FA Carling Premiership
Watford 1 - 2 Leeds United
(Half-time: 1 - 1)
|« Partizan Belgrade||Blackburn Rovers »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Radebe (Mills 42), Woodgate, Hopkin (Haaland 86), Bridges (Huckerby 69), Kewell, Smith, Bakke, Batty||Robinson, Jones|
|Watford||Chamberlain, Lyttle (Gibbs 46), Kennedy (Easton 80), Page, Palmer, Robinson, Ngonge, Hyde, Wooter, Williams, Foley (Miller 69)||Wright, Day|
|Leeds United||Bridges 44, Kewell 69|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||8, 10||?|
|Matt G||Say we are Top of the League - Watford report|
|Stotty||Watford Match Report|
|The Guardian||Bridges pointer to pots of gold|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Watford fail to interrupt Leeds' surge to the top|
|The Times||O'Leary lets his leaders do the talking|
|Express Sport||Leeds' Sunday best leaves Alec smarting|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||Kewell is Leed-ing the way for United|
|BBC||Leeds go top|
|Carlingnet||Watford 1 - 2 Leeds United|
So I was only 5 minutes late for this game - at least I didn't miss two goals like I did at Cov. We sat through a traffic jam caused by a mobile tree-lopping operation, went up the tightest car park spiral in the country and finally found myself hurrying through a deepening lake of something unpleasant in the back of the Watford stand by 5 past 3 - and didn't hear much in the way of cheering, so it was fairly safe to assume I'd not missed much.
Watford had some decent early possession and battled for every ball. I won't harp on too much about this ref, other than to say it was a bit strange that the legality of tackles/climbing/backing in seemed to be determined by the colour of your shirt. Still, at least he didn't flash the cards around for perfectly fair challenges like most of the rest of them: the only Leeds booking was for Ian Harte kicking the ball away at a free kick - and that was a little harsh since the whistle for the kick came almost at the same time as Harte connected with the ball.
The first half had been pretty even, but as the half ended Watford were snatching the initiative, and Lee Bowyer's absence was apparent both in the space that Watford found in midfield and in the way that we had one less man joining the attack when we needed it. Watford's main tactic was to try to launch the ball over the defence into the left back position where a Patti Boulaye look-alike (Wooter) would try to get round Ian Harte. With five minutes to go before half time, a Watford attack left Radebe on the floor in pain. He was stretchered off and had just about managed to regain his feet on the sidelines when a good ball into the Leeds box found Williams with far more time and space than we can afford to give any striker. He trapped the ball, turned and smashed it home.
Still, we've been behind and won several times this season, and when DOL sensibly decided not to risk Lucas any more, Danny Mills joined the action and the team went after an equaliser. A couple of decent attacks were wasted with poor finishing, but then a poor clearance by Watford was headed back by Leeds from the halfway line. Michael Bridges collected the ball and cut inside a couple of defenders before blasting the ball into the far corner of the goal from the edge of the box. 1-1 at half-time and there was everything to play for in the second half.
The late goal probably saved some of the crockery at half-time, but when Leeds emerged it was clear that they had been told in no uncertain terms what they had to do to get the 3 points. Several Leeds attacks ended up with no result due to finishing that went from poor to abysmal (Hoppo and Harry seem to be having a competition for the easiest chance missed - Hoppo is marginally ahead at the moment) but finally the deadlock was broken. Harry Kewell's shot from just outside the area may have taken a slight deflection, but Alec Chamberlain was left clutching air as it found the net. The Leeds end were more than a bit pleased "Top top top top top of the league" went the shouts (fully expecting it to be a position we'd hold for 60-odd minutes). With full-time coming up Leeds had a couple more good chances to put the game beyond doubt but again they weren't converted, leading to a few anxious moments as Watford's late efforts came close. The news from Stamford Bridge came in as the 4 minutes (where had they come from?) of injury time were played out - we're going to be on top of the league for a few days longer. It's probably a slightly flattering position to be in, but I'm not complaining. Let's enjoy it while we can and wonder how long it would have taken Judas Graham to put together a team that can entertain and win games.
So tell me was I the only one who on getting home, immediately turned on the tele and flicked Ceefax to Page 324 just to look at the table.
Watford is a much improved ground since our last visit (a nightmare League Cup defeat when C**tona missed an open goal) and the away fans can now walk straight in off the main road rather than the nightmare trek around the allotments. Unfortunately the toilets only seemed ready to cope with a few dozen Barnsley fans and flooded almost immediately, lucky i only live 45 minutes drive away and could hold on til then.
Team was as expected Bakke back for Bowyer and Smith kept out Huckerby upfront, the rest as per usual.
