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Watford 0 Leeds United 3 (09/04/2022) 10/04/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- This is supposed to be fun, right?

I’m only asking because, you know, it’s been a while since this was fun hasn’t it?  At least at home?  Cucho’s goal against Arsenal was fun I suppose, though it didn’t count for much in the end.    Sissoko’s equaliser against Palace?  Then there was that time that Daughter 2 told a good joke during the second half against Brighton.  She might have told the same joke elsewhere though, I think, so strictly speaking that was fun that happened to take place at Vicarage Road.  If we’re being picky.

This isn’t as simple as “win good lose bad”, it really isn’t.  But we all understand, as fans of any club, that there’s supposed to be a trade off?  That there will be bad times which justify celebrating the good times?  You can’t really savour a victory until you’ve experienced the pain of defeat?  Fine.  I’m a grown up (ish), I can live with that.

So maybe just wake me up when the fun starts again, because I’ve had enough of this.  If I want to feel miserable, inadequate and stupid I get plenty of opportunity away from Vicarage Road without driving down the motorway and paying for the privilege.  It’s not just nine home defeats on the hop, though that in itself is a lot to endure under any circumstances.  It’s the nature of them.  Four have been heavy, of which now two against pathetically weak opposition.  A couple of them we were close to squeaking something from.  None of them constituted a gross injustice.

2- It doesn’t help that bloody Everton win at lunchtime, of all things.  I would throw in a line about Manchester United being the last side you want to rely on in such circumstances at the moment but if you didn’t think it yourself some time this afternoon you surely overheard it.

Nor does it help that it’s bloody freezing.  The sunshine is deceptive, once you’re in the shade the wind blows straight through you.  Regular readers will already have noted my poor wardrobe choices despite 40+ years of practice here, today was another case in point.   Nor is Vicarage Road the seething pit of our dreams;  coming as this tie does at a convenient mid-point of many schools’ choices of Easter holiday, there are plentiful bald patches in every stand bar the away end.

Nonetheless, we don’t start too badly.  This is an ugly, scruffy game of football and the first half will last longer than forty-five minutes of football ever has before but we withstand the visitors’ early lumberings and eventually build a good spell of pressure ourselves.  Juraj Kucka is forceful and significant in this spell, using his physicality to occupy a Leeds defence that already looks vulnerable and drawing a succession of fouls on the edge of the box.  Imran Louza sends the first of the resultant free kicks narrowly wide of Islan Meslier’s left hand post.  From another a lively Cucho Hernández pings a shot in from an ambitious position wide on our left of the area and forces a save from Meslier with what turns out to be our only shot on target of the afternoon.

Through all of this, and as both Kucka and Cucho send shots excitedly over, the home crowd is in good voice.  A goal would change so much, you suspect… in our position and starved of anything positive at home as we have been (see above) we’re all looking for an excuse, any excuse, to get carried away.  That nascent enthusiasm is punctured terminally by the opening goal, the more so because it’s so carelessly out of nothing.  Raphinha instigates the visitors’ first sortie for a while, a negligent Samir clearance offers Dan James the chance to rattle into a challenge from which the loose ball again finds Raphinha who finishes artfully and celebrates gracelessly, in more than one respect, in front of the Rookery.  Before the end of the half the second blow is dealt as Cucho hobbles off with what looks like a hamstring problem… not the most talented of our forwards, perhaps, but in current circumstances the one we can least afford to lose given his surfeit of personality.

3- We’re not terrible.  At least, we’re not completely terrible.  In fact some of the bits are pretty good, let down by the bits that really aren’t…  the midfield still looks redoubtable, since whilst Louza is less prominent than he has been Sissoko and Kucka are both decent and proactive.  Kiko is hammering forward on the right and Hassane Kamara does much the same on the opposite flank with the added bonus of a threat of violence that will always be popular in a left-back.  Indeed, as has been reflected during the pre-match meal, we could maybe do with his effectiveness being a little less high-profile for the rest of the season.  Relegation would bring sacrifices – Kamara being poached would be harder to accept than those we’re resigned to.

