Leeds were gifted a late equaliser to salvage a point against Watford in a match they should really have won.

Simon Grayson set his Leeds side out in what looked like a 4-4-2 with Davide Somma and Max Gradel up front. Luciano Becchio dropped to the bench alongside loanees Barry Bannan and Jake Livermore.

It was a frustrating first half, replicating much of what we’ve seen this season – the Whites reluctant to pass it around and instead hitting long balls up front to Max Gradel who was being marked by Watford’s Martin Taylor – an absolute giant of a man. My little brother turned to me after the game and said “it’s like we only want 45 minutes to try to win the game.” If a nine year old can see what we’re doing wrong, I’d hope Grayson and the players realise long balls to our smallest player probably isn’t the way forward.

Gradel was putting himself about and making a nuisance of himself while Davide Somma was adding to the frustration of the fans inside Elland Road with a surprising lack of movement. Aside from Neil Kilkenny shooting wide after a bit of head tennis, there were no real clear cut chances until right before half time when Snodgrass popped up on the left and flashed the ball across the area to be met by Max Gradel who, stretching, managed to divert the ball onto the bar when he should have scored.

The second half started in a similar way and United had the first real scare as the visitors’ Don Cowie hit the woodwork but saw the ball fall safely into Kasper Schmeichel’s hands. The introduction of Luciano Becchio for Neil Kilkenny acted to lift the 30000 Elland Road crowd. Becchio made an immediate impact linking up play and winning free-kicks and suddenly Leeds looked much more dangerous. It wasn’t until Simon Grayson made another change though that we really kicked into gear. Barry Bannan came on for Davide Somma and it was the Aston Villa loanee’s excellent delivery from a free-kick that set up Leeds’ first goal. Bannan placed the ball right onto Becchio’s head three yards out and the Argentine duly obliged. Elland Road exploded in euphoric relief.

The crowd were doing their part to keep the energy up but there’s always danger that Leeds will switch off and make silly mistakes and, predictably – after Becchio had blazed a sitter over the bar – it happened just a few minutes later. Watford were passing the ball around the area and Leeds were standing off and failing to get a foot in. Eventually Cowie sent in a deep cross and it was met by the diminutive Lee Hodson who had been allowed to wander freely into the area and nod home unchallenged.

It was a nervy finish for all those inside Elland Road and there was a feeling the game could tip either way. Again, excellent delivery from Bannan led to another chance as Gradel was denied on the line and the ensuing scramble was eventually cleared. A few minutes before full time though it looked like we’d thrown it away as Andy O’Brien went to ground in the box but lost the ball to Danny Graham who squared for substitute Andreas Weimann who could hardly miss. It was a sickening blow and looked likely be a fatal in our play-off hopes.

Strangely though, luck seemed to be on our side briefly as another Barry Bannan delivery, this time from a corner, was inexplicably sliced into the net by Watford striker Troy Deeney. With two minutes left, spurred on by a noisy crowd, both sides seemed to want to go for the win and not settle for a point. The game ended abruptly and strangely as Leeds won a corner, the atmosphere again beginning to bubble with a sense of urgency and anticipation, only for the referee to blow for full-time before we could take it.

Generally you should be thankful for an 88th minute equaliser but it definitely felt like we’d thrown away two points. It certainly puts added pressure on our remaining fixtures.

There weren’t many outstanding shouts for a man-of-the-match. Eric Lichaj and Leigh Bromby were the most assured of our defenders while Max Gradel was typically energetic and enthusiastic. Becchio looked hungry when he came on and grabbed his goal but had to be taken off injured after being on for less than half an hour. Bradley Johnson did his job well for the most part and can’t really be criticised for his performance but, for me, it would have to go to Barry Bannan – simply because he changed the game and we may not have scored if it hadn’t been for his outstanding delivery.

More dropped points means it’s looking a lot harder for us to retain our play-off place. It’s going to be a nervy few weeks.

  • Dje

    Any news on Becchio’s injury?

    Also, there was talk that Becchio after scoring might have made a gesture to Grayson – or someone near the bench – that he should have been on from the start. ~ Although that was before missing the sitter.

    • Not sure about Becchio’s injury or about his celebration. Couldn’t really see well from South Stand, maybe someone closer can verify?

      Did notice his “pregnant” celebration thing, he did the same against Forest I think. Not sure what that’s about, can only assume his missus is expecting?

      • Dje

        ….or a bit on the chubby side!

        _____________

        Maybe the celebration was just that afterall. I think the injury might be more of a concern – as Becchio wanted to come off rather than the physio’s bringing him off for precaution.

