FRUSTRATED manager Simon Grayson could not believe it as Leeds United looked threw away a lead for the second successive game and needed a late own goal gift to ultimately scrape a draw against Watford on Saturday.
Luciano Becchio’s 72nd minute header from Barry Bannan’s free-kick appeared to put the Whites in control, but the Argentine striker then missed an absolute sitter with just the keeper to beat from six yards out and within a minute Watford had equalised after some sloppy home defending.
With several Leeds players standing like statues right-back Lee Hodson was allowed a free header and planted the ball past Kasper Schmeichel for a shock equaliser.
It was to get worse for United on 86 minutes when dreadful tackling was punished by Danny Graham, who got past Andy O’Brien to set up Andy Weimann for another easy finish.
But in an incredible finish in front of a 30,240 crowd that could not believe what they were seeing the hosts were gifted their second goal when Bannan’s corner was volleyed into his own net by Troy Deeney.
There was still time for more drama as Weimann’s header hit the top of the net for Watford and Leeds had a huge shout for a penalty turned down when Robert Snodgrass’s cross came off the hand of Watford defender Lloyd Doyley.
Earlier both sides had hit the woodwork through Max Gradel and Dom Cowie, but there was little action in a poor opening half with United looking nervy and unbalanced with a 4-4-2 formation that saw Jonny Howson first on the left wing then on the right and Davide Somma preferred to Becchio up front with Gradel playing alongside him instead of his usual left wing spot.
Leeds gradually got on top after the break only for the defence to undo the good work as Watford hit back strongly in the last 15 minutes when they had to go for it with their hopes of the play-offs slipping away.
The result left Leeds in sixth place and they gained a point on Nottingham Forest, but they are only two ahead of Hull now and with a tougher run-in than their rivals the pressure is really on.
Manager Grayson was unhappy at the defensive mistakes that are continuing to derail his side.
He said: “It’s frustrating because I seem to be saying the same things over most of the season. We get the goals, but we make individual mistakes and concede at the other end.
“We don’t seem to have a siege mentality when we do go in front that we’ve got to keep it tight and we make mistakes. It’s frustrating for myself, my staff and the players as well.
“Sometimes at this stage of the season you’ve got to grind out a result. We got the goal, but again within five minutes it was 1-1 as someone switches off with a ball into our box. Then two or three players make soft challenges and Danny Graham goes through them then squares it to the lad and it’s game on again.
“We had opportunities and we’re always going to do that because of the players we have, but we’ve got to do better defensively.
“We decided to go with two up front to try to work them and look to be real positive. The first half we were a little flat, but we got going in the second half then obviously we pressed the button we’ve pressed many times this year.
“We’ve moved players around a bit because we have players who can be versatile in the systems we play and we wanted to cause Watford problems. But it wasn’t any system that was our undoing, it was concentration levels, communication levels and not being good enough to see out a victory.
“At the end it was relief we got something out of it, but it is frustration because we should have got six points out of the last two games and been in a good position to secure a play-off position.
“The positives out of it are that we have got four games to go and we are two points in front and if we win every one of our games from now until the end of the season we are in the play-offs.”
“We’ve got to get our heads down, start work again ready for a tough game against Reading on Friday night.
“It’s a game we can win, it’s a game that we know we’ve got to produce a performance in because they are a real good team. It’s four to go and it’s still all to play for.
“All the players who started the game and didn’t start the game are in my thoughts for the team. I said to the 11 that went out (against Watford) that some of them were fortunate to be playing and some of the ones out of the team were unfortunate not to be playing.
“Obviously now I’ll re-address and have a look at the situation and I try to put a team out to win every game. Everybody’s got an opportunity to be involved on Friday night.”
Leeds United 2
(Becchio 72, Deeney og 88)
(Hodson 77, Wiemann 86)
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Leeds: Schmeichel, Lichaj, Bromby, O’Brien, McCartney, Snodgrass, Kilkenny (Becchio 56, McCormack 84), Johnson, Howson, Gradel, Somma (Bannan 67).
Watford: Loach, Hodson, Mariappa, Taylor, Doyley, Sordell (Weimann 67), Jenkins (Drinkwater 32), Eustace, Deeney, Cowie, Graham (Mingola 88).
Referee: Andy Woolmer.