The biggest problem is up front, evidently.  Difficult to credit how a side that can now look so robust and organised defensively, particularly away from home and against the strongest opponents, can look so utterly shapeless in attack.  Roy’s modus operandi is no mystery but…  some of it’s got to be common to attacking and defending, surely?  A discipline in knowing what to do when and where to be?  There’s none of that in this forward line which looks far less than the some of its parts.  It’s difficult to recall a greater imbalance in a Watford squad than that between the evident capabilities of our attacking players and their ineffectiveness as a unit.

4- We miss Troy.  That shouldn’t be a controversial statement after so many years in which he was such a significant figure, but it hasn’t been voiced very often.  Without doubt his Premier League days are behind him, his limited mobility and fitness hampered his later contributions…  but his intelligence and leadership would never have tolerated the appalling decision making in our forward line you suspect. Nor would he have countenanced the lack of belief that saw Sarr waste our best chance of the game.  Put through on goal as Leeds creaked, albeit with the ball running slightly away from him to his right, he slugged a shot criminally wide when any prioritisation of placement over power would surely have found the gaping net.  You do feel that, for all our frustrating shapelessness, a goal there could have turned the outcome completely.

In a side missing vocal leadership, Deeney’s presence wouldn’t have afforded Andre Marriner such an easy ride either.  Neither the officiating nor Leeds’ time management contributed significantly to the outcome;  nonetheless Marriner refereed with the air of a teenager absorbed in their mobile phone, unfocused and seemingly scarcely interested. An unnecessary extra aggravation.

5- The second goal was a shambles, obviously, but I found it less upsetting than Sarr’s miss.  Hassane Kamara is developing a penchant for man-of-the-match performances stained by one high-profile error… at Anfield, failing to prevent Joe Gomez’s cross, at Wembley against England losing concentration and allowing Ollie Watkins to steal in behind him to score.  Here he might have gotten away with his ill-judged pass to Samir as the pair headed towards their own goal at speed had the Brazilian not stumbled over the ball and the ricochet not fallen kindly for Rodrigo to gallop around the helpless Foster to finish.

All hope died at that point, on and off the pitch.   Perhaps the most miserable and telling period of play preceded the third goal… a promising Watford attack retreated limply back to Ben Foster;  as the ball made its apologetic way out again to the left Leeds stole possession and ambled through with scarcely a challenge’s impediment before Harrison slugged a ferocious shot across Foster who, nonetheless, might have done better.

The stands emptied long before the final whistle.  Further joy was provided by finding Vicarage Road stuffed with jubilant visiting supporters…  churlish to be too critical given both that we’d have loved to have been in their position and that the away end had generously joined in the pre-match recognition offered to the late Bill Shipwright.  But it wasn’t fun.

We’re done, obviously.  If not mathematically then to all intents and purposes given the size of the gap and the fact that a trip to Manchester City would immediately follow the arresting of our joyless home record against Brentford next weekend.

For now though, breaking that cycle and reversing our appalling home form is an end in itself, vital in instilling any belief before the start of next season.


Foster 2, Femenía 3, *Kamara 3*, Samir 2, Kabasele 3, Louza 2, Sissoko 3, Kucka 3, Hernández 3, Sarr 2, João Pedro 2,
Subs: Dennis (for Hernández, 39) 2, Kayembe (for Kucka, 72) 3, King (for João Pedro,  81) NA, Kalu, Cleverley, Cathcart, Sierralta, Masina, Bachmann



1. Chris Bell - 10/04/2022

‘Shapeless in attack’
Absolutely bang on the money , as are your comments regarding Troy.
So disappointing!!
See you all at Barnsley, maybe!

2. iamthesunking - 10/04/2022

We felt the same about the Everton win! 😐

3. Straightnochaser - 10/04/2022

Barnsley currently 8 points adrift with a game in hand & 6 fixtures remaining. You’ll be lucky to have a trip to Oakwell..

4. Harefield Hornet - 10/04/2022

There’s definitely some animosity between Dennis and Pedro – a couple of people I know also picked this up in terms of their body language in a couple of situations where they could have combined better. Hardly helps?

