NINE-MAN Leeds United suffered a 4-1 defeat at Watford in the Sky Bet Championship.
The two sides went into the break level after a Gabriel Tamas own goal cancelled out Fernando Forestieri’s opener.
But Watford pulled clear after the break when Troy Deeney scored a penalty after Forestieri had been fouled by Giuseppe Bellusci.
The defender was sent off and Forestieri and Daniel Tozser gladly added goals number three and four.
Leeds’ misery was compounded when York-based defender Sam Byram saw red after clashing with Daniel Pudil in stoppage time.
United boss Dave Hockaday had no doubt the game swung on Bellusci’s foul on Forestieri and the subsequent penalty.
“Whatever minute the penalty was correctly awarded, and probably a few seconds before that with the decision to kick it with the outside of the foot,” he said.
“Up until then I thought we looked very, very comfortable.
“I thought we were passing the ball well, frustrating them, they were getting very frustrated and animated on their bench, they were changing things.
“I thought we came here and did a very, very good job and played some decent stuff which I’m very, very happy with.”
Asked if Bellusci had to carry the can for the defeat, Hockaday replied: “Yes, he knows that.
“I’ve told him in no uncertain terms. He’s apologised to the team for what it’s worth, but it’s something I can’t legislate for with regards to the coaching.
“The players are taking on board the way we want to play, I think everyone can see that.
“We’re trying to turn this big ship around, which is going to take time, but moments like that don’t help.”
The home side’s build-up to the game was shrouded by reports of player unrest after Lloyd Dyer reacted angrily after coming off the bench to score the opener in a 2-0 midweek win at Rotherham.
But manager Giuseppe Sannino said: “I want to speak only about the game.”
Turning his attention back to the match, he added: “I think the result was fair even if maybe it was too large because I need to pay respect to Leeds because they are a good team.
“They played a good first half. It was an own goal (which we conceded) and was not a clear situation so I’m happy with the performance.”
Asked if he was pleased with his side’s response to the own goal, Sannino said: “I don’t like to speak about little episodes, I like to speak about the performance and I was happy with the performance.
“During the half-time I was speaking with my players and I’m pleased with the reaction because they showed me what I would like to see.”