Leeds suffered a humiliating home defeat at the hands of Watford, the likes of which Neil Warnock said would never be seen again following last season’s 7-3 thrashing by Nottingham Forest. Warnock’s peculiar team selection set off a chain reaction of events, leading to the most bizarre football match Elland Road has witnessed for some time.

Accusing fingers could easily be pointed towards the referee and lady luck, who together reduced Leeds to nine men via a debateable-but-probably-deserved red card and a freak broken leg. But Warnock must tonight look in the mirror and take responsibility for his decisions, without which the intervention of both referee and misfortune would have proven to be fruitless.

Rumour spread like wildfire before the match that Leeds would be adopting an adventurous 3-5-2 formation in an attempt to turn around their recent poor form. When the team sheet was announced, further confusion reigned as only two centre-backs were named in the first eleven. The introduction of Paul Green, David Norris and Luke Varney (replacing Becchio, Drury and Brown from the Burnley defeat) simply smacked of a 4-4-2 line-up.

As the side positioned themselves for kick-off, it became clear that the rumours were true. Warnock had taken the bold step of playing 3-5-2 and the bewildering step of playing Paul Green as a third centre-back alongside Jason Pearce and Captain Lee Peltier. The choice seemed even more bizarre considering that first-teamer Tom Lees and reserve defender Patrick Kisnorbo were both left warming the substitutes’ bench. The afternoon would only grow more bizarre from there on.

Aidan White and Sam Byram were left in the unfamiliar situation of being wing-backs, expected to attack and defend in equal measure. The midfield was packed with Rodolph Austin, Michael Tonge and David Norris, all three playing behind a goal-shy front pairing of El Hadji Diouf and Luke Varney.

It soon became evident that this would not be the kind of dull, uninspiring, hard fought performance that we have become accustomed to over recent weeks. Leeds were posing more of a threat in an attacking sense, with more bodies being thrown forward as a result of the new formation. Indeed, Leeds could have taken the lead early on as a pass from Austin and subsequent cut-back from Byram resulted in a low Norris shot rebounding off the foot of the post.

Leeds failed to capitalise on another golden opportunity minutes later, as Diouf played a sublime through ball to Luke Varney. However, Varney delayed his shot and was closed down by ex-Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia in the Watford goal.

In spite of Leeds’ greater attacking threat, there was one humongous glaring problem. The defence was all over the place. Literally.

Pearce, Peliter and Green appeared to be completely out of synch with each other. When the ball came down the flanks, Leeds defenders were easily outnumbered as White and Byram struggled to get back into position and the central midfield trio seemingly had no instructions to pitch in and help.

Every Watford counter attack filled the home support with anxiety, with the frailty at the back so palpable in the cool autumnal air.

It was no shock when the visitors waltzed through the heart of the park on twenty seven minutes, broke the non-existent offside ‘trap’, and took the lead as Matej Vydra clinically fired beyond Paddy Kenny.

Leeds could surely not continue like this. Undoubtedly more threatening in attack, but shockingly poor at the back. A solution could have seen White and Byram revert to full-backs and Green pushed forward into a four-man midfield. Warnock stuck to his guns.

On the stroke of half-time, frustration boiled over for one of Leeds’ headless chickens and Jason Pearce went flying into a reckless challenge on goal-scorer Vydra. The ensuing red card could possibly be judged as a harsh decision, but in truth it was a very poor attempt to win the ball and no appeal will see Pearce off the hook. Warnock’s response to being reduced to ten men was to withdraw Green and introduce Tom Lees.

Leeds emerged for the second half with two more personnel changes. El Hadji Diouf (having a rare off-day) and Aidan White (toiling in an unusual position) were replaced by Michael Brown and debutant Ryan Hall. Who are we to question the wisdom of using all three substitutions before the second period has even begun? And the decision to leave top-scorer Luciano Becchio on the bench whilst chasing a match?

The dismissal of Pearce and subsequent glut of substitutions were both, for me, consequences of a poor team selection and tactical incompetence on the day. Those decisions were compounded five minutes into the second half as new centre-back Rodolph Austin went down whilst defending a corner. Following lengthy treatment on the pitch, Austin was stretchered from the field with a possible broken leg, leaving Leeds with nine-men for the remainder.

