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Watford 3 Leeds United 0 (08/04/2014) 09/04/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- There was an “on the cardsness” about this one.  Those dropped points on Saturday, embers of resentment and regret at the outcome of this fixture last season, United’s not-even-a-little-bit funny plummet down the table with attention diverted and management precarious all pointed in one direction.  One of those emphatic and yet routine wins borne of a superiority that you really wish we could distribute a little more evenly across the season’s fixtures, but life doesn’t work like that.

Not that this victory was the result of our artistry alone by any means – Leeds were the architects, compères and comedy sideshow of their own downfall and we’ll get to them, we did what we had to do.  We were still well worth 3-0 though.  3-0 and then some.  From the moment the returning Abdi – his first start since August – burrowed towards the left side of the area, pivoted away from the goal and swung an arcing cross to the far post for the excellent Faraoni to fire an opening shot, blocked on this occasion, we were in charge. Shortly later Abdi released Anya on the left with a ridiculous lofted pass and then bombed into the area to get on the end of the winger-cum-striker’s cross, his first goal since his fine strike against the same opponents in May.  Game over, less than ten minutes in. The visitors weren’t in any position to make a fight of it.

2- I’ve been warned not to use the phrase, “spaghetti-eating surrender monkeys” with respect to our esteemed visitors, so I won’t do that.  But by God they were a lamentable shambles, offering little beyond some energetic closing down way up the pitch in the early stages of each half, a lazy under-rehearsed cover version of the tune that visitors were profiting from so readily earlier in the season.  In so many ways they were a parody of themselves – Michael Brown in the tried and tested role of cheap, gobby bruiser in the midfield, a sixth or seventh generation Gripper Stebson.  Noel Hunt, lumbering around after nothing much remembering a time when he was famous for being someone’s brother rather than just yet another journeyman second-division plodder, following through on Faraoni who had demonstrated his intention to put the ball out so that the grounded McCormack could receive treatment.  Hunt was lucky, the ref’s attention was diverted McCormack-wards by Faraoni’s signal, he had turned his ahead away from the incident and neither assistant was well-sighted.  He took the standard cop-out option of a yellow card.  It should have been red.  You have to be quite bad to be relegated from this division;  Leeds must hope that somewhere in the tightly-packed morass between them and the bottom there are three sufficiently pathetic alternatives, because on this evidence they ain’t getting out of this under their own efforts.

3- As on Saturday, we settled into a “come on then” formation which, unlike Burnley, Leeds never looked capable of penetrating.  They had two shots in the first half… the first from the corner of a crowded penalty area was a desperate blast needing a lot of luck and didn’t get it, cannoning off a white shirt for a goal kick.  The second, a well-judged but equally optimistic lob from McCormack on the half-way line.  The role of our defensive shape and robustness needs to be acknowledged here…  as we noted towards the end of Sean Dyche’s season, part of the reason that so many of our opponents here look so thoroughly dreadful is that we don’t give them much of a window to look anything else.  Defensively we were disciplined and utterly in charge  – including Ekstrand, who had his most convincing 45 for a while before seeming to lose focus again in the second half.

Most peculiar was our uncharacteristic tendency to try to hit Troy Deeney early with long, direct balls, an approach which rarely seemed to trouble the visitors particularly but with which we persisted throughout.  Far more of a problem for them were balls coming across the box… Anya was again involved on the left after half an hour, Riera fed the ball across to the right, Faraoni sent it back and Anya was simply readier for it than anyone else.  And then it quietened down again,  a pattern summed up by Julian as “dull, then we score”.  I guess that’s what limited teams doing nothing with a fair amount of possession, breaking themselves against an organised defence, looks like.

And in the second half, much as Leeds showed brief and very limited signs of life early on, it was more of the same, the Hornets far more threatening on the break than Leeds looked at any point… twice Butland, Leeds’ one positive, was required to deny Deeney – once, bravely, down to his left, the second a stunning reflex stop after Anya had shredded the flimsy backline and squared for his strike partner.  In between those two chances however we had the third, the least we deserved as Abdi (again) challenged some sloppy Leeds possession and released Deeney who tiptoed his way through three half-hearted challenges before belting past Butland.  Propelled towards the Rookery he used the half-second to mentally accept his forthcoming yellow card and made the most of the moment.