To be honest the first half was crap, we had a lot of the ball but never really threatened too much and Watford were largely content to sit back and deny us space to play in. We never really got the passing going to begin with and seemed to be missing Bowyer's bursts forward (one run from Hopkin excepted) and although Kewell was causing problems there was little end product. We had a lot of corners but didn't really do much with them, though Harte's delivery was much improved, and for 40 minutes nothing of interest to report really.
Then Lucas was stretchered off and while we were waiting to see if he was going to come back, a free-kick was floated in, one of their centre-backs was totally un-marked in the middle of the area and had time to chest it down before volleying it in. The goal came as a bit of a shock to everyone, especially the scorer who looked to shocked to celebrate for a while. Mills came on to play centre-back and within a couple of minutes, a long ball found Bridges alone on the left touchline and he carried it forward cut inside to the edge of the box before hammering a shot into the far corner, a class goal.
That took us to half-time, which was spent discussing, flight prices to Moscow, where do you get a visa from, just how strong is the vodka.etc although we also took time to sing to Bruno Ribeiro who was strangely stood among the Leeds fans.
Second-half began much the same as most of the first, with us in control but not really threatening, but us the half carried on, we began to flow better and create chances, a lot again originating from the left but Kewell, Smith and Bridges all failing to finish them off. Then Kewell hit a shot from the left edge of the penalty area that seemed to swerve on it's way and cause the keeper to fumble it into the back of the net. Cue chants of "We are Top of the League" as the Chelsea score filtered through as well. About this time Huckerby came on for Bridges and this combined with them having to push forward more, meant we were able to cut them open at will and create loads of chances. Kewell again was the main culprit missing 2 or 3 with only the keeper to beat, but Hopkin and Bakke were also at fault. We also got to laugh at their No.6 (Robinson ?) who was having a nightmare and alternating between falling over and slicing the ball out of play. It was getting a bit nervy towards the end as we failed to get the cushion we deserved but to be honest Watford never looked like scoring and it ended up a comfortable win.
Martyn 6 - Nothing much to do.
Kelly 8 - Thought he played well, clearing up tidely at the back and looking to get forward.
Harte and Radebe 6 - Solid. Hope Lucas isn't out for long
Woodgate 7 - Looked in total charge defensively, could improve his distribution at times.
Batty and Hopkin 7 - Both did their job in the normal unspectacular way.
Bakke 8 - Looks like a very good prospect, good passer and was becoming more confident coming forward and showed the ability to beat his man as well.
Kewell 7 - Frustrating because he caused them loads of problems but let it down with woeful finishing.
Smith 6 - Worked hard without looking particularly potent.
Bridges 7 - Good goal some neat touches as usual.
Mills 7 - Did a good job as a centre-back.
Huckerby 8 - Looked excellent when he came on, though I fear his best position may be as a last 25 minutes sub running at tired defences.
So TOP OF THE LEAGUE - Not sure it'll last and I don't really expect us to win the league but the fact that we are TOP OF THE LEAGUE after 10 games and have only played as well as we can do in patches has got to say something about the potential of this team if nothing else. Anyone got an address for Jimmy and Judas George, so I can send them a copy of the league table.
I dont regard myself as much of a talisman when I go away to watch Leeds United. eg. in the 1989-90 promotion year I only saw us win twice in the 10 away matches I went to (Hull and Bournemouth - oh heaven)
So after 43 minutes when the "Golden Boys" took a shock lead I felt it best if I slip quietly away from the ground and hide in a clump of rhubarb in the nearby allotments.
Just as I prepared to leave my seat a young Brazilian striker Miguel Bridgo picked up the ball on the left,cut in and looked up. Please dont shoot I thought. A nano-second later I was cuddling the stranger next to me. What a bender ! .......the shot...not the bloke next to me. One apiece.
Seconds later the half time whistle blew and Leeds departed to cheers from the 4000 strong travelling army, whereas in truth they deserved nothing from us.
Half time brought black clouds overhead and the 3 watt floodlights wore a glum expression. The darkness covering the subbuteo like stands mirrored the apathy that was apparent in the first period. Despite Bridges' goal we had had little to cheer about. We looked well out of sorts and the ball just didnt seem to want to stay on the floor long enough for us to work our magic. Worse still, Lucas had departed and Millsey had been drafted into makeshift centre-half. I then remembered I hadn't seen Leeds win away since we beat Arsenal in the cup at Highbury when a certain Mr Boocock entertained us with his cruel Ian Rush taunts. Omens were not good I thought.
However, events before the match had been good. On entering the ground we found ourselves in a particular swish new stand (c.f to previous stand with angle of elevation of 0.2 degrees and little chance of seeing owt) We were right behind the goal and surrounded by masses of Leeds fans. Not bad considering we'd bought our tickets from Watford. They must have resevered an area for away fans that were honest enough to admit to the Watford ticket girl that they were actually Leeds. Fair play to them.
