Leeds United lose on all fronts in Hornets humbling

First published in Sport by

A HUMBLING 6-1 Elland Road defeat by Watford may well have a lasting impact on Leeds United’s npower Championship season which is threatening to unravel at the seams.

The Whites were losers in all aspects. They lost the match heavily, lost defender Jason Pearce to a straight red card, lost midfield dynamo Rodolph Austin to a suspected double fracture of the leg and are losing the faith of some supporters.

It all added up to a nightmare for manager Neil Warnock’s men, who have now gone six matches without a Championship win and their fans are anxiously looking at results of clubs below them.

Having failed to beat some of the Championship’s lesser lights in recent weeks, Leeds now face in-form Millwall, leaders Crystal Palace and big guns Leicester in succession with a squad down to the bare bones. Failure to gain points in those games could see Leeds sucked into a relegation battle.

The takeover deal with Bahrain-based GFH Capital is now in its seventh month and although both sides say completion is imminent it may come too late to rescue the season.

There was little to suggest such an eye-watering scoreline on Saturday as Leeds began brightly and were unlucky not to go ahead early on when a David Norris shot hit a post and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia spread himself to deny Luke Varney.

But the Hornets side was packed with players with pace and Matej Vydra thumped them ahead on 27 minutes with a rapid counter-attack.

Worse followed just before half-time when Pearce was sent off for a foul on Almen Abdi, but Warnock still had ambitions to win the game and used his three substitutes in a tactical reshuffle by the time the second half had started.

Within two minutes the gamble backfired as Austin, one of the stars of Leeds’ season, was carried off, leaving Leeds to soldier on two men light.

It became shooting practice and ruthless Watford produced finishing of the highest order with Vydra (83) scoring again, while Abdi (61), Mark Yeates (74) with a free-kick, and substitutes Sean Murray and Troy Deeney, in additional time, kept the goals flowing.

Leeds’ strike came from a Michael Tonge penalty after Varney was brought down in the 79th minute.

Leeds United: Kenny, Green (Lees 44), Pearce, Peltier, White (Brown HT), Byram, Tonge, Austin, Norris, Diouf (Hall HT), Varney. Subs (not used): Ashdown, Kisnorbo, Becchio, Dawson.

Watford: Almunia, Cassetti, Ekstrad, Doyley, Hoban, Anya, Abdi (Hogg 67), Smith (Murray 80), Yeates, Vydra, Guijo (Deeney 60). Subs (not used): Thompson, Bond, Chalobah, Forestieri.

Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).

Attendance: 19,104.

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