I think that was the final scoreline but I’m trying to blur it out.
‘Freak result’ at Elland Road, hardly a surprise I guess, it’s something we’ve almost become accustomed to. Even after Neil Warnock proclaimed we’d never again see one of his sides perform to such levels of incompetency, here we are again.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all Warnock’s fault but despite his continued avoidance of accepting any blame, he’s not untouchable and right now, something has to give. I’ve long said it stuns me that he has stayed at the club for so long; even after months of the longest takeover that is yet to materialise, he is biding his time at Elland Road when many would’ve long thrown in the towel.
With a new wave of rumours pronouncing the takeover as ‘imminent’, again, the mood moved up a tiny notch towards being positive in some parts, while other camps remain largely sceptical choosing to celebrate the results once they come instead of popping the champagne the moment GFHC are given the boardroom keys.
After the desolation of the Burnley match, spirits were understandably low on the terraces, it is a long time since the football has really got the crowd going and even today, the increase in volume was to try help the team salvage something before Leeds faced another embarrassing defeat with just nine men.
Funnily enough, after weeks of the pathetically predictable, one-dimensional hoofball, we were finally greeted with a team which would put the ball on the floor and pass the damn thing. Sporting a new-look 3-5-2 with Paul Green at the back, Sam Byram and Aidy White as wing backs, on paper at least, it appeared to offer ‘a solution’ to Leeds’ lack of invention.
Leeds started well enough, Rudy Austin played Byram in down the right and his centre fell nicely for Norris but his effort eventually went wide via the post before Jason Pearce headed across goal from El Hadji Diouf’s freekick.
Even as Leeds looked more comfortable in possession than they have for a long time in a league match, the ideas were there but the execution was badly lacking and sure enough, as Leeds appealed in vain for an offside flag, Watford took the lead. Matej Vydra was played in on goal by Alex Geijo and with the Leeds defence nowhere to be seen, the finish beyond Paddy Kenny was easy.
The match took its first turn for the worse when Trevor Kettle sent off Jason Pearce for a clumsy challenge on Almen Abdi. In real time, there were no arguments from Leeds or Pearce as Abdi lay in a heap but for those with the benefit of replays, the decision warranted a yellow card at the most.
3-5-2 had to go and someone had to be sacrificed but how White, Michael Tonge or Lee Peltier escaped their number being up is anyones guess; instead the unfortunate Paul Green was sacrificed for Tom Lees. Half time was greeted with a chorus of boos towards Warnock.
All the more baffling was Warnocks decision to really shake things up, bringing off White and Diouf and replacing them with Michael Brown and Ryan Hall. Putting aside the fact that these subs did eventually need to happen, everyone looked at each other and said the same thing. ‘We’re screwed if we pick up an injury’.
Sure enough, within minutes of the half starting, Rodolph Austin went down in the Leeds area after covering in defence and it was evident it was serious. Austin being the type who could stare a grown man to death and who probably eats rocks for breakfast, you half expected him to just get up and try to play on as the club doc tries to get him into the ambulance. Not this time. He barely moved as he was eventually moved on to the stretcher and straight into a waiting ambulance. The news that it is a suspected double leg fracture serving only to bring the mood in the ground to rock bottom.
After that, it was open season for Watford; Leeds were constantly left exposed at the back as too many pushed forward in search of an equaliser as the match was shrouded in that ‘air of inevitability’.
Abdi added Watford’s second from distance before Mark Yeates curled in a peach of a free kick to make it three. Abdi was then the 2nd casualty of the afternoon after he appeared to slip awkwardly,injuring his shoulder and was also stretchered off.
Manuel Almunia had very little to do and Leeds’ best second half effort was a comfortable save for the former Arsenal stopped as he kept out Halls’ free kick but he could do nothing to keep out Tonge’s penalty when Luke Varney was felled in the box.
The game had somewhat of an inevitable conclusion as Watford finished things off comprehensively as Vydra, Sean Murrey and Troy Deeney grabbed the extras.
‘Another freak result’ said Thom Kirwin on Yorkshire Radio as Leeds fans digested yet another failure in front of a dismally low Saturday afternoon crowd of 19,104. No one could’ve blamed the fans for being well on the way home by the time the ten minutes of added time was coming to an end but so many stayed, and so many sang.
Frustratingly, yet not surprisingly, Warnock chose not to talk about the match, instead focusing on Austin’s untimely and horrific injury.
We’ve been saying the same things for years, long before Warnock’s time; the fans are still here (albeit in smaller numbers), the club is still not being invested in – in the right areas, the manager is still not being backed, the fans are still being treated as second rate without thought for their contribution to the club and we are still languishing in the ‘distinctly average’ category of the Championship. And on the showings of the last few weeks, that it probably a generous summation.
1.likely to occur at any moment; impending: