Dave Hockaday believed the Watford bench were getting “very frustrated and animated” prior to Giuseppe Bellusci’s red card and Troy Deeney’s penalty which turned the game in the Hornets favour in their 4-1 victory at Vicarage Road this afternoon.
The teams were locked at 1-1 in the 56th minute after Gabriel Tamas’ own goal had cancelled out Fernando Forestieri’s opener when the Italian debutant brought down the Hornets scorer in the penalty area and was sent off by referee James Linington for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Deeney confidently dispatched the resultant spot-kick and Forestieri and Daniel Tozser went on to add to Watford’s tally before Sam Byram became the second Leeds player to be dismissed in injury time.
Asked what the turning point in the game was, the former Hornets coach replied: “Whatever minute the penalty was correctly awarded, and probably a few seconds before that with the decision to kick it with the outside of the foot.
“Up until then I thought we looked very, very comfortable. I thought we were passing the ball well, frustrating them, they were getting very frustrated and animated on their bench, they were changing things. I thought we came here and done a very, very good job and playing some decent stuff which I’m very, very happy with.”
Asked if Bellusci had to ‘carry the can’ for the defeat, Hockaday replied: “Yes, he knows that. I’ve told him in no uncertain terms, he’s apologised to the team for what it’s worth but it’s something I can’t legislate for with regards to the coaching.
"The players are taking on board the way we want to play, I think everyone can see that. We’re trying to turn this big ship around which is going to take time but moments like that don’t help.”
Turning to how his side responded after conceding the penalty, Hockaday said: "Goals change games, the momentum swings, we're a man down, we're 2-1 down, so the big thing then is to stop that momentum and just kill the game and stay in the game because the longer it stays 2-1 we can then change things with five, ten, 15 minutes to go and you never know, you might get something. So that was the idea.
"Bringing Billy Sharp off was tactical. He's come in from Southampton, he's put in a few shifts of late, half a dozen of the players the previous game had had a bug so we were mindful of that. Antenucci, fresh legs, went to 4-4-1 and just tried to contain it and stop them scoring again. But the lad's [Forestieri's] gone by about five other players and I'm not sure how it went in but it did. At 3-1 the game is gone."