4- A brief digression to ponder the peculiarities of the crowd.  “Other people”, the bastards.  Barracking Attwell on Saturday was perhaps inevitable…  but to my mind there’s no comparison between a cock-up like the ghost goal, albeit a massive cock-up, and Dominic Poleon’s cowardly shove on Ikechi Anya in our last meeting here.  Not that I’m in favour of a young striker being given a hard time particularly, but there’s no balance – Attwell’s crime was perverse but driven by incompetence, not malice, and was far less consequential.  If anything, Attwell’s error and our reaction to it earned us a point against Reading which had never looked likely up to that point.  And yet… Attwell gets the bird whilst Poleon gets half-hearted jeers.  Such is the role of the pantomime villain, as Paul pointed out.  No less explicable were the chants of “sacked in the morning”, also greater in volume than any stick Poleon got. These were directed not only at Leeds’ manager, who you’re entitled to your own views on but has always come across as a reasonable bloke, but also at his assistant who has a rather long and proud association with our club worthy of a bit more respect than that, whether or not you were lucky enough to see him play.

(There was also a dizzy comment from somewhere behind me about the general state of refereeing, citing that 60% of major decisions are wrong (no citation), it’s getting worse (ditto) and that there should be three experts with buzzers in the stand making calls for the officials on the pitch.  Unclear as to whether Simon Cowell or Louie Walsh should be amongst these judges.)

5- An “ooooh” and an “aaaah” to conclude.  “Ooooooh” at the tantalising prospect of a season of Abdi, Töszér and the louche Riera in midfield… far from guaranteed for next time round, but such fun just to think about.  “Aaaaah” when you look at the League table, realise that even merely holding on to the lead on Saturday would now have seen us a mere five points off with that there game in hand, and realise that you don’t really need to be very good to finish sixth this season.  OK, but not great.  And we’re much better than that.  Given that not us then Bournemouth, obviously, in preference to any of the other cheap punks and chancers up there.  But given the strength in our squad – Bond, Belkalem, Hall, Hoban, Doyley, Merkel, McGugan, Battocchio, Pudil, Ranegie, Forestieri is a more than viable eleven that didn’t start – we should really have put in a more convincing challenge this season.  Shouldn’t we?

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Comments»

1. Chris - 09/04/2014

Apparently we havn’t beaten this lot at home since 1992. I seem to recall James saving a Cantona penalty, do you have the report anywhere in your archives?

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

It wasn’t James, and it wasn’t a penalty… it was Perry Suckling and Cantona had a good chance on the break but Suckling denied him. That was Cantona’s last game for Leeds, yes in 1992 when Leeds were reigning Champions but started the new season appallingly (not sure they won away all season?). This was, yes, our most recent home win over Leeds… prior to that, a 1-0 win as they were promoted in 1990, courtesy of Rod Thomas.

Don’t think there’s a BSaD report, since that started in 1994. Will check.

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014
Robin Walters - 09/04/2014

As I recall it wasn’t so much Suckling denying him as Cantona trying to chip him and getting it completely wrong, dropping the ball straight into Suckling’s hands. Very funny.

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

Hit Suckling’s legs I think.

2. Lloyd Arkill - 09/04/2014

Did anyone notice the moment in the second half when, after an attack in which he had been involved had broken down, Deeney sprinted back to cover the left back position to enable Riera to enjoy a leisurely stroll back to his post. I only hope that such commitment to the cause (we were, I think 3-0 up at the time) hints that Deeney will not be easily tempted by some of the offers that seem sure to come his way this summer

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

Yup. And a more cynical view would be that he’s playing for the move. Long may it continue, either way… the offers are sure to come anyway.

Roger Smith - 09/04/2014

Can’t speak for the Pozzo’s if the right offer comes in, but Deeney would be mad to move up by choice. He would be a bit player in the Premier league, moved from pillar to post, but mostly warming the bench. How much more satisfying to be banging in 20 goals in the Championship.