        With Somma, Paynter and McCormack all struggling for goals could this be a chance for the mighty Grella to become a cult hero?!

        I’d imagine not, but I have this odd feeling that Nunez, White, Lees and Grella will become our playoff powerhouse quartet.

        • Craig

          Not after what Grayson has just said about Grella.

          • Dje

            Lol, Grayson will be gone by then.

  • Paul South Wales

    Left at 7 O’Clock in the morning and got back at 10.15 pm, and all to witness a very ordinary performance. Looking at the teams above us, if we do manage to hang onto a play-off birth (and that’s a big if) what chance do we stand against the others? I applaud Grayson for what he’s done so far, but is he running out of ideas? Why he didn’t strengthen the central defence for the run in is a strange one. We seem to go into games on the basis we’ll just out score the opposition. Well Friday’s game will be a real test, and with the teams below us breathing down our necks, it won’t be pleasant viewing. We need some luck for the next one, as we got yesterday

    • Dje

      Yep, I don’t really get concerned or downhearted anymore when the opposition’s first goal goes in, it seems to be part and parcel of our games, like kickoffs, the M.O.T. theme and Grayson’s mystifyingly mystified post-match comments. I think I’d be unsettled if we were heading towards keeping a clean sheet at the moment.

      ___________

      We’ve held our own against Norwich this season – so there’s hope there, even if they are in-form and we aren’t. Swansea seem to be stuttering a bit too. I can’t see us getting past Cardiff over two-legs as they are a right bogey team for us, and Reading seem to hot. I can see Reading beating us on Friday (the return of the Harte?!) and ending up in 2nd spot and clinching automatic promotion.

      I still think we can make 6th.

  • Mojoluafc

    Yet another very mediocre game ive seen with the usual dodgy defending, lack of any control in midfield and the hoofball tactics returning.

  • Tim Campbell

    Alas this season is looking more and more like ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ rather than the other way round

  • Tim Wilsom

    Winner for Nunez

  • henryv

    At least it has lowered our expectations so anything we get will be gratefully received.
    The defence has been crap all year so we cannot be surprised.
    Most of us have said that if our attackers stop scoring 3 (sometimes four) goals a game we will struggle.
    Well the goals are drying up a bit and the result is we are exposed!!
    It is up to Simon now!!

  • Dee4leeds

    SOME HOW the Watford players managed to realise our game plan. Somma might as well of been a cardboard cut out, it would of been the same difference.

    At least Bannan, Becchio and Lichaj played well…

  • Loved them diamond floodlights

    Was glad of a point in the end it could prove vital, a fireing squad at half time would not have been out of order tbh

    Highlight of the day was was watching the purple helmets remove large lad pitch invader and as for that attempted rugby tackle off mr security well …. Priceless

  • kev

    i can’t believe how poor McCarntney is,considering he is mean’t to be a premeir league footballer and probably earning 20 grand plus a week which Leeds are maybe paying 10 grand of that, never seen him make a tackle,Kebe on the right for reading next week is gona destroy him i feel,hope i’m wrong!

    • number1inyorkshire

      he will be signed before next season on a perm .me and others yesterday all said we hoped we could keep lichaj .that lad has potential .we need to get some better backroom staff in if grayson is to stay

      • Dje

        I’m not convinced we’ll be offering McCartney a contract for next season. He’s playing like someone who now knows that he is not wanted by two clubs – Sunderland and Leeds – and trying to work out why he’s even still bothering with football. He hung up his international boots only a few months ago when his country came calling again, what for? To help Leeds ship out more goals. Got to worry about his temperament at the moment.

        • Colin

          I think the coaching staff’s long term hope is that Aidy White will be ready for that LB slot next season.

          • Dje

            I was just thinking whilst watching Match of the Day that it would have been the perfect season to bring through Lees, Parker, White in OUR team. considering how many goals we have let in without having such inexperienced players in our squad I bet they could be seasoned-pros with great futures at the club by now. Loads of learning experiences for the boys.

            Depressing. Just been watching Kenny Dalgleish (who I dislike but thoroughly admire) play two unknown kids – some left-back called Flannigan who looked like a young Ian Harte (visually as much as performance), and some lad called Robinson in midfield – against Arsenal at the Emirates. They did fine and got a creditable draw.

            Considering Dalgleish hasn’t got the Liverpool job on a permanent basis, and that Liverpool can still claim a UEFA space if they keep on picking up points, how effing brave and what desire to ‘blood youngsters’ on the fast-track is that?