(Some lads were dragged out of the Watford end after we scored our first and I presume they saw no more of the match. Shame) The players came out for their pre-match kick in and it wasn't long before Hartey had cracked one over the bar and into the crowd. Bloke infront lost his cuppa and the bloke next to me suddenly became the owner of a two-tone jacket. I spent the next 10 mins under my seat when I saw Harry appear.
Back to the game.....
The 2nd half got under way and the heavens opened. Man U went a goal down, Butt got his onions pinched and lost his rag. All we needed was a win.
The self-confessed naive young manager Mr O'Leary moved his toothless one-paced Scottish International - Dithering Dave out to the right and put the tall, elegant, Scandanavian porn star Eirik Bocker inside (ooerr). It worked wonders.
Leeds dominated. Harry got some ball, Smith suddenly looked semi- interested. Eirik and Ernie ...i mean Eirik and Batty ran the midfield. Bridges was purring like a garden full of mange tout. Endless amount running and classy touches. Plopkin was even getting some joy down the right.
As usual we suffered from ACS (Andy Cole syndrome) and wasted the many chances that we carved out. I was just starting to despair at young Harry when he struck a rather hopeful shot from too far out and their keeper Teflon Ted eased it into the net. Much hugging, dancing and singing.
"Turnip, Turnip what's the score ?", "You're shit and so's your ground"
whoever put the soap on the ball at half time deserves a new car from Ridsy.
20 mins to hang on for a top of the table spot. Huckerby on for Marco Van Bridges (Smith would have been my choice to depart). Cue ineffective runs with head down, poor crossing, offsides a plenty and general frustration from our enigmatic winger. NO ! Our Darren played a blinder...and I mean an absolute blinder. Beat men at will, pissed on them for pace, crossed well, ran, chased, harried, the lot. I'd use him as a last 20-30 min sub every week. To be fair Watford were pushing up and very square at the back but Huckleberry buzzed like an electric spoon.
We should have had another 2 or 3 and again Harry played the lead role of Andy Cole. Watford's golden journeymen threatened surprisingly little and I was very impressed with Danny Boy at the back. A few clumsy Aspinesque challenges but otherwise solid as a rock.
Final whistle brought news of Scum's impending massacre and chants of "We're gonner win the League" from our boys.
A belting day out.
Scores on the changing room doors + crop watch ----------------------------------------------- Martyn 6 Could have got his deckchair out in the 2nd half but for the rain. Tidy barnet. Kelly 7.5 Class. I'd forgotten how good he is. Slick crop. Harte 6.5 Did nothing wrong. Nice hair. Woody 7 Strong as ever. Silly hair. Rads 6 Never really got going. Very silly hair. Batts 8 He's here, he's there, he's every fking where....Suede. Hoppy 6 Dithering Dave is back in town again. Copperwire head. Bakke 7.5 Very good 2nd half. Better in the middle. Porntastic. Needs a tache. Smith 5 Out-muscled by Page but improved in last 20. No.4 all over Bridgo 8.5 England certainty. Sleek cut, makes his freckles stand out. Harry 8 Some world class runs, some piss weak shooting. Wild child. U-boats ------- Mills 7.5 Fitted in very well but not tested that much. Cue ball head, Duncan Goodhew, Slap, Yul Bryner, Wille Thorne's crop circle. Daz 9 A bluey whiteness - pure magic. Siddy's no.2 special Alf - Not on for long enough to get his shorts mucky. Out of a bottle blonde. Autres ------ O'Leary 8 For switching Hoppy and Bakke and having faith in Baldy in place of The Chief. 60's sweep and ear warmers. Fans 7 No surrender and Munich were a shame but good(ish) vocal support otherwise. Fking thousands of Leeds there ! Well done boys! Makes you proud to be Leeds.
Tannoy : could the Leeds fans please remain seated.
Leeds fans : STAND UP IF YOU HATE MAN U !
Tannoy (after 60 mins) : Could the Norwegian Watford fans please board their bus now please as it's leaving for the airport.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 04/10/1999.
For a time yesterday, as brilliant sunshine gave way to a heavy downpour, it was possible to gaze at the rainbow over the ground and wonder at the pots of gold that lie in wait for this remarkably youthful and exciting Leeds United side.
For now and at least the next two weeks they are the pick of the Premiership crop, an elevation which always looked within the scope of David O'Leary's team but one that they ultimately secured only through the flimsy fingers of Alec Chamberlain.
The goalkeeper on whose dependability an unlikely promotion challenge was gloriously concluded last May allowed Harry Kewell's angled shot to slip through his gloves and so, for only the second time since they clinched the final football League championship in 1992, could the men of Yorkshire look down on all the rest.
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