O'Leary plays down Leeds' march to the top

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The Independent Online

MUCH MORE of this and David O'Leary, manager of the new Premiership leaders Leeds United, will have to accept whateveryone else - not least his own chairman - keeps telling him: that his team are serious Championship contenders. Although theyblew as hot and cold as the weather yesterday, there is clearly more than hot air to the talk of a challenge for a first title since1992.

MUCH MORE of this and David O'Leary, manager of the new Premiership leaders Leeds United, will have to accept whateveryone else - not least his own chairman - keeps telling him: that his team are serious Championship contenders. Although theyblew as hot and cold as the weather yesterday, there is clearly more than hot air to the talk of a challenge for a first title since1992.

Not since then have Leeds sat on top of the table for any longer than 24 hours, which they will now do for almost a fortnight, untilthe Premiership programme resumes after next weekend's international matches.

O'Leary, however, will have none of it. "You get no prizes for being top now," he insisted. "It's better than being bottom but let'ssee where we go at the end of the season. All the years I have been in the game that's when you get the medals." Then it was offon the set piece speech about just being a young manager learning his trade and taking every game as it comes.

The only way Leeds' jubilant followers would have accepted his latest dousing of their great expectations by the manager was ifthe team had failed to record their seventh successive victory - the best run since Don Revie's day - against a desperatelyunder-powered Watford.

The home team's manager Graham Taylor was satisfied overall with their defensive work, but has known since the start of theseason that their fate will be decided by what happens at the other end of the pitch. With six goals scored in 10 games the signsare not promising.

When Watford unexpectedly went ahead just before half- time, it was one of only two real opportunities created in the wholegame - both of them from set pieces. Lucas Radebe, taken to the touchline on a stretcher, appeared to be in no position tocontinue but the substitute Danny Mills had not been brought on in time to defend a free-kick from the left. Micah Hyde took it, MarkWilliams controlling the ball and despatching it past Nigel Martyn with the panache of a seasoned striker rather than a centraldefender from Chesterfield. It was the Northern Ireland international's first goal since leaving the Second Division club in thesummer on a Bosman free transfer.

A similar turn and shot by Dominic Foley right at the start was the only other moment to encourage the home supporters, whichwould not have mattered if Watford had managed to hold their lead until the interval. In the first minute of stoppage time, however,Michael Bridges cut in from the left and fizzed a shot past Alec Chamberlain into the far corner.

Leeds dominated the second half, yet needed a goalkeeping error to propel them to the top of the file. Harry Kewell's shot from 25yards swerved right through Chamberlain. O'Leary pressed hard, finally acknowledged: "We're going along very nicely."

Taylor, on the other hand, was disappointed. "I know we can play better," he said. "We've lost to a side that goes top of thePremiership, but that's the least effective we've been this season."

Goals: Williams (42) 1-0; Bridges (45) 1-1; Kewell (70) 1-2.

Watford (4-3-3): Chamberlain; Lyttle (Gibbs, h-t), Page, Williams, Robinson; Hyde, Palmer, Kennedy (Easton, 80); Wooter, Ngonge,Foley (Miller, 71). Substitutes not used: Wright, Day (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Kelly, Radebe (Mills, 43), Woodgate, Harte; Bakke, Batty, Hopkin (Haaland, 90), Kewell; Bridges(Huckerby, 71), Smith. Substitutes not used: Jones, Robinson (gk).

Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).

Bookings: Watford: Page, Robinson. Leeds: Harte.

Man of the match: Kewell.

Attendance:19,677.

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