half Watford had shown how quick and dangerous they were on the counter attack so the last thing we needed was to give up the ball meekly when we were attacking leaving ourselves exposed at the back but that is exactly what we did on 55 minutes as Deeney, Abdi and finally Vydra cut through our back pedalling defence like a knife through rancid butter. 2.2 and the alarm bells were ringing loud and clear around Elland Road. Squeaky bum time and we'd still got 35 minutes to play.
Leeds were now struggling to get any grip on the game as they succumbed to an impressive Watford team who were now slicing through the Leeds midfield at will. Deeney, Abdi and Vydra were all over Leeds as the Hornets went for the winner. Mowatt's tame 25 yard effort into Gomes' arms summed up Leeds fall from grace. On 73 minutes Redfearn looked to his bench for a game changer and boldly brought on Adryan for the tiring Austin. "This could be an inspired substitution or a complete fucking disaster" HC opined. Initially Adryan did bring some much needed fresh legs to the Leeds midfield as the home side spurned the chance to shut up shop and went for the winner.
On 80 minutes they regretted not shutting up shop well at least I did. Yet another ball was lost in midfield and Deeney pounced releasing Vydra...........Silvestri initially saved his shot but with the ball rolling free and both he and Bamba hesitating Vydra slid the ball home to put Watford 3.2 in front. Bollox! Although Watford deserved to be in front it didn't stop me feeling sick to the pit of my stomach having lost a precious two goal lead.
Antenucci and Cani came on for Leeds in a vain attempt to rescue a point but despite 5 minutes injury time Leeds ended up empty handed and went down to their 2nd defeat in 5 days. Watford looked as good a team as I've seen this season with a very potent attack if not a slightly shaky defence. They did show how far we are realistically away from having a team who can challenge for promotion though. We lack the strength in depth needed to change a game when things start to go against us.
The journey home was a grumpy one. I hate losing at the best of times but to lose a two goal lead is especially galling regardless of how unexpected that lead was. I thought Sharp struggled willingly up front in a position he is clearly not suited for whilst Deeney made Cooper and Bamba look vulnerable for most of the match. If only we could have stretched the lead straight after half time with the three chances we had? If only?
Ipswich on Wednesday up next and then Wigan away on Saturday. This last week has been a long time in Football...............I wonder what this next week holds in store for the battle weary followers of the mighty whites? Answers on a postcard please...............just don't mention Russell Crowe! Roll on Wednesday.