Leeds United 3 - 3 Watford: United Denied Late on in Six-goal Thriller

Nigel Roddis

In a thrilling encounter at Elland Road, Leeds United were denied late on after a spirited performance in the second-half brought them to within minutes of victory.

You can't help but feel a little angry, yet very proud after today's performance. At 2-0 down Leeds looked tired and were feeling sorry for themselves, but after a enthralling second-half many left Elland Road with their head held high.

With Watford scoring six here last season, the first thought on my mind this morning was one of revenge. They came into the game on a poor run, and with ourselves on a decent run, I was quietly confident.

Boss Brian McDermott was looking for a sixth successive win on the bounce, and he was forced to make a change to his starting eleven with Sam Byram coming into the side at the expense of the injured Tom Lees. This meant Lee Peltier slotted in at centre-half with Byram allowed more freedom going forward. Before the kick-off there was a minute's applause for the late Nelson Mandela, as well as the anniversary of Billy Bremner's death.

The Whites started the game on the front foot and they were the better team inside the first ten minutes. The in-form Ross McCormack created the first chance of the game for Matt Smith, but the big man could only fire his header straight at Jonathan Bond.

United's next chance came thanks to some great work by Smith and Rodolph Austin. The forward played in a lovely through ball and Austin's shot was saved by Bond, with Luke Murphy losing his balance with the rebound and blazing it over the bar.

But with Watford's pace on the flanks causing an issue, Leeds failed to adapt and fell behind after some poor defending. Troy Deeney was the quickest player to react after three Leeds players failed to clear it, and his low shot went in under Kenny's out-stretched arm.

After the first goal, the pace of the game began to slow down and it gave United a chance to work the flanks. Danny Pugh was constantly stretching the Watford defence, as was Byram who almost created a chance for Smith just past the half-hour mark. His lovely lofted ball almost found Smith at the far post, but for a last ditch deflection, which tipped the ball out for a corner.

With minutes remaining in the first-half, Watford broke once again and stunned the Elland Road crowd when they scored after a Leeds free-kick. Chrsitian Battocchio was the lucky benefactor of another Leeds error when four or five players tried in vein to stop the counter attack and with Pugh laid on the floor, the Watford man scored with his shot coming off the post.

McDermott's side came out at the start of the second-half with a new purpose and for 15 minutes they destroyed the Watford defence in what was a magnificent spell of football. Smith had two headers that both could have gone in, his second being the easier of the two thanks to a Mowatt corner. McCormack was up for the occasion and he tried to get the crowd fired up, which of course they responded to.

The breakthrough came when Pugh got onto a loose ball and charged into the box, instead of going down the left-back carried on and lofted the ball past Bond and into the bottom corner. That gave Leeds a new lease of life, and from there it got better and better for the home side.

Smith eventually levelled proceedings to take the roof off Elland Road when he stayed strong and headed home McCormack's inch-perfect cross. Austin then went close on two occasions, as did Alex Mowatt - his shot fired into the turf and onto the crossbar as Watford hung on for their lives. As expected the barrage on the Watford goal had to stop, and Leeds tired a little as the game began to open up.

Watford showed they were still in the contest when they forced a brilliant save out of Kenny who's reflex save kept the game level. With 15 minutes to go, McCormack put the ball in the net after some more good work from Smith, but the Scot's goal was ruled out for offside, much to the dismay of the crowd.

But the pacey forward got his reward minutes later when a delightful ball from Luke Murphy found him on the edge of the box, and he carefully chipped the ball past the on-rushing Bond. That goal saw Leeds open up once more and Watford punished them in the 86th minute. George Thorne's shot from distance was parried by Kenny but it fell straight to Deeney who tapped the ball into the corner.

There was time for one final chance, and it fell to the visitors. With Leeds trying their best to score, Watford kicked on and the ball from Deeney found Ekstrand but like a ninja, Marius Zaliukas flew himself in front of the ball to concede a corner and ensure Leeds got a point.

Despite conceding late on, we have to be happy to take a point after going two-goals down at the break. It wasn't to be today but the players showed a fighting spirit that we should be proud of. The draw puts us in good stead for the upcoming games against Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley and Blackpool.

There's a feel good factor about the club at the moment, and long may it continue. On on on!!!

As usual have your say on today's man of the match below, and share your thoughts on today's game in the comments below.


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