5. Ray Knight - 10/04/2022

Thanks Matt for encapsulating what we all witnessed. Leeds hardly needed to be dominating. First half we were poor. Foster constantly hitting it up to JP, who is no Troy, never worked. Kucka and Kamara aside nobody looked energised. Better second half but Sarr’s miss as you say was pivotal. The post-mortem has to start now. Why did we implode at Brentford? Why have we lost 9 on the trot, including against Norwich? Where are the 1881? The only saving grace is that I won’t really miss the EPL circus next season. Its an exclusive club to which we have never been made to feel welcome.

6. John Smith - 10/04/2022

Thanks Matt
Your excellent reports hits the right points as you have done for many years. Leeds were no better than us but we gifted them two goals and the belief which was in short supply disappeared as I feared after Everton getting a result. Troy’s leadership is sadly missed and there is a lack of connection with many of our players. Really is time for a rebuild which is strange when the club has got so much right in other areas. It will be interesting to see who goes apart from the obvious candidates. The fun will return, hopefully in the Championship and thanks again.

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2022

Thanks John. On the connection thing… how much of that is simply down to not winning? Especially at home? Had Emmanuel Dennis’ somersault at Carrow Road happened at the Vic he’d have been much more popular for instance.

7. skipton65 - 10/04/2022

I wonder how many of us found it wondrous that we were looking at Everton as a worse team than us for relegation. If I’d suggested that last August you’d have laughed me out of town.

But, at lunchtime yesterday they, like Newcastle some weeks ago, have shown us all they know what is needed to stay in this division. You have to wonder if our team of confused journeymen have just sat in the dressing room and tuned out, instead of listening to whatever pleas Hodgson has been making. It seems that little can get their attention to their plight.

But what is their plight. I think that Sarr and Dennis just want away – Watford was supposed to be the shopfront for their wares. Pedro isn’t sure what he’s doing at all. The rest all know they’re due to be released or traded off.

Championship football seems likely for the foreseeable future. Just outside the playoffs in 22-23, mid table in 24. There are of course those among us quite happy with that – its a more competitive league without the gold plated gunships of the top four Premier clubs hosing us down when they feel like it.

In fact I’ll guarantee that next season will be more ‘fun’ than this one has been. Let’s face it, we haven’t even had the excitement of the ‘five away days’ to lighten the gloom.

Richard Steeden - 11/04/2022

Without wanting to lower the mood even further, two of the worst seasons I can remember have been post relegation from the premier league – 2000/01 and 2007/08. Raised expectations of some entertaining & winning football descending into recriminations by Christmas. Had crowds been in last season, we may have had similar given the nature of many of the performances.up until the Bristol City turning point

Matt Rowson - 11/04/2022

yeah, cheers for that Richard 😉

8. Sequel - 10/04/2022

“A threat of violence that will always be popular in a left back”. Thanks Matt, reading that was the most fun I’ve had all weekend.
I,too, thought Marriner seemed disinterested, as though wrestling an opponent to the ground, or blocking off a one-two with a body charge we’re nothing to get excited about.

9. Steve G - 10/04/2022

I think ultimately we just have to face the fact that this squad doesn’t quite have what it takes to make it at this level. It wasn’t as if we were lacking in effort – plenty of chasing back, a willingness to try to play at a decent tempo and to get the ball forward, but…

… critical balls don’t quite find their destination much of the time, chances not put away up front and, as you’ve highlighted Matt, the fact that a suicidal error is always on the cards, even from players who have otherwise put in a decent shift.

Competition for places is usually held to be a good thing but, for whatever reason, the forwards at the moment seem to be competing with each other at least as much as trying to compete with the opposition – absolutely less than the sum of the parts at the moment.

Sick as a parrot is the cliché that is often used on these occasions. This time it had an added resonance as (possibly due to a dodgy pie before kick off) a dismal afternoon was capped off by actually throwing up on the way home!

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2022

My day did not involve vomit. You win…. hope you’re better.

Steve G - 10/04/2022

Feeling much better today thanks (medically speaking – still adjusting to the prospect of almost certain relegation!). This morning’s comment was in part a displacement activity to avoid having to go and look at the state of the car – but actually it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared.

10. David - 10/04/2022

Thank you Matt.

