Matt Smith credited Leeds United’s fightback against Watford to a stirring half-time team-talk and “the best atmosphere I’ve played in” as a six-goal clash ended in stalemate.
Elland Road was treated to a memorable Championship game on Saturday with United recovering from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 and Watford snatching a dramatic point with an 86th-minute equaliser from Troy Deeney.
Brian McDermott’s side looked destined for a first home defeat in six matches after Watford established a two-goal advantage at half-time but three second-half goals – including a 56th-minute header from Smith which levelled the match at 2-2 – turned the contest around in scintillating fashion.
Smith said: “Credit has to go to the manager and the captain (Rodolph Austin) for the half-time talk. Personally I was a little deflated after they scored two goals on the break but the mood was positive and the gaffer said ‘we can go on to win this game if we get the first goal. The crowd will get behind us.’
“We had a very upbeat and uplifting talk and we came out with our full force at the start of the second half. I think they were a little bit taken aback by it.
“With the crowd, I’ve never heard anything like it in my life. That’s the best atmosphere I’ve played in and I’ve never heard noise so loud. At 2-0 down it was the polar opposite to what you’d expect.”
Deeney’s late equaliser came against the run of play but both McDermott and Smith refused to be disheartened about United’s failure to close out a sixth successive home win – a streak the club last achieved in the 2009-10 season. “It keeps the unbeaten run going at home and that’s nice mentally,” Smith said. “The home form’s been excellent.
“After getting it to 3-2 I thought we’d go on and win 3-2 but they looked very good on the break. Deeney especially was giving us problems.”
Leeds are rapidly approaching the halfway point of the season with just a point between them and the play-offs, giving McDermott an increasingly promising chance of competing for promotion in his first full term as manager. Smith said: “We don’t want to get carried away but it’s not rocket science – that’s our ultimate goal.”