It was billed as a celebration of our greatest player on the sixteenth anniversary of his death but by half time the mood had been swallowed by the angry slam of wooden seats and the exasperated calls of ‘game over’. The assertions were warranted. A promising start had been savagely undermined by a cumbersome defence struggling to cope with our visitors’ slick enterprise.
Brian McDermott’s half time approach was to inform his bemused and embarrassed charges that victory was there for the taking and they so nearly proved him right. The rest of the afternoon provided the sort of intoxicating experience upon which this great club of ours was built. It captured a brief moment in time when Leeds United’s current crop tune into the glorious deeds of their predecessors, shake off the shackles of unwieldy expectation and bond with their fervent public.
White waves crashed forward incessantly as if possessed by the spirit of King Billy himself. A combination of pace, power, skill and determination was allied to breathlessly passionate crowd. First Danny Pugh and then Matt Smith capped tireless displays with beautiful goals as Watford visibly suffocated under the pressure of raw, undiluted Yorkshire will. Smith had a header disallowed and the crossbar ached with the effect of a Mowatt drive. The keeper cleared off the line before thwarting Austin minutes later. By the time McCormack tickled in the third from the impressive Murphy’s pass it should have been all over.
The Hornets’ equalising goal owed as much to character as it did quality and was a rather inevitable denouement. Despite the last gasp disappointment most of us departed in high spirits. Watford’s collection of imported loan signings are a good side and would have left the Ridings chastened by their latest Elland Road experience.