I don’t feel as detached from the club as I did in 19/20 when a side good enough to stay up didn’t. This squad has tried but simply is not good enough like the 99/00 and the 06/07 season.

I wonder if there will be a new strategy or more of the same.

skipton65 - 10/04/2022

At least in 99/00 GT let the team that got us up, try and keep us there – and they did try.

11. davejackson - 10/04/2022

Great report, Matt. I was also amazed at how removed the ref seemed from what was going on. Your comparison to a teenager is spot on.
It is always interesting how fans see things so differently, but from my perspective in the SEJ, it looked like Louza was doing a lot of excellent work- getting stuck in, winning headers and always trying to get us going forward as quickly as possible. So was surprised you gave him the same score as the hapless Samir. I know this is a pointless splitting of hairs, but I’m trying to keep my mind off losing 9 consecutive home games.
Thanks again for your excellent reports this season- always essential reading and an antidote to the miserable performances.

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2022

Thanks Dave. Louza was definitely a strong 2, and was a victim of my deciding that my initial ratings en masse were too kind. But really whilst he’s at the back of the midfield he’s also the creative point in the midfield and didn’t get to do any of that.

Mike Peter - 11/04/2022

For what it’s worth, I thought Marriner had a pretty decent game (to the extent I said as much during the match itself). I appreciated him not allowing the physios on until he knew it was definitely required (often it wasn’t) and I prefer refs who err towards letting stuff go. Leeds timewasted, but not more so than any away team with a lead really.

Not sure what’s driven me to come to the defence of Andre Marriner, but it’s better than talking about the football…

Matt Rowson - 11/04/2022

I agree with the “let the game run” thing. I’m just not sure there was much in the way of a specific decision on his part.

12. Markyc - 10/04/2022

Spot on as usual Matt. Our decision making in the final third was woeful as the players always seemed to choose the wrong option. There was effort in the performance but it felt to me that this was one of those days where we could have played until Tuesday and still not scored. Still we’ll just have to beat city and Chelsea now (as well as 3 or 4 of the other 5) 😜

13. Richard Steeden - 10/04/2022

Regarding the lack of forward cohesion, its been suggested on Watford Twitter that Hodgson doesn’t coach patterns of play and leaves the offensive side of the game to individual skill. The evidence of his tenure tends to back up the theory, with his Palace teams being kept afloat largely by Wilfred Zaha and a top class keeper

Matt Rowson - 10/04/2022

I think that’s oversimplifying it drastically. Defensive shape and discipline in games where the emphasis is on defending is his hallmark – neither Zaha nor the keeper play much of a role there.

14. Ray Knight - 10/04/2022

The posts about Louza are valid as he are only creative midfielder and hasn’t played much only latterly. Compare that to nearly every other side in the EPL who have options. Sissoko and Cleverley get forward when in games when they can, but the latter has no pace now. Contrast this with Capoue and Doucoure who shared the load going forward. My point is that most of our midfielders are now defensive ball winners, hod-carriers but cannot transition play. We now struggle to reach the sharp end. My hope for next year is build the midfield around our young loanees like Hungbo and Dele-Bashiru. Every team needs a fully functioning engine room.

Harefield Hornet - 11/04/2022

It was the Cleverley Chalobah Hughes midfield which looked the most effective combination last season and ultimately got us over the line during the run in with some great performances . It will be interesting to see who or what emerges following this miserable debacle. Must admit I can’t see too many around the current first team who might do well in the Championship, discounting those who will inevitably be leaving like Sarr, Dennis, possibly Pedro etc?

Matt Rowson - 12/04/2022

Don’t agree with your last point. Kamara, Louza, Kiko, Cucho, Kabs, Cathcart would all be fine.

15. Harefield Hornet - 12/04/2022

Fair enough but they could also move on ? Would be great if not – especially Cucho and Louis.

16. John Ford - 15/04/2022

Not match related and a pipe dream of course, but if only we could turn the clock back and have Sean back!

Matt Rowson - 16/04/2022

Doesn’t work for me in this environment. Nor would I turn the clock back. I don’t know if that’s what you mean… but the Pozzo regime has done far, far more good than bad.

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