Watford v Leeds United 9th April 2022 at Vicarage Road

Watford A 9th April 2022

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Having got up earlier than I needed to when I’d looked at my watch and thought it was three minutes until my alarm went off, I realised too late that is was 4.45am and not 5.45am. I decided it was better to stay up to make sure I didn’t oversleep but was very tired by the time I got to Leeds. With temperatures just above freezing and having to defrost my car, the sun had already broken through once I got to Elland Road and it was beautiful seeing the ground bathed in sunshine. After stopping at St Albans, we arrived at the ground an hour before kick off and found below the stand to be very icy. What a contrast to the front of the stand as the sun was out and it felt very warm on a typical spring day. As I went to the front with my daughter Dani, it was good to see that I could put my flag up as I wasn’t sure whether to bring it with or not. Because more often than not, there doesn’t seem to be the capacity for this at most Premier League grounds, I haven’t taken it to every game as I have in the past. I’d no idea what to expect from the game today but after witnessing us taking our chances to win 3-0 when at times we hadn’t played well, it was nice to see things work in our favour. It was also good that the superstition of seeing a lone magpie on my way to Leeds didn’t bring us bad luck either.

Team: Meslier, Cooper, Ayling, Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison, James, Llorente, Klich, Dallas and Koch.

Subs: Phillips for Klich (59), Greenwood for James (67), Summerville for Raphinha (82).

Subs not used: Klaesson, Kenneh, Gelhardt, Struijk, Hjelde, Cresswell.

Leeds won the game 3-0 with Raphinha (21), Rodrigo (73) and Harrison (85) scoring the goals.

Attendance: Approx. 19,000 with 2,316 Leeds fans.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Booked: No Leeds players.

In the opening minutes of the game we kept giving the ball away too easily, as Watford had plenty of possession but luckily their finishing was poor. When they won a free kick in a good position it was a little too close for comfort as the ball whizzed past the outside of the post in front of us. That was probably their best chance in the game. Leeds attacked the far end and sheer persistence from James saw him battling to keep the ball before the ball broke to Raphinha. As he hit the ball from the edge of the box it went into the net off the post and in a surreal experience of delayed reaction, it suddenly hit us all that we had indeed scored a goal as everyone cheered. I think it took us by surprise as it seemed to come out of the blue. There were a few instances of Watford players dropping to the ground and when one stayed down at the side of the pitch, there was no need to stop the game as he was already off it. Sadly as the refereee stopped the game he rolled back over the line onto the pitch! My stomach started churning as Watford kept coming forward in waves as the nerves kicked in. We had Meslier to thank for making a save on the line and also standing tall and punching the ball away from a corner to keep them out to go into the break one goal up.

It was absolute chaos underneath the stand and for a modern stadium, the design is a disgrace and a recipe for disaster. With only three toilets for women, it meant we were queing up amid the crowded concourse full of boisterous, singing fans. A young girl caught up in this went back to stand in the safety of the toilets as she looked terrified and it was good to see plenty of our female support looking after her and offering to take her back to her seat in the stand. I offered too, but some were already prepared to do that so declined my help. Tempers were getting frayed in the melee as some fans started pushing back a group of our fans who as they were enjoying themselves, had no concept of others getting hurt in the process due to the tight constraints of the stand. Eventually the pressure released when stewards opened the outer doors but in this day and age, the fact that these incidences are a regular occurrence when they are a health and safety hazard in stands such as these (QPR is another one although the stand is a lot older), means they are a tragedy waiting to happen.

The second half carried on with plenty of possession for Watford and Leeds trying to attack too. Phillips came on to replace Klich but it was Watford who created a great chance but luckily for us, blasted the ball over the bar. Greenwood replaced James and his pass found Phillips who had a shot saved. With another attack Greenwood passed the ball for Rodrigo who was able to get around the defence to put the ball into the net in front of the Leeds fans behind the goal. This time there was no disputing the celebrations as the relief saw wild celebrations on the terraces. Some of the photos seen afterwards on social media, saw lots of fans on their backs amid the seats with the first aiders in the stand being kept busy. Rodrigo heard a new song dedicated to him which was sung repeatedly after he scored. Summerville replaced Raphinha and with five minutes left, Leeds scored a third goal. Harrison received the ball from Greenwood and then smashed the ball into the net to put any chances of Watford getting back into the game to bed. The team were able to see the game out to get another win and three welcome points, as well as accepting the adulation from the fans at the end who were in no rush to go home. With the Watford fans streaming out of the ground once the third goal went in, many fans left in the stands were Leeds fans. To be honest, apart from the toilet situation where some didn’t have a clue what to do to ease things on the concourse, the stewards were okay with the majority of Leeds fans today.

When someone said on a post of mine this morning that we could do with a 3-0 win today, I said it would be nice but don’t think I really expected that to be the case. As always, I make my decision on what I see on the pitch and although it wasn’t a classic performance by any means, for once, the lucky breaks went our way plus we scored three goals. The season still has a way to go but we are another step closer to retaining our place in the Premier League.

As we made our way to the back of the stand into the long queue for the ladies once again, eventually with the stand emptied, some of us had to use the men’s loos with our stewards standing guard. They weren’t in the best conditions that’s for sure but when you gotta go, you gotta go! Having slept all the way back to Leeds, it was good to get home in reasonable time although I’ve carried on falling asleep whilst trying to write my blog. The longest time now will be uploading my photos to my website so those waiting to read it and see the photos will not see them until the early hours of the morning, With the Chelsea game postponed, our next game is at Crystal Palace, now rescheduled for a Monday evening. What was disgraceful once again was the short notice given to fans showing not a thought is given to them. This has caused many fans to have to change pre-booked travel arrangements at personal cost as well as others having to change their plans as it is now on a work day, with some not being able to go now. As always, football fans are an after thought with no consideration given to them. See you there, LUFC – Marching on Together!