            And we use Bury, York and Oldham instead – all the while bringing in fair-weather Premiership loanees to let teams score goals against us.

  • number1inyorkshire

    the first goal they scored was what could and should have been their fourth .the amount of times they ghosted in behind our defence was shocking a better team would have punished us more their second goal was at best Sunday league defending .

    we ,leeds were lack luster and lacking ideas from start to finish some of schmeicels kicks from goal were huge and he stood and watched 1 effort hit the post .

    Becchio’s header was fantastic ,but lazza is now tinkering too much at the 11th hour with the whole team to leave him on the bench to start why ????.

    no real pace ,no quality at all ,no defence and to be quite frank some real shite refs at E R this season .

  • Colin

    djedjedje – you make a really good point on the young players. I remember a few seasons back, we had this 19 year old kid who Gary Mac had faith in and started playing regularly. He wasn’t great, made his fair share of errors and his performances were to be honest, a bit hit and miss. That ‘kid’ was Jonathan Howson. The same player who is the only player to have started every single league match this year.

    Re. Dalgleish – i genuinely think that those 2 young players played as Liverpool have run out of fit footballers! But Dalgleish also regularly played youngster Stephen Kelly as RB until he got injured.

  • Old Billy White

    Very disapointing on Saturday, can someone explain:
    1. Why Somma was played as some sort of target man? It’s not his game, he needs someone to feed off, in my opinion. Not fair to him and not good for the team.
    2. What was wrong with Snodgrass, never stopped moaning?Is he just frustrated, unhappy with team selection or does he want away?
    3. Does Kasper command the area? He came, stopped and went back for the cross for their first goal, and was also involved in the comedy with O’Brien.

    Positives, got a point, Lichaj, Johnson, Gradel & Bannan.

    Playoffs still possible, but is anyone really looking forward to them?

    • Dje

      I agree Billy, very odd playing Gradel and Somma as two frontmen. There’s a case for EITHER Gradel OR Somma playing alongside EITHER Paynter OR Becchio upfront but Grayson thought otherwise. Gradel and Becchio starting made the perfect sense of course, with impact sub Somma ready to change the game from the bench. That would have been how we have played well all season, that would have been too easy.

  • Matt BB

    i think nnuez is making his point loudly – a la Somma & Beckford, he responded maturely to going on loan, and i believe we will have a better player on our books – an ideal replacement for Gradel when Bates sells him in the summer.

    I think bringing him back would be counter productive as he seems to be thriving under the coaching at scunthorpe far more than he has at leeds….

    for me if we dont make it up its an absolute priority that we :-

    a.) Bring in a new assistant for grayson (not necesarily at the expense of Snodin)
    b.) Start bringing through some of our Youth players. Poleon looks worth a shout as does Lees.
    c.) Cut our losses on Kisnorbo & Naylor. Suspect they will both be released – and we need to spend their salary saving on two half decent centre backs not just to push O’Brien and Bruce – but to actually keep them out of the side!

    I wasnt surprised as I sat in my hotel room in Spain this weekend as i got a text message telling me the FT at 2-2, and looked at the timiongs of the scoring, we simply seem to be in panic mode at the moment. I think it will be a worthwhile exercise for the players to get into the playoffs – so our game against Reading is not just a formality any more (2 months ago it may have been) we desperately need to win it. On paper we can, but no tinkering please simon! a settled first XI needed at this point of the season, and the loanees brought on as fresh legs, keep the team spirit high, and dont drop Becchio, just sub him when he starts to get tired, all fairly fundamental stuff!

    • Dje

      Just to clarify my [slightly tongue-in-cheek] point about Nunez, Lees, White, and Grella coming back as our saviour – all of them (with the possible exception of Lees at Bury) will be back with us after the end of the 46 match league season as Oldham and Scunthorpe and probably Bury too wont be in any playoff action. They’ll therefore be eligible to play for us. Although I’m confident none of them will get a look-in.

  • captaincrash

    Should the worse happen and we lose Gradel/Snoddy then indeed Nunez but also Sam and McCormack are there or thereabouts if given a good run I feel.

    The defence will have to be the focus for any spending surely…!!

  • Mark

    When you look at the players under contract for next season Leeds will need to focus their spending in all areas not just the defence. The squad is stripped bare in the post season with several players out of contract and several loaness returning to their parent clubs. Of the squad remaining our defence (can we even call it a “defence”) looks poor by any standard and our midfield almost non existent. Our forward options remain good however if you take Gradel and Snodgrass out of the equation (i cant help but feel at least one if not both will go in the summer) our attacking options are significantly undermined too. If Leeds did sell, lets face facts the club doesnt have a great recent track record in re-investing funds in the playing squad.

