Two Watford sendings-off in four minutes around the hour helped Leeds United to dramatically leapfrog them into third place. Trailing to Ashley Young's wonderful free-kick just before half-time, Leeds won a riveting contest through Robbie Blake's double as the visitors lost Ben Foster and Darius Henderson.
Blake levelled from a penalty conceded at a cost by the on-loan Manchester United keeper and confirmed the end of Watford's six-match winning Championship run by crashing home Richard Cresswell's centre nine minutes from time. Even then, the nine men threatened an equaliser and left their Leeds-groomed manager, Adrian Boothroyd, saying: "I have some big-hearted men and this is a minor setback.
"I've seen those sendings-off given and I've seen them not given. My view of what Darius did was not good but it's disappointing when you see a player [Sean Gregan] go down like someone's hit him with a sledgehammer."
Watford's outstanding sequence had brought them three goals a game and Henderson and Alhassan Bangura, soon challenged Leeds' defence. Blake was too startled to take advantage of Eddie Lewis's excellent centre at the other end and forced one of two tip-overs from Foster either side of the breakthrough.
A foul by Gregan on Marlon King 20 yards out prompted an eight-man Leeds wall, only for Young to whip in a terrific right-foot shot.
But the tide turned sensationally in the second half. An errant back-header by Jordan Stewart led to Foster bringing down Rob Hulse and earning a dismissal that left the 41-year-old Alec Chamberlain to retrieve the penalty from the net. Watford's resilience was further tested when Henderson, his shirt badly ripped in the tussle, caught Gregan with his elbow and was also dismissed.
"It was still a job to break them down," said the Leeds manager, Kevin Blackwell. Now Leeds trail Sheffield United by only nine points, with a game in hand and a visit to Bramall Lane to come on 17 April. "They still have the points and all we can do is keep the pressure on," Blackwell added.
Leeds United (4-4-2) : Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Douglas (Healy, 74), Miller, Derry, Lewis; Hulse (Cresswell, 74), Blake. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Einarsson, Walton.
Watford (4-4-2) : Foster; Doyley, Mackay, Demerit, Stewart; Eagles (Chamberlain, 58), Bangura (Mariappa, 74), Chambers, Young; King (Bouazza, 83), Henderson. Substitutes not used: McNamee, Diagouraga.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).Reuse content