Any dreams of a fairytale victory against all odds were soon dashed as Watford took a comfortable two goal lead. Almen Abdi sidestepped a challenge on the edge of the area and struck a weak shot that Paddy Kenny should have reached before it found the bottom corner.

A bizarre match then took another bewildering twist as the latest goal-scorer, Abdi, suffered a freak shoulder injury. Enter the stretcher, treatment stoppage and overweight paramedics for the second time…

To their credit, the nine remaining players in white were putting in a good effort, with Sam Byram again deserving credit for a performance above his tender years. But with two men extra, Watford were dominating possession and finding acres of space whenever they strode forwards.

A third goal arrived as Mark Yeates curled in a free kick from a wide position, leaving Kenny’s positioning in question once again.

The thing the match was yet to see was the awarding of a penalty. So, naturally, the referee duly pointed to the spot as Luke Varney was brought down in the area. Michael Tonge, who was by this time Leeds’ sixth different centre back of the afternoon, comfortably dispatched the spot-kick and reduced the arrears to 3-1.

With ten minutes still to go, plus an undetermined but large amount of injury time, the home support roared on their nine fearless soldiers in anticipation of a memorable fight back. The players responded and flooded forwards with renewed hope, but leaving barely one player at the back soon led to a fourth Watford goal as Vydra clipped over Kenny.

Ten minutes of injury time flashed up on the fourth official’s board, but Paddy Kenny decided to stop playing at 90. Sean Murray and Troy Deeny fired in strikes from outside the box that Kenny can have no excuses to have let through. Regardless of being two men down, Leeds should have never conceded six goals today. Kenny had a shocker.

The final whistle was finally blown at 5:05pm, a full two hours and five minutes after kick-off, bringing to a close one of the most depressing afternoons I have witnessed at Elland Road.

Singing to the death, the 19,000 strong home support was admirable. Busting a gut to the final whistle, the 8 men strong outfield team were dignified in defeat. But fans and players alike were seriously let down today by one man in the dugout and one man between the posts.

In his post-match interview, Warnock was (quite rightly) more concerned with Rodolph Austin’s injury than the nature of defeat. Whilst Austin’s wellbeing is undoubtedly the priority, a time will come over the next few days when Warnock must digest the consequences of his selection and hopefully apologise for allowing something to happen that he promised would never happen again.

More worrying is what the rest of the season holds. With Pearce likely to be suspended for at least three matches and Austin injured indefinitely, the coming weeks could be painful to endure.

Thanks to everyone who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition on Twitter. But, quite frankly, nobody predicted anything even close to reality. Send your predictions for the next home match to @Matt_K_Burton.

  • Matthew

    Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, this is the result of Ken Bates stripping the team of any and all quality he could over the years to line his pockets and fund pointless vanity projects. With no investment in the team, here we are.

    • Irving08

      Mathew. So why bother at all ? The match reporter made some excellent points – and these should be addressed. Our options – while limited – are not so limited as to justify your apparent fatalism.

    • Dublin LUFC

      Nothing to do with the team selection or substitusions then? Be real, you cant blame Bates for that. Warnocks ego is getting out of control.

  • cumbrian white

    We are a disgrace , just got home after a 3 hour drive . We will be relegated if this investment does not go through. The squad are just not good enough, what a shambles

    • Irving08

      The squad may not be great, but until players are played in their right positions, we will never know how good or bad it really is. This may require NW adjusting his style of play – to a more patient, passing game: after all, mobility can come with collective ball control, as well as individual pace. Today we did see glimpses of a more passing game before they scored and Pearce’s departure.

  • saltburnwhite

    Actually bates aside its the fault of warnock , absoloutly crazy team selection …again ! all the problems stemmed from this , play kisnorbo or lees for fucks , even richard fookin naylor would have made more sense than putting green there ! …round pegs in round holes please niel , get the basics right !!! ……new manager please…….personally i hope the gfh lot bring in o,leary , contentious i know , but hey we are a living doctor pepper advert at the moment ………………….whats the worst that could happen?

    • yorkist

      Agreed. BTW, am I missing something or has NW still not posted his apology on the website? Should have been the first thing he did after checking out how Austin was after the game.

  • igiveup

    Gung-ho Colin? Not what I thought it meant. League 1 here we come, again!