    Of the players left, Leeds are also vulnerable to a bid for Schmeichel with only a year left on his contract which would leave the squad without a keeper outside of the youth teams.

    Of the remaining squad Grayson either doesnt rate or doesnt trust Bessone, White, Lees, Sam, Clayton, McCormack or Grella as they have either been shipped out on loan or simply not been part of the first team picture for most if not all of the season. What is left is not a lot, it certainly isnt the basis for a promotion charge next season.

    Lets hope there are funds to spend next season. We have already resigned from the reserve league for 2011/12 (Leeds are going to play a series of competitive “friendlies” instead), without significant investment I am nervous about what sort of team we will be able to put out in the Championship too.

    If the club operates on the same budget next season then there will at least be significant funds freed up for wages following this summers exodus from the playing staff, however with the club reluctant to stump up transfer fees in the past and Graysons distinctly average record in the transfer market in general (crap journeyman 30 somethings and loanees that never make the first 11) will Leeds be any more competitive next season than this? Will Leeds make the financial investment needed to replace and improve the current squad (starting from a much smaller baseline than last season), I hope so. If not we will have more to worry about than finding a couple of decent defenders!!!

    The squad under contract going into next season are:

    GK Kasper Schmeichel (2012)
    DF Paul Connolly (2013)
    DF Alex Bruce (2012)
    DF Ben Parker (2012)
    DF Federico Bessone (2013)
    DF Leigh Bromby (2013)
    DF Aidan White (2012)
    DF Tom Lees (2013)
    DF Andy O’Brien (2012)
    MF/F Max Gradel (2012)
    MF/F Robert Snodgrass (2013)
    MF Lloyd Sam (2012)
    MF Jonathan Howson (2012)
    MF Adam Clayton (2013)
    FW Ross McCormack (2013)
    FW Billy Paynter (2013)
    FW Luciano Becchio (2014)
    FW Mike Grella (2012)
    FW Davide Somma (2014)

    I really, really pray we make the play offs and that somehow we make it all the way back to the premiership in May. If it doesnt happen I am not sure we will get a better chance anytime soon.

    • Dje

      Excellent post, Mark. Entirely agree about needing to take the opportunity now and stop talking about ‘consolidation’ etc.

      I noticed O’Brien in the Yorkshire Post today saying that he thought people talking about ‘exceeding expectations’ as utter bollocks. Which is fair enough, but a bit embarrassing too from the amount of times Grayson has been using that now-laboured line.

  • WillS

    Further to the above comments on the squad, it does for me clearly demonstrate how far wide of the mark Grayson has been in his attempts at squad building this season with a view to stepping up next season. SG is Blackwell 2.0.

    And like others say above, SG seems to have lost his way and his ideas are getting more and more extreme, desperate and prone to error.

    Yes I know we are 6th, but the evidence is that it is false position. The way we are playing is of huge concern for NEXT season, never mind the next four (plus 3?) games.

    I personally do not think Grayson should be trusted with a penny this summer, and instead the “twist and turn” needed at the club is a new manager. That is very easy to say, I know, but I do not see the club progressing further under SG’s “leadership”. He will end up losing the players, if he has not done so already for many of them.

    But Bates likes a puppet for a manager and SG will remain in situ until December when we are in the bottom six (of the Championship of course) as our scoring boots disappear, just like our defence has gone awol this season.

    Just to add, O’Brien’s wimpish tackle was very poor, as was Bannan’s failure to cover; both leading to a goal.

    There was loud a sense of silent resignation in the crowd on the way back to Leeds on Saturday after the game; a significant contrast to the superb noise of the second half when the crowd were urging a performance to come out of the dross. It never came.

    But to go on about the awol defence is to miss the point that if the best central midfield combination is Kilkenny/Johnson then we are well and truly fupped – both turned in such a wimpish performance on Saturday I was embarrassed for them both.

    Neither are good enough at this level and should be shipped to Swindon.

    And likewise, SG it seems is struggling to justify his own position.

    • Irving08

      I broadly agree. However our Chairman will not agree with Simon that it is time to go until it is absolutely obvious that he is not quite up to the job of managing at the top level; at any rate, not without a top-class coach at his side (though why would a top-clas coach not want to be Manager ?). We had a real chance this season with the creative and attacking talent on our books plus the average-ish quality of the Division’s leading sides. But
      confused thinking on tactics and inadequate coaching has meant that the whole is considerably less than the sum of the parts.