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Chris Iwelumo scores twice as Watford win at Leeds United
Watford’s memorable March ended in the best way possible as Chris Iwelumo’s brace and a tremendous team performance earned the Hornets a 2-0 victory at Leeds United for just the club's second ever league win at Elland Road and a first since October 1988.
Having started the day eight points off the play-offs following Birmingham City’s win at Doncaster Rovers last night, the Hornets moved to back within six of the top six by taking their points tally for an unbeaten month to 17 out of a possible 21.
Iwelumo may get the headlines for scoring just his second and third goals since moving to Vicarage Road last summer but both him and Troy Deeney were outstanding and never gave the hosts’ nervous-looking backline a moment’s peace.
That appetite for work was repeated throughout the team in a determined and resolute performance that also bore the confidence that comes from winning four of the last six games and keeping clean sheets in two of the last three.
Watford might have won by more - Deeney should have capitalised on a one-on-one situation in the second half - although the hosts should have equalised even though Tomasz Kuszczak pulled off a fine double save after the break.
Sean Dyche was always going to have to make one change from the side that beat Ipswich Town last time out following Alex Kacaniklic’s recall by Fulham but it was no real surprise that he made two.
Mark Yeates returned to the starting line-up in place of Kacaniklic but this was the type of game that was always likely to see Iwelumo favoured ahead of Joe Garner in attack and so it proved.
Neil Warnock made one adjustment to the team that bounced back from the amazing 7-3 home defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forest to win 1-0 at Millwall last time out, with Paul Connolly coming in for the suspended Darren O’Dea.
However, there was plenty of Hornets’ interest in the Leeds matchday 16. On-loan Bolton Wanderers defender and Vicarage Road fans’ favourite Paul Robinson started, with Danny Webber and Leigh Bromby on the bench.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges and created the first chance in the fourth minute when Yeates knocked a Lloyd Doyley throw back to the right-back to cross but Iwelumo got underneath his half-volley and scooped it over the top from eight yards.
But the big striker was to make no mistake with his next opportunity a minute later, although the Hornets were grateful for the contribution from an old boy.
Robinson slipped inside his own half as he was caught in possession by Deeney, who muscled him off the ball. This allowed the striker to run at the defence and the forward did superbly to slide his strike partner in down the side and Iwelumo did the rest emphatically, beating Andy Lonergan with a first-time finish inside his near post to make it 1-0 and score just his second Watford goal.
Leeds attempted to react to that setback, with their first chances arriving in the 11th minute.
First Robert Snodgrass cut in off the right and struck a left-footed curling effort that Jonathan Hogg did well to head behind for a corner. That set piece was swung in from the right by the Leeds skipper and Alex Bruce connected with a header but put it over the top.
However, Watford nearly had another opening soon after, again originating from a Doyley throw on the right. This one was flicked on by Iwelumo at the near post and Tom Lees initially missed his clearance inside the six-yard box but was able to get the ball away as Deeney prepared to pounce.
Luciano Becchio picked up the first yellow card of the match in the 17th minute and he only had himself to blame for sarcastically applauding referee Paul Tierney for awarding the hosts a free-kick. That set piece was also headed over by Bruce but soon after the Hornets had another good chance when Carl Dickinson released Deeney in space on the right side of the area and the in-form striker chose to hit his shot first time from a fairly tight angle and Lonergan blocked it at his near post.
Watford continued to threaten going forward and in the 24th minute Yeates fed the overlapping Doyley, who held off a challenge and got to the byline before cutting the ball back but Connolly had read the danger and was able to clear ahead of Sean Murray.
Ross McCormack fired a useful effort from the left angle of the area a yard over before – and perhaps predictably at some stage in the contest - Robinson received a yellow card against his first club for a mistimed challenge on Hogg.
Dickinson levelled up that particular left-back score in the 39th minute when he received the same punishment for a late tackle on Aidan White.
Leeds were down to ten men for a few minutes as the half drew to a close as Bruce received a bloody nose after coming off worse in an aerial confrontation with Iwelumo. But during this period Kuszczak had to make a smart stop at his near post, tipping behind Snodgrass’ rising drive from an acute angle on the right side of the area.
