Leeds United proved the Npower Championship’s big party poopers when they earned a 2-1 victory over Watford in a remarkable last game of the season at Vicarage Road.
With Hull City only drawing their last game against Cardiff a victory would have taken the Hornets into the Premiership, but they will now have to settle for a place in the play-offs following Ross McCormack’s 90th minute winner for the Whites.
The result only told part of the story on a dramatic last day of the season with twists and turns allover the division and not least at Watford where the hosts had Troy Deeney sent-off and both sides had players carried off to result in an amazing 22 minutes of added time.
The drama even started before kick-off with Zac Thompson down to start for United in midfield, but then having to be withdrawn after being named on the team sheet because it was found out late on that he was ineligible because of the terms of his loan spell that had just ended at Bury.
Watford, meanwhile, lost goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to injury in the warm-up, to be replaced by Jonathan Bond and this was to have a knock-on effect later.
The game was less than five minutes old when it was Leeds’ turn to lose a player to injury, striker Steve Morison having to go off with a facial injury after landing badly following a stray elbow he received from a home defender.
After a lengthy delay Dominic Poleon came on and he was involved in the next major incident as his innocuous looking push on Ikechi Anya resulted in the home defender colliding with goalkeeper Bond.
The game stopped for 11 minutes while Bond received treatment then had to be carried off to be replaced by 19-year-old debutant Bonham.
There was then little in the way of goalmouth incident in a tense half before out of the blue United went ahead.
Michael Brown’s long ball was allowed to bounce and a dreadful mix-up between defender Joel Ekstrand and his young stand-in keeper gifted Poleon an easy chance to put the Whites ahead.
It was Leeds’ first goal in the first half of a league game in 2013, but was not enough to give them a half-time lead as Watford equalised in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Almen Abdi scored with a great strike from the edge of the box after Anya’s run had given him space and time to measure his shot.
With news coming in that Hull had taken the lead against Cardiff the home fans were flat for much of the second half and their team did little to lift them with United defending as if it were they who needed the points.
Ross McCormack sent a cross-shot wide and Paul Green had an effort blocked, but United also rarely threatened to score at this stage.
Watford’s task became harder from the 62nd minute when striker Deeney was sent-off for a lunging tackle on Brown, having earlier been booked for kicking the ball away. Now it was Leeds’ chance to exert some pressure and Luke Varney sent a header on target and could have been given a penalty after taking a kick in the face as he made contact with the ball.
Poleon sent a volley high and wide, but the hosts came close to a crucial second goal when top scorer Matej Vydra saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected, but Paddy Kenny changed direction superbly to make a stunning save.
Suddenly there was more on the game with news that Hull had only drawn. One more goal would have put Watford in the Premier and it made for a frantic finish.
Kenny made a double save to keep out Abdi and Nathaniel Chalobah then Forestieri hit the side netting with a shot that was deflected.
But from a Watford corner Leeds broke out to score their winner as Aidan White carried the ball out of his area and Paul Green sent McCormack free. The Scottish striker chose to try an audacious chip and appeared to have not got enough height on his effort, but unlucky young keeper Bonham misjudged the flight and could only help the ball into the net.
Leeds United 2 (Poleon 42, McCormack 90)
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Watford: Bond (Bonham 33), Doyley, Pudil, Cassetti, Chalobah, Ekstrand, Hogg (Yeates 82), Anya (Vydra 64), Abdi, Deeney (sent-off 62), Forestieri.
Leeds: Kenny, Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Drury, Tonge, Brown (White 64), Green (Hall 90), McCormack, Morison (Poleon 10), Varney.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.