There’s bad afternoons, and then there’s the kind of afternoon that Leeds endured on Saturday. The 6-1 scoreline, the latest embarrassing home defeat inflicted on Leeds had remarkable similarities to the Manchester derby at Old Trafford last season.
Leeds fell behind, then lost a man, conceded twice more, pulled a goal back, before being put to the slaughter in injury time (of which there was 10 minutes). The order of events was virtually identical to that memorable day at Old Trafford.
Manchester United responded fantastically to that defeat, but don’t expect the similarities to continue and see such a response from a Leeds side that is now short of confidence as well as personnel. It was a disastrous day for Leeds. Everything that could go wrong did. Jason Pearce’s red card just before half time changed the complexion of a game that was, in truth, fairly even up until that point. Indeed had Leeds converted one of a number of opportunities at 0-0 the outcome would have been contrastingly different
Then, once Warnock had made the brave, but ultimately regretful decision to use up his two remaining subs at the half time interval, Rudy Austin suffered a horrific leg injury within minutes of the restart that saw him rushed straight to hospital. With Leeds now two men short and with still over 40 minutes to play, the rest of the afternoon was a formality for Watford, who dismantled an increasingly tiring Leeds team with relative ease.
Credit must be given to Watford for taking full advantage of Leeds’ numerical deficiencies, and the finishing for all six of Watford’s goals were of the highest quality. Leeds fans were forced to watch on enviously as Watford pinged the ball around as those in white chased shadows for forty minutes, praying for the full time whistle. But the timing of this battering couldn’t have come at a worse time for Leeds, who are now slumped down in 17th in The Championship, and have seen a winless run extended to six. It also came at a time where the uncertainty surrounding the proposed takeover shows little sign of abating. With uncertainty off the pitch, there is hesitation and nervousness on the pitch, not a nice an environment for anyone involved.
A 6-1 home defeat is unquestionably an embarrassment regardless of the circumstances, but that only 19,000 were there to witness it (and many few still there by full time) shows just how disillusioned Leeds fans are with life at Elland Road by now at the happenings both on and off the pitch.
The major worry for Leeds is that the consequences of the nature of the defeat by Watford will have a serious impact for their visit to Millwall next weekend, a ground that is already a tough enough place to go without the added crisis. An already thin squad ravaged by injuries is now further depleted by Austin’s injury, and suspensions to both Pearce and Michael Brown, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign on Saturday. With strikers McCormack and Somma both back in training, the latter after a lengthy lay off , Leeds will soon be provided with much needed extra options up front, but the game against Millwall will come too soon for both. The team that Warnock will be forced to play next weekend is anyone’s guess, and coming up against one of the division’s in form teams will see Leeds in the unusual position of being massive underdogs for a trip to the Den.
One ray of hope for Leeds next weekend is that they followed up last season’s ludicrous 7-3 home defeat against Forest by winning their next game, 1-0 at Millwall. Neil Warnock will be badly hoping that history repeats itself , but this seems unlikely. With Leeds now seven points off the play offs and seven points off the relegation zone, the season could still swing either way, especially if the takeover is completed imminently. But at present, Leeds look much more like relegation fodder than they do promotion contenders, and you sense things are only going to get worse before they get better.