But in the last of four minutes of added time at the end of the half, Watford had another chance when Deeney got in between Bruce and Lees to latch onto John Eustace’s through ball and although he had to hit the shot early, the Hornets forward forced Lonergan to push the right-footed shot behind. However, the referee decided there was insufficient time left to take the corner.
Warnock made a change at start of the second half, bringing on Vicarage Road old boy Webber for White, and it was the hosts who had the first chance after the break when Snodgrass toyed with the opposition defence on the right side of the area but his effort lacked power and Kuszczak was able to save comfortably.
Leeds’ card count rose to three in the 50th minute when Adam Clayton was penalised for a foul on Hogg before Deeney’s pass found Iwelumo in space to his left but he mishit his shot and Lonergan was untroubled.
Having been booked minutes before, Clayton was foolish to kick out at Eustace when the pair tangled but the referee let the midfielder off with a lecture.
However – and although Kuszczak took credit – Leeds really should have equalised in the 56th minute.
The situation arose from a free-kick that was swung in from the right, Bruce connected with a diving header that Kuszczak was only able to parry into the path of Snodgrass, who looked to have a routine finish. But from inside the six-yard box, the Elland Road skipper struck the ball straight at the Hornets keeper and then was able to get his legs around the follow up.
Murray saw an attempted curler deflected through to Lonergan before Connolly was booked for a foul on Eustace. Leeds then made their second change, with Ramon Nunez replacing Clayton and the substitute’s first involvement was to hit a superb strike from the left edge of the area that flew narrowly wide of Kuszczak’s far post with the keeper beaten.
Bruce, who was by now wearing a shirt without a number, headed over as Leeds continued to look for a way back before Dyche made his first change, with Forsyth coming on for Yeates with 17 minutes remaining.
The Hornets continued to put their bodies on the line, quite literally in Hogg’s case when he took a drive from Nunez full in the face before Lees fired the rebound from the edge of the area over.
A second goal for Watford would have wrapped up the game – and it really should have arrived nine minutes from time.
Again a Leeds defender slipped, this time it was Lees, presenting Deeney with a clear run on goal. The Watford striker advanced on Lonergan, visibly weighing his options, and in the end decided to try and place the ball around him but the Leeds keeper read his intentions and saved. However, the ball broke back for Deeney on the left edge of the six-yard box but he was unable to squeeze it in from an acute angle and then Iwelumo was thwarted by a combination of Lees and Lonergan.
Mikael Forssell came on for Becchio for the closing stages but the Hornets then did make the game safe.
The Hornets won possession around the United box and after Hogg had seen a shot blocked, Martin Taylor kept the momentum going by finding Murray on the right. The youngster did well to cut in and lay the ball off to Deeney, who saw his shot superbly blocked by Lonergan but the ball broke for Iwelumo to half-volley home his second.
A bad afternoon for the hosts got even worse in injury time when Connolly was rightly booked for a second time after chopping down Forsyth – the right-back didn’t even wait to see for his fate and was walking off the pitch before the cards were shown.
Deeney might have added a third when his late shot was deflected over but all that was that was left was for the Hornets to celebrate a truly memorable awayday – and the hosts to be booed off by those white-shirted fans still inside Elland Road.
Leeds United: Lonergan; Connolly, Lees, Bruce, Robinson; Snodgrass, Brown, Clayton (Nunez 68), White (Webber 46); McCormack, Becchio (Forssell 87). Not used: Bromby and Thompson.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Nosworthy, Taylor, Dickinson; Yeates (Forsyth 73), Eustace, Hogg, Murray; Iwelumo, Deeney. Not used: Loach, Bennett, Buaben and Garner.
Bookings: Becchio for dissent (17); Robinson for a foul on Hogg (31); Dickinson for a foul on White (39); Clayton for a foul on Hogg (50); Connolly for a foul on Eustace (63); Connolly for a foul on Forsyth – sent off (90).
Referee: Paul Tierney.