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Watford's play-off hopes all-but over but they can take great pride from 2-2 draw with Leeds United
Watford's slim hopes of reaching the play-offs may have all-but ended with the 2-2 draw at Elland Road this afternoon but Malky Mackay's men put in a gutsy display in a match which was a great advert for the Championship.
The first half was exciting, even if there were no goals to show for it, but the second half, and in particular the final 20 minutes, was action-packed until the very end.
Watford would have felt hard done by when substitute Luciano Becchio put Leeds in front on 72 minutes but Mackay's troops showed real heart and character to fight back and equalise through Lee Hodson, with what was the young full back's first professional goal.
It got even better for the visitors when on-loan Aston Villa striker Andreas Weimann put Watford in front in the 86th minute but just two minutes later, Leeds grabbed the equaliser as Troy Deeney put the ball in his own net from a corner.
Watford stuck with the same XI which drew to Norwich City on Tuesday night against Leeds. Will Buckley and Andreas Weimann had to settle for a place on the bench at Elland Road as Troy Deeney and Marvin Sordell kept their places in the side after the 2-2 draw in the week.
Leeds made four changes from the team which lost 2-1 to Derby County on Tuesday night, with striker Davide Somma, defender George McCartney and midfielders Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass coming into the starting XI.
Both sides went into the match on the back of disappointing runs of late. Leeds had won just once in their last five and Watford had not tasted victory in their last four matches.
The Hornets have been very fluid in their formations of late and started with a line-up which was 4-3-3 in attack and 4-1-4-1 when Leeds were in possession.
Leeds were first to go close in the third minute when Max Gradel's acrobatic volley was deflected wide but Watford were arguably the better side in the opening stages and almost scored soon after.
Scotland international Don Cowie slid Danny Graham through wide left and he burst into the box, cut inside Leigh Bromby and shot. Kasper Schmeichel just about got enough on Graham's effort to gather the ball at the second attempt a yard from his line.
There was another worrying moment on 12 minutes when O'Brien put too much on his back pass and Schmeichel just about dealt with it as Graham approached.
Robert Snodgrass dragged an effort wide around the quarter of an hour mark but Watford were the much better side in the opening 25 minutes and should have tested Schmeichel again when Marvin Sordell failed to make contact with Graham's precise cross.
Leeds enjoyed a positive spell though and after Snodgrass released Eric Lichaj wide right and the Aston Villa loanee crossed, Troy Deeney needed to make a last-ditch block as Jonathan Howson fired a shot goalwards. Moments later, Howson then sent a volley wide.
Watford were forced into their first change on 32 minutes as Danny Drinkwater came on for the injured Ross Jenkins.
Cowie fired wide for Watford two minutes later but Leeds ended the half on top and arguably should have taken the lead in the 41st minute. An inswinging cross found Gradel at the far post but he managed to hit the bar from four yards out and Scott Loach saved Davide Somma's follow up with ease.
The break probably came at a good time for Watford as the first half ended with Gradel heading wide from a Snodgrass cross.
The first chance of the second period fell to Watford as Drinkwater had a low drive deflected wide for a corner. But as was the case before the break, Watford were having to deal with spells of constant pressure from Leeds, although no clear-cut chances were created.
Fans-favourite Luciano Becchio was brought on in the 56th minute and gave his side and the crowd an immediate lift. The striker's flick-on at a long throw resulted in Bradley Johnson heading narrowly wide.
Watford hit the post themselves soon after as Graham did superbly to cross and Cowie's header back across goal rebounded off the upright. Schmeichel just plucked the ball out of the air before Sordell arrived.
Somma and Drinkwater both had effort at goal saved and blocked, respectively and Deeney was close to picking out the run of Graham and Weimann with a chip into the box soon after.
But it was Leeds who broke the deadlock as two substitutes combined. Barry Bannan's inswinging free kick was powerfully headed home by Becchio from six yards.
But this was to be just the start of what was one of the most dramatic conclusions to a match this season.
Deeney had a strike from a tight angle rebound off the chest of Schmeichel and Becchio missed a glorious chance to double his side's lead after beting the offside trap, only to blaze over from eight yards.
But it was Hodson who was to change the course of the game. The young full back bravely threw his body in front of a powerful Snodgrass shot which was heading goalwards and then four minutes after recovering from the blow, the Northern Ireland international got on the end of Deeney's cross to head in the equaliser, for his first professional goal.
Watford survived a goal mouth scramble moments later and, following a Doyley strike from distance going over, Loach needed to hold on to Howson's strike.
But the visitors dramatically took the lead in the 86th minute when Deeney and Graham bundled their way into the box and the Championship's leading scorer unselfishly squared the ball to Weimann to score from close range.
The travelling fans were ecstatic, and rightly so, but their joy lasted just two minutes as Leeds sent in a corner and, at the front post, Deeney put the ball past Loach for Leeds' equaliser.
It was a chaotic period but the drama had not finished as both sides searched for a winner. Replacement Piero Mingoia beat Lichaj wide left and Weimann headed his cross on to the roof of the net, with Schmeichel scrambling.
And Leeds then had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the second minute of injury time when Snodgrass' cross seemed to strike the arm of Martin Taylor.
The end-to-end contest finished with Mingoia firing over from 35 yards out.
The play-off dreams may seemingly be over for Watford, baring something incredible, but once again, Mackay's men can take great pride from the way they have played against a side chasing promotion.
Leeds: Schmeichel; O'Brien, Lichaj, Bromby, McCartney; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Kilkenny (Becchio 56, McCormack 84); Gradel; Somma (Bannan 67).
Subs: Higgs, Connolly, Naylor, Livermore.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Taylor, Doyley; Deeney, Jenkins (Drinkwater 32), Eustace, Cowie; Sordell (Weimann 67), Graham (Mingoia 89).
Subs: Bond, Bennett, Whichelow, Buckley.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.