  • Yorkshirian

    So come on with your optimistic ‘in Warnock we trust’ and start supporting with your head. This isn’t good enough, and for many many reasons.

  • West Stand Rebel

    This is without doubt the most piss poor performance from a Leeds team led by Warnock who must clearly take the blame for virtually everything that happened today. The tactics from the start were rubbish playing an experimental back 3!!! The sending off of Pearce although harsh was down to this tactic and inept football from Diouf. The subsequent substitution of Brown for Green was clearly the wrong choice when either White or the ever useless Peltier should have gone. The double substitution at the start of the second half left no room for another injury which of course occurred 2 minutes later with Austin’s suspected broken leg. Add to the mix a goalkeeper who is starting to resemble a certain Mr. Rachubka and in my book Warnock’s team (as it surely now is ) should have him packing his bags along with Mr. Bates for warmer climes. Enough is enough.

    • West Stand Rebel

      Sorry Lees for Green is what I should have said.

  • Yorkshirian

    And why the hell tell the press well in advance that we would going all out for it ? You might as well give the team sheet to Shaun Derry… NW.. Are you putting in a shift ?

  • daz dewsbury

    utter disgrace!! those “players” should be embarrassed with such a spineless performance!!!!! and to those who applauded such a gutless bunch of footballers off the pitch WOT THE F&&K is wrong with you??? should of let em know it’s an honour to wear that white shirt and should be worn with pride!!!!!

    • Melvyn Burton

      The players gave their all even when down to 9 men. Had we
      remained at 11 I’m pretty confident we’d have won but there were problems at
      the back, when Watford were coming forward our defence were all over the place
      but that was because of the system NOT because of them. The formation and team
      selection was a bold move by Warnock which could have worked but didn’t; he has
      to take full responsibility.

  • desparodo

    Warnock has turned this club into Sheffield United Reserves, if he thinks a good cup run will deter the issue he has to be wrong. We are sliding down a slippery slope that if something isn’t done soon we’ll be dropping out of this division. We always look to blame Bates for the demise of this club, but irrespective of all the hype surrounding this, at the end of the day the manager selects the team & when things go wrong on the field, should tactically make the necessary changes. A tip for the Chelsea Cup game Neil, 1 + 10, the 10 forming a human pyramid across the goal with Kenny taking pot shots at the oppositions goal, other wise we may end up with an even more humiliating defeat going into double figures… sos…!

    • Matthew

      No actually, Warnock has been very unlucky with the injuries and suspensions in this squad, he actually assembled what I would call a team that could compete in this league at the start of the season, but slowly but surely we began losing players for one reason or another, and form faded for others. He simply applied an emergency patch to stop the side that was relegation in quality after losing more and more quality players(Thanks to Bates). This side was assembled purely to get us in or around the playoffs before the takeover, and for Warnock to add quality to get us over the line.

      Basically we’ve been really really unlucky. Although I’m not a fan of hoofball. The blame for this should fall squarely at the feet of Ken Bates and no one else. This season is a bust, at least in my opinion, our main focus should be survival, if we can pull a good string of wins together come investment time in January we might have enough points for playoffs, just don’t get your hopes up.

      • Irving08

        Mathew, friend, there is truth in what you say, but I am afraid you rather miss the point. Managers are judged by how they handle things when the going gets tough, not when everything is going their way. And it is to be said that NW, on the evidence of both last season and the recent run of poor form, appears not to be good in such situations. The quixotic or erratic streak in his make-up then appears to come to the fore and, in combination with his egocentrism, results in disorganisation and disorientation.

        The reporter is right: it was an act of gross irresponsibility to set out the team as he did yesterday.

  • Irving08

    Does anyone else think it is not good for players to hear your Manager constantly drawing attention to what he he has not got ?

    • Matthew

      To be honest, it should be obvious to any player, or fan watching the squad what we lack. Had we had a decent winger, Striker, and central midfielder with creativity in his skill-set we’d be much higher in the league by now. Lack of investment is really killing us, the fact we’ve had no real threat on the pitch for a while now is doing us no favours.

      Warnock is absolutely correct in what we lack, we’re like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle that just needs some pieces to complete, with the pieces we’re wide open and easy to break.

