There was plenty to discuss pre-match what with the Mackay-Moody text messages and the rumours of unrest in the dressing room. With all that doom and gloom, it was good to turn my thoughts to happier things such as the fact that the wonderful John McClelland was the guest in the corporate lounge. When I entered the ground, Macca was being interviewed by Luther. What a joy to listen to my two all-time favourite players chatting. When they finished, I made my way around to the Lower Rous to give Don a bag that he had left in the West Herts. As I reached the disabled area, Don was coming to greet me and pointing rather urgently behind me. I turned and there was John McClelland looking exactly as he did in the 80s. I immediately turned into a gibbering star struck fan. I managed to blurt out that I’d loved watching him play and went to shake his hand and found myself being warmly hugged. It is quite possible that my feet will never touch the ground again.
There were four changes from Tuesday night with Abdi and Tözsér back in the midfield and Pudil and Forestieri replacing Anya and Vydra, who had limped off at the end of the previous game. Unsurprisingly, after his goal celebration on Tuesday, Dyer was not in the 18. The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Tamas, Pudil, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Forestieri.
We started brightly with an early corner from Adbi requiring a smart save from Silvestri. Then Deeney tried to find Forestieri in the box, but Silvestri beat him to the ball. Munari received a lovely pass, but dwelled too long on it so had to play the ball back to Paredes who crossed for Deeney whose header flew well over the bar. Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney who played a low cross to Abdi, but he was crowded out before he could shoot. For Leeds, a shot from Tonge was blocked by Pudil, the ball came out to Austin whose shot was wide of the far post.
We were a goal up after 20 minutes when Forestieri passed to Deeney who flicked the ball to Munari in the box, the Italian went down under a challenge, but the ball ran through to Forestieri whose initial shot was blocked but his follow-up header beat Silvestri. I finally witnessed the Gomes goal celebration as he joyfully leapt in front of the Rookery. Heartwarming. Leeds got the ball in a dangerous position, but Antenucci’s shot was high and wide. On the half hour, Deeney passed to Forestieri whose shot through a crowd of players was easily gathered by Silvestri. Leeds equalized soon after as an innocuous-looking ball in from Sharp was diverted past Gomes by the foot of Tamas, when he really didn’t need to intervene. It was a very disappointing equalizer that was totally undeserved for the visitors who had yet to have a shot on target. I was pleased to see Gomes offering commiserations to Tamas. At the other end, Deeney fed Paredes whose shot was deflected over for a corner from which Abdi’s delivery was headed over by the unmarked Hoban. Just before half-time, Pudil broke forward but his shot was gathered by Silvestri. Then Sharp played for a foul and succeeded in getting Tözsér booked.
I was a hell of a lot happier at half-time than I had been on Tuesday and not just because of the close encounter with John McClelland. While it was annoying that Leeds were level without having had a shot on target, we had played very well and were definitely the better side. Half-time entertainment included Harry Hornet accepting Miles Jacobson’s ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge and being given his soaking on the sidelines. What was he thinking? He could have caught his death of cold.
We started the second half brightly as Forestieri curled a shot just past the far top corner. At the other end, Murphy’s free-kick was headed over by Pearce. Then Abdi found Deeney who was hacked down just outside the box. Tözsér stepped up to take the free kick, but the delivery was awful, flying well over the bar. Sannino’s first substitution of the afternoon saw Anya coming on for Paredes.
We took the lead again just before the hour as Forestieri beat Bellusci to a dropping ball in the box and was taken down by the defender. The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and dismiss Bellusci. Deeney stepped up and hit the ball straight down the middle while Silvestri dived to his right. Soon after, there was a break for treatment as a Deeney shot was blocked by Pearce’s head knocking the defender to the ground. Pudil latched onto a cross-field ball from Tözsér but his shot went wide of the near post. Watford’s third goal was a thing of beauty as Munari passed to Forestieri who skipped past numerous defenders in the box before unleashing a shot that bounced in off the post.
Forestieri and Deeney were working really well together as, first Fernando fed Troy whose shot from the right was blocked, then it was Deeney’s turn to find Forestieri whose shot appeared to be going in, but flew just wide. That was Fernando’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Ighalo. For Leeds, the evil Dominic Poleon came on as a substitute and was roundly booed by the Hornets faithful. Watford had a chance to increase their lead as Munari connected with a corner from Tözsér, but his header was wide of the target. Tözsér then played a lovely crossfield ball to Pudil, who crossed back for Ighalo who was challenged and couldn’t find room for a shot. Abdi made way for Andrews who was involved immediately as a corner was cleared to him but his shot was well wide. Murphy was the next to find his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Pudil.
In the 90th minute, Austin was booked for a foul on Deeney. In the crowd, people were preparing to go home as Tözsér stepped up to take the free-kick, which was so far out that there appeared to be no danger. But Tözsér thought otherwise, as he stepped up and hit the ball straight into the bottom corner with no Leeds player appearing to move. As way of celebration, he ran straight over to his family in the Lower GT. In injury time, Deeney was breaking upfield when the whistle went. At first I thought it was signalling the end of the game, but the referee went over to where Pudil was lying on the ground and, after talking to the linesman, sent Byram off, apparently for a head butt. The final whistle went soon after. It had been a superb performance by the Hornets, restricting the visitors so much that their only shot on target was from Watford’s Tamas. There was a nice touch from Harry Hornet at the end, as the players celebrated he got on his knees and polished Tözsér’s right boot.
The reports of unrest among the squad in the week had been unsettling, so it was a relief that any unhappiness stayed in the dressing room and the lads put on a great display for the home crowd. This is a talented, exciting squad. If our displays away from home start to match the quality of those at Vicarage Road, we are in for a wonderful season.