I don’t know the man, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, given the choice, he would want to stand by the club that stood by him.

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

For a vastly inflated wage? His loyalty to the club that stood by him might extend to turning down an offer from a promoted side that was going to struggle if he thought we were a better long-term bet – we remember what trying to sign players from the bottom of the Prem was like – but no further. You’re kidding yourself I’m afraid, although I’d be delighted if he stayed.

3. Guiseley White - 09/04/2014

Well worth your win last night, believe me in a string of poor performances I’ve witnessed this year this was the worst to date. Should we manage to stay up (and I can’t see another point coming our way this season) rest assured It will be a different Leeds United you play.

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

Hi Guiseley. It will need to be. What about the mighty Lions at Nethermoor? Promotion?

Guiseley White - 09/04/2014

Guiseley have choked in the play offs the last 4 seasons but on a real roll atm so yes one team up and hopefully my main team staying up, MOT

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

Visited Nethermoor a few times in the early nineties. Still look out for the score.

graham walker - 09/04/2014

Hey, that’s my second team you are talking about. Was celebrating the 3-0 last night while at the 3-1 Guiseley win over Gainsborough, surrounded by a bevy of part-time Nasty Leeds supporters grizzling about how shite they are. Big fun – only one other place where I would rather have been.

4. Paul - 09/04/2014

I can’t help but wonder if our appetite for hounding opponents from the stands diminished somewhat following Knockhaert’s performance against us this season. It also became clear quite quickly that the self-styled ‘MrPoleon’ would offer no substantial threat on the night, his performace dwindling into a pathetic sub-plot of little significance. I’d sooner here chants containing the words ‘Almen’ and ‘Abdi’ anyway…

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

Abdi – no debate there.

5. Dan - 09/04/2014

Scott Wootton – worst/most comical opposition performance at full back since Chris McCready?

http://www.bsad.org/0304/reports/crewe/ar1.html

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

The boy Wootton had a bad night, but that’s a big accolade you’re brandishing there. Kelly Youga springs to mind. Need time to think about this…

6. Frank - 09/04/2014

Sorry Matt, I and a good few others around me honestly tried with Poleon and will continue to do so whenever we play him, the nasty little thug.

Problem is he is such a terrible footballer when he actually tries that rather than cowardly cheap shots on opponents that I guess many find it hard to bother about him much.

7. Holy hornet - 09/04/2014

Great write up as always Matt. I remember that night in 92 so well. As a 15 year old season ticket holder on the family terrace life didn’t get much better. Sucklings save set the tone, Hessy was Hessy at his best, Lavin was imperious (strange to put those two words in the same sentence). Nogan and Furlong ran Chris Whyte ragged and even Holdsworth, Ashby and Dublin looked a rock solid back three not something we could say for the rest of the season! Getting home to hear the replay of Jonathan Pearce’s capital gold commentary of the night also lives long in the memory! To last night and it is great to have Abdi back if we can sign Tozer and then keep them both fit we could be in for some fun. The biggest lesson of this year though is surely having sensible expectations for 14/15. I do hope we keep Deeney history I think says we won’t and I think the Pozzos will sell if he goes though someone always steps up even if it takes a while, the day we sold Sordell know one was sure what would happen and look where we are now! I know it won’t happen but if we did end up on the playoffs this year what another amazing chapter in the life of a horn that would be! There really is never a dull moment as a Watford fan!

Matt Rowson - 09/04/2014

I drove back up to Leeds… with scarves dangling… then got stuck in a traffic jam…

Mike B - 10/04/2014

If I remember rightly, it was “strongly recommended” by one or two men dressed in white that the scarves were put back in the car.

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2014

Ha! Hello, stranger. Yes, one of them tapped gently on the roof as I recall. Given that we were in Felix’s Yugo, it’s a wonder the thing didn’t fall apart…

8. putajumperon - 09/04/2014

Point 4, first paragraph – agree whole-heartedly. It scares me to think how bad that collision could have been. Thus I still think that Poleon’s deliberate act (and its ilk) deserves a red card. The idea of the second paragraph just scares me.

9. Paul Caruso - 09/04/2014

My GCSE history teacher in our first lesson back in 1994 implored we spotty little oiks to question everything and always check the source material. Granted this is neither Goebbels, nor the war office, but with this in mind the above report makes the game sound significantly more attractive than the commentary I was enduring in Winterfell on BBC Radio Leeds. In true laconic Yorkshireman-style last nights co-commentator was pure gold in terms of the truth bullets he was firing across the Yorkshire Post scribes, offerings no more insightful than, ‘ooohh nooo, this is awful, two awful teams playing agricultural football’ (…agricultural football?) and the seasoned sage stating in summation on no less than 65minutes, ‘If you had invited guests to watch our national game between Watford and Leeds they would never come again, Howden Under 12s are more exciting than this’. So sirs never mind Netherwood, its off to Howden next week for me. The campaign for red on next season’s kit starts here who’s with me?

MartinG - 10/04/2014

A combination of sour grapes mixed with some truth. There were several patches in the game where we just sat deep and let a completely punchless Leeds come at us. Whenever Almunia got the ball he then just punted it up the park. Given we won 3-0 you could argue it was effective.
However if you look at our goals all 3 came from working the football, and the first two attacking wing play. There was also a great Zolaesque counterattack where the goalie made a brilliant save from Deeney. I’d far rather watch that and we’d have won by more if we’d done that more often IMO. Great to see Abdi back too.

Roger Smith - 10/04/2014

“we’d have won by more if we’d done that more often”

And that is the substance of the complaint. Three well taken goals and the breakaway apart, the rest was, as Paul Caruso reports “agricultural football”. Leeds were terrible, but for long periods we were no better, with the result that possession was 50/50 when it should have been 60/40 or better.

A combination of hospital passes when others were in space, head tennis and aimless punts upfield made for very sorry viewing.

10. Lincoln Hornet - 09/04/2014

I remember going to a cup game at Leeds about 30 years ago. Can anybody give me the date and round? I do know we had a very good side at the time, the gaffer taped head of Steve Terry played centre half I think with Steve Simms and we sauntered to a comfortable 4-0 win. Think it may have been the league cup. Happy Days.

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2014
11. Goldenboy60 - 09/04/2014

Personally I think Leeds were set up really well against us in the 1st half. With a midfield diamond our 3 struggled to get hold of and keep the ball. Zola would have not been happy with the number of times possession was turned over so easily. The fact is though that despite a lot of possession they never hurt us. And for once we took our chances, and maybe could have had 2 more.

Amusingly in the 2nd half Bepe pulled us into a 5-4-1 situation dropping Anya off on the left hand side to combat their diamond. Only of course to find that Leeds had reverted to Brian McDermott’s preferred 4-4-2 as the second half started.

All is fair and even now on the tactical side, but Leeds were far poorer in the 2nd half and not so dominate in possession. We should have scored 2 more in the 2nd half and it could have been a rout.

But, for me I lost count of the number of times we were caught in possession playing very tight little triangles. Yes we won, but I think we have a lot more to do to be more consistent. Nice though to see us burying our chances, but we do take a lot of risks at times. So summary is for me we are not there yet despite the victory.

12. Lincoln Hornet - 10/04/2014

Thanks for that Matt. I have been looking at those stats with very fond memories. Another that stands out was Notts County away the season before. I think we were 2-0 down very early and went on to win 5-3. Cally got 2 beauties from almost the exact same position on the very corner of the area and after the game we were driving away from the ground and nearly knocked Mo Johnstone over as he was running across the road with his kitbag. Could have been responsible for wiping out a Watford goal machine!!

13. ADP - 10/04/2014

Sometimes you play a team and beat them and it feels better than usual. Leeds were abject, by far the worst team at the Vic this year and as for Hunt chopping Faraoni after he kicked the ball into touch – disgraceful. Its on youtube.

I still get a warm glow thinking about the Millennium 3-0 but this Leeds team is a poor reflection of that one.


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