      • Irving08

        While I do believe hat we as supporters are entitled, by our support, to a better team, a Manager can have no such sense of entitlement. He has to work with the material at hand. And we do a Manager no favours by supplying him with excuses.

        • TimPM

          That statement all depends on what verbal contract was made by Mr Bates when he was signed.
          ——————

          • Irving08

            So if we are, when all is said and done, little more than a mid-table team, and Warnock believed he was signing up for something else, and now does not have the stomach for the job in hand, he should go immediately, before he drags us into a relegation battle. My preference is for him to accept the situation, since stability in our situation is at a premium. He has to forget about everything and do his utmost to try to ensure that we do not go into Xmas in deep trouble.

          • TimPM

            I’m not sure you’re being entirely fair to him IMO: I remember, for example, playing Eirik Bakke at centre-back… That was way back when we had such a screwed up squad and lack of funds we had to shift and make-do. It wasn’t the manager’s fault then, either? Is Paddy K good enough anymore to be used? I loved him before his injury, I really did, but by all accounts Green didn’t do that badly?
            As for Adam Drury and Aidan White. White’s pace means he’d be handy going forward but he’s a lot to learn, and defending… Well I seem to remember positioning on a par with Diouf last year! Drury, meanwhile appears to have helped Snoddy make up his mind for Norwich- that was swept under the rug, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors?
            ——————

          • Irvng08

            I am sure I am not being entirely fair ! I understand his wanting to play White further forward: he needs more pace there. But why play him on the right ? There seems to be a fashion for ‘cutters-in’, but that just pushes Bryam back and Peltier out of position. Me – I would have kept Charlie Taylor here to give me the option of playing him in front of White. He seems to have been harshly dealt with for one poor defensive decision, I think, against Watford last year. Good job Byram didn’t get a game last season ! I think White’s good games last year outweighed the odd poor one. Green looked a reasonable player on Saturday – Kenny ? it’s been painful, viewed from the upper Kop, following the ball from the player to his goal.

  • spellz

    What a horror show, Ken Bates = greedy bastard, ever since the likes of Gradel Howson (skipper at the time) Delph, Johnson to name just a few have left our club we have brought in 0% class and strength in our team with apparent funds made off these players and now hes off closing a deal to fcuk off out of our club (good riddens) right now were in a state of emergency this current squad is weak regardless of injuries, personally I do have faith in warnock as if he can’t sort out the array of shambles within our performances then probably no one can. It just looks like dire straights at the moment as a leeds fan forever this situation is becoming too familiar, on and off the field woes, no investment and poor performances no one dying for the shirt. When as a club will we get the success we deserve for all the loud loyal fans we have cheering us on home and away without bloodsuckers squeezing the last bit of life out of our club, I know I am ranting on but after suffering that record home defeat to forest last year and now this just seems every season we go backwards and I for one am sick of the drama.

  • igiveup

    GFH…Go Fetch Harry!

  • DennyLUFC

    Comments like, ‘hung-ho’, prior to a match are embarrassing, and I cannot recall another Leeds manager coming out with such a stupid comment. I am glad Warnock is being ‘found out’ now, as I was one of the few/many? who never wanted him at the club in the first place. He is an egotist, not focused on the job and has clearly lost respect from the fans and players. I for one remember his gloating when we were relegated to League 1. Warnock is a dinosaur, hoof ball tactics that belong in the 1890s. He dismantled a side, brought in his own players so has to take full responsibility. For all those moaning about Bates, don’t bother. Crystal Palace is a clear example you don’t need bag fills of money to compete at the highest level in this division. The Bates Out Brigade are deluded. Warnock should take the blame, and admit this, and not hide behind Austin’s misfortune, declaring that he’d, ‘lost interest in the match after that.’His substitutions were one of desperation, not tactical awareness. We need a new manager. MOT

    • yorkist

      You’re spot on Denny. Still not a whisper of an apology or any comment at all about Saturday’s debacle from NW on the website. This guy has no guts and no backbone.

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  • NottsWhite

    Sorry Neil but you got it wrong !!! A system that no-one understood, a midfielder playing right side of a back three, emphasis on flooding forward against a side that had a sharp counter attack, removing Green when Pearce had been sent off instead of taking off that useless turd White and a petulant double substitution at half time which left us at risk if a player got injured (which they did).
    I will continue to support NW but i need to understand what he sees in White. His main asset is speed but he does not use it, his wing play is pathetic- try getting your arse on the line and be half turned to either accept a ball to feet or in front to run onto, when he receives the ball he craps his pants and gives it away. Ryan Hall showed more promise when he came on then White has done all year. For god’s sake Neil wake up and drop this liability

  • FreePint

    BATES’ LEGACY: – A penniless and talentless football club – Eight years of waste, under achievement, incompetance, lies and humiliation.

    I’m sure everyone’s got their own horror stories, but here’s my top (bottom) five moments from 2005: –

    19/02/05 Wigan 3 Leeds 0
    05/04/05 Leeds 0 Sheff Utd 4
    24/09/05 Leeds 0 Ipswich 2
    13/09/05 Sheff Wed 1 Leeds 0
    01/11/05 Crewe 1 Leeds 0

    Here’s six of the best (worst) moments from 2006: –

    21/05/06 Leeds 0 Watord 3 (Play-Off Final)
    13/09/06 Leeds 0 Sunderland 3
    14/10/06 Leeds 0 Stoke 4
    21/10/06 Luton 5 Leeds 1
    31/10/06 Preston 4 Leeds 1
    18/11/06 Leeds 0 Southampton 3

    Here’s my top (bottom) five moments from 2007: –

    03/03/07 Leeds 2 Sheff Wed 3
    06/05/07 Derby 2 Leeds 0 (goodbye Championship)
    13/11/07 Leeds 1 Bury 2 (JPT North QF)
    20/11/07 Leeds 0 Hereford 1 (FAC 1st Rnd Replay)
    25/11/07 Cheltenham 1 Leeds 0

    Here’s my super (sh*t) seven moments from 2008: –

    19/01/08 Leeds 0 Doncaster 1
    11/03/08 Leeds 1 Cheltenham 2
    15/04/08 Huddersfield 1 Leeds 0
    25/05/08 Leeds 0 Doncaster 1 (Play-Off final)
    08/10/08 Rotherham 4 Leeds 2 (JPT)
    15/11/08 Leeds 1 Huddersfield 2
    30/11/08 Histon 1 Leeds 0 (FA Cup 2nd Rnd)

    Here’s my top (bottom) five moments from 2009: –

    10/01/09 Leeds 0 Carlisle 2
    31/01/09 Walsall 1 Leeds 0
    14/02/09 Huddersfield 1 Leeds 0
    17/02/09 Hereford 2 Leeds 0 (We’re sh*t & we’re sick of it)
    14/05/09 Leeds 1 Millwall 2 aggregate (Play-Off Semi)

    Here’s my super (sh*t) seven moments from 2010: –

    26/01/10 Swindon 3 Leeds 0 (Billy Paynter scores twice!)
    16/02/10 Leeds 1 Walsall 2
    22/03/10 Leeds 0 Millwall 2
    03/04/10 Leeds 0 Swindon 3 (Billy Paynter scores twice – again!)
    14/09/10 Barnsley 5 Leeds 2
    28/09/10 Leeds 4 Preston 6 (chubby Jon Parkin scores 4!)
    25/10/10 Leeds 0 Cardiff 4

    Here’s my super (sh*t) seven moments from 2011: –

    26/02/11 Swansea 3 Leeds 0
    19/03/11 Sheff Utd 2 Leeds 0
    06/08/11 Southampton 3 Leeds 1 (opening day misery)
    20/09/11 Leeds 0 Man Utd Reserves 3 (Lge Cup)
    02/11/11 Leeds 0 Blackpool 5
    26/11/11 Leeds 1 Barnsley 2
    31/12/11 Barnsley 4 Leeds 1

    Here’s my top (bottom) five moments from 2012: –

    31/01/12 Leeds 1 Birmingham 4 (Zigic scores 4)
    20/03/12 Leeds 3 Notts Forest 7 (McClearey scores 4!)
    31/03/12 Leeds 0 Watford 2
    09/04/12 Leeds 0 Derby 2
    10/11/12 Leeds 1 Watford 6

    Parasite Bates hasn’t saved our club – he’s destroyed it. He may be leaving soon, with his pockets stuffed with millions, but hopefully he won’t live long to enjoy it.

  • Matthew

    i talk shit and dont have a cule what im on about