WATFORD jumped above Leeds United in the Championship after a dramatic win at Elland Road against Leeds United.
The Hornets hit six goals past Neil Warnock’s side following a pleasing afternoon’s work from Gianfranco Zola’s side.
The visitors were one-up going into the break after Matej Vydra’s tidy finish but the game swung the way of the ‘Orns after the hosts were reduced to 10 men just before half-time.
Leeds suffered some bad luck at the start of the second as, after using all three subs, they lost Radolph Austin through injury.
Watford took full advantage and then grabbed further goals from Almen Abdi, Mark Yeates, Vydra, Sean Murray and Troy Deeney.
The Hornets were good value though for the points and nothing should be taken away from Zola’s side for their attitude throughout the rest of the game.
Both sides lined up using 3-5-2 formations at Elland Road. There were changes aplenty for the visitors with Zola making five alterations after Tuesday’s draw with Millwall.
Ikechi Anya replaced Daniel Pudil, while Connor Smith, Yeates, Alex Geijo and Vydra all came into the starting XI in place of Jonathan Hogg, Nathaniel Chalobah, Deeney and Fernando Forestieri.
Smith had the opening effort on goal with less than a minute left as he blasted over Paddy Kenny’s crossbar.
The Hornets rode their luck in the ninth minute as David Norris’ deflected shot hit the post, from the rebound Tommie Hoban whacked it clear just before Manuel Almunia got his hands to it.
Hoban misjudged the bounce of the ball after 22 minutes and El Hadji Diouf took full advantage by setting up Luke Varney.
The striker caused Joel Ekstrand all sorts of problems and Almunia had to be at his best to deny the striker as he moved towards goal. The goalkeeper picked up an injury for his efforts but was back on his feet a few minutes later.
Watford’s visiting supporters were on their feet on 28 minutes as the Hornets took the lead.
The ‘Orns broke quickly after a Leeds attack fell apart – Vydra initially fed the ball into Geijo and the striker slid a lovely ball through for the Hornets’ top scorer to run onto.
Vydra kept his head and planted an unstoppable shot past Kenny to put Watford 1-0
The Hornets had other chances too before the break as Kenny saved well from Abdi’s well-taken shot, the Swiss midfielder also planted a delicate effort wide after a mazy run.
With the half-time break looming, United found themselves down to 10 men as centre half Jason Pearce was handed a straight red card after a strong challenge on Vydra.
Referee Trevor Kettle had no hesitation and despite the protests of the crowd, Pearce trudged off towards the tunnel. Neil Warnock subsequently brought on Tom Lees in place of Paul Green, while he then made another two changes at the start of the second half.
That decision came back to haunt the Yorkshire side as within a few minutes of the re-start they were down to nine men after Austin was stretchered from the pitch after he and Cassetti went down following a corner kick.
A siege mentality then kicked-in for the hosts as the Elland Road crowd found their voice and pushed their side forward.
The Hornets with their two-man advantage continued to look dangerous on the break and Anya should have done better after 58 minutes when he blasted over.
Watford doubled their lead just after the hour-mark when Abdi beat his man, evaded Brown after he slid in, and then hit a well-placed shot past Kenny.
That was the Swiss midfielder’s last real contribution to the game as he was soon substituted when he felt awkwardly on his shoulder – he was replaced by Hogg.
With the hosts running out of steam, the Hornets added a third with 15 minutes of normal time remaining. Anya was brought down just outside the penalty area and Yeates stepped up and planted an unstoppable shot past the despairing Kenny.
Almunia pulled off a good save from Brown’s free-kick at the other end. Leeds were awarded a spot-kick after Ekstrand brought down Varney in the penalty area. Tonge stepped up and converted the chance to make it 3-1.
The goals hadn’t dried up yet as Vydra grabbed his second after the Hornets again caught Leeds cold on the break, this time Anya providing the ball for the striker.
Yeates, via a tidy free-kick and Murray, after a fine shot, netted further goals for the Hornets and then Deeney grabbed a sixth for Watford in stoppage time with a powerful effort to cap a memorable afternoon for Watford in Yorkshire.
WHITES: Kenny; Austin, Pearce, Peltier (c); Byram, Green (Lees 45+1), Norris, Tonge, White (Brown h/time); Diouf (Hall h/time), Varney. Subs not used: Ashdown (GK), Kisnorbo, Becchio, Dawson.
HORNETS: Almunia (c); Doyley, Ekstrand, Hoban; Cassetti, Smith (Murray 81), Yeates, Abdi (Hogg 68), Anya; Vydra, Geijo (Deeney 61). Subs not used: Bond (GK), Thompson, Chalobah, Forestieri.
GOALS: WHITES; Tongue (80). HORNETS; Vydra (28, 83), Abdi (61), Yeates (75), Murray (90+5), Deeney (90+9).
BOOKED: WHITES; Byram, Brown (90+1), Norris. HORNETS; Ekstrand (71), Yeates (85)
ATTENDANCE: 19, 104 (680 Hornets).
REFEREE